If you would like to play along, please write your version of the below prompt and post your link in the Mr. Linky. Anything goes – whatever inspires you. Me? I like to write about relationships, fictional or otherwise. 🙂
Write fast and furious – don’t edit – don’t think, just do.
This week’s prompt: This PostSecret.
The Problem is Not Mine
Janice studied her three children across the picnic table.
Brian, her youngest, smiled at her around a mouthful of peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She reached across and gently swiped a dollop of jelly goo from the corner of his mouth. He muttered a response and Janice could only assume it was a thank you.
Ashley delicately nibbled on her sandwich before placing it back onto her plate. Her middle child worried her. She was an old soul and entirely too serious for her age. She couldn’t remember the last time she had actually smiled. Where was the happy, carefree little girl who had talked too much? She missed the easy grins and ready giggles. Now, she was lucky if she received any acknowledgement at all.
But she had no one to blame but herself.
“Ashley,” she began, her voice as soft as a long-haired kitten, “please eat. We’ve got a long road ahead and I’m not sure when we’ll get a chance to eat again.”
Ashley’s dark gray eyes lifted to meet her mother’s. They were filled with anger, yet tinged with sadness.
Janice sighed and turned to her oldest daughter, Chloe.
“Has she not been eating? When is the last time she had anything healthy? She’s a walking pile of bones …” Janice wrung her hands and glanced over her shoulder at the sound of crunching gravel.
Was that a car that just pulled up? She tried to peer through the thick branches of the trees that surrounded their picnic table, but she couldn’t see anything.
“Looking for the cops?” Chloe smirked.
Janice’s spine stiffened and she forced a bright smile. “Why would I be doing that?”
“Because we’re not supposed to be here,” Chloe nearly shouted. “Because YOU’RE not supposed to be here, mom.”
“Now Chloe,” Janice began and again glanced over her shoulder. Was that a male voice? She began to gather up their make-shift picnic. She didn’t want to alarm the children, but they needed to leave.
“Do you think we’re stupid, mom?”
Janice paused, a crumpled piece of plastic wrap clutched in her hand. She stared at her 15-year old daughter, then blinked. “Hardly,” she responded dryly.
“We know what’s going on.”
Ashley nodded and Brian suddenly became very still and his eyes grew round as his unwavering stare fixed on her face.
A slow flush crept up Janice’s neck and she suddenly felt hot, very hot, as if the very depth of her soul was on fire.
She cleared her throat. “Chloe, please don’t be dramatic. We’re just out having a nice picnic …”
Chloe sputtered a bitter laugh. “Are you for real? Mom,” she reached out and put a hand on her arm causing her to still in her attempts to clean up. “We know you have a problem.”
“Problem? Me?” She choked out a laugh and finished cramming the rest of their meager lunch into the paper bags. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You get us out of school early, then bring us to this isolated park,” Chloe began. “Don’t you think that’s a little weird?”
“No,” she whispered and then in a stronger voice. “No. I wanted to be with my children.”
“Then maybe you should have thought of that before screwing up your life.”
Janice gasped and abruptly sat back down on the hard, weathered seat. “What are you talking about?”
Chloe sighed and her shoulders slumped. She suddenly looked like an old woman. “Dad told us what was going on, mom. We know about your alcohol problem.”
All four were silent for long moments and Janice struggled to regain her composure before trying to explain. She opened her mouth to offer her excuses, the excuses she had spent just that morning practicing in the mirror when Brian interrupted.
“Do you love alcohol more than us, mom?” he asked in the smallest voice possible.
Janice moaned and a hot, searing pain traveled up her esophagus. “Oh God sweetie, no.”
“Then what are you doing?” Ashley screamed and swung her legs over the picnic seat. “Do you KNOW how worried we’ve been about you? Dad told us what was happening but he didn’t tell us WHY you’re doing this! To us?” She gestured to her siblings. “What is WRONG with you?”
“I .. I made a mistake,” Janice stammered. “I got depressed and I had a bit too much to drink, but I have it under control now–”
“You’re unbelievable,” Chloe spat. “Even now, after all you’ve put our family through for the last three months, you STILL can’t admit that you have a problem.”
“I DON’T have a problem,” Janice said through clenched teeth. “Your father is trying …”
“Dad is not doing anything. HE’S still at home. HE’S the one making our dinners every night and making sure we’re going to school every morning.” Tears began streaming down Ashley’s face and Chloe stood up and went to her.
Brian sniffled and ran the back of his hand across his nose. Janice began searching for a napkin to wipe his tears when she heard a voice – a male voice.
As if the voice electrocuted her, she suddenly stood up and reached for Brian. “We have to go,” she said, struggling to keep the panic out of her voice.
“No mom,” said Chloe. “You do. You need help.”
“She’s right,” a man said as he stepped into the clearing.
“Who are you?” Janice said and moved to stand behind her children.
“I’m with the Sheriff’s department, Mrs. Powell. I’m afraid you’re all going to have to come with me.”
“What?” Janice gave a nervous laugh. “We’re just having a picnic. You have no right,” she began.
Chloe interrupted her. “I called them, mom, when I went to the bathroom at the gas station. Dad gave me this cell phone,” she held out a tiny, pink phone, “last week. He said you might try this.”
“Try what?” Janice said while giving the police officer a look as if to say, “kids! What are you going to do?”
“To take your children, Mrs. Powell. There’s a restraining order against you, ma’am.”
Brian blinked and moved closer to his sisters. His big brown eyes glistened with moisture. “Mommy?”
“Oh, it’s okay, sweetie. Everything’s fine.” She tried reaching out for her son, but he shrunk away from her touch.
“If you’ll come with me, Mrs. Powell,” another officer stepped forward and Janice suddenly felt the urge to laugh. Where had he come from?
Janice watched as the first officer guided her children back through the woods. She craned her neck to catch one last glimpse of them before the foliage swallowed them whole.
“Those are my children,” she told the officer weakly. “I love them.”
“I’m sure you do, Mrs. Powell,” he said while pulling out his handcuffs. He gently grasped one of her wrists. His hands felt cold and hard. “You’re under arrest, Mrs. Powell. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Janice tuned the rest of her Miranda rights out and blinked back her tears. She didn’t have a problem. The problem was with her husband and his suspicions. She simply wanted to see her children. She hadn’t seen them for weeks. Why was that such a big deal?
The officer gave her a tender push to coax her into walking in the opposite direction from her children.
“They were worth it,” she said over her shoulder. “They were worth every mile.”
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