Lemon to Lemonade Ch. 02byMandy01©
For those of you who still have an interest, the very absolute final chapter. That dog's been done to death. Again, I have to thank winterfoxx for invaluable assistance and insight with editing. Enjoy
Lemon or Lemonade
I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I heard was footsteps and there was no daylight coming in through the one small window in the basement. I heard mum and dad chatting amicably about how nice the wedding was and how good James and Michelle looked together.
I wondered why I didn't feel angry or even sad they were talking this way. I stepped out from the basement door. "Was it a nice wedding?" I questioned without malice.
Mum and dad looked at each other for a minute or two before mum replied, "Yes Kelly, it was. James looked dapper in his tuxedo and Michelle, well, she looked absolutely stunning in her bridal gown. I know you don't like your father and me staying friends with Jam..."
I held my hand up to stop her. "No mum...no, I think that you have every right to stay friends with James. He's a good man, too good for the person I was. I hope he finds happiness with his new bride. I mean it, I really do!" I know I was sad at this thought. But in a way I did feel better I could congratulate James and Michelle without feeling bitter."
There was a pregnant pause before dad said his first intelligible words to me since I had come back home. "How was your day?"
I had tears welling in my eyes and a lump in my throat and I didn't care. "I had a good day daddy, very informative and it's getting better all the time." I choked as I wiped at my face. "I'm sorry I haven't got dinner ready, but I wasn't sure when you two would be home."
Dad looked over to mum and scratched the back of his neck, something he always did when embarrassed. "Not to worry, I'll call for takeaway," he mumbled as he turned to go into the kitchen. "Chinese alright with everyone?"
Mum smiled as she winked at me. "Yes sweetheart, Chinese will do just nicely!" To me she said, "Your father and I didn't eat all that much. I know I was too nervous, worrying if everything was going to come together. In the end it was perfect."
The meal that evening was better than any I had ever encountered. I was included in the conversation, a lot of it was in relation to James and Michelle's wedding. Although still feeling a little uncomfortable, I was able to keep a smile on my face.
Just before dropping off to sleep I had a sudden idea, which cemented itself in my head the more I thought about it. As usual I was down at Beverley's next afternoon. "Bev, can I ask you for a favour?"
"Sure sweetheart, as long as I don't have to move fast. I'd be delighted to help out."
I smiled and asked, "Do you know anyone else in the neighbourhood who needs a helping hand? I need some money and I thought I could do some housekeeping or laundry for a small sum of money."
Bev thought for a minute and pointed to a little address book sitting beside her phone. "I was wondering when your impecuniosity would start to annoy you. Hand me that book if you will Kelly. I think I know just the person to ask."
Bev laughed. "Your lack of finances my dear. You have been penniless since your divorce. I was wondering when you'd be looking to improve that position!"
I just shook my head and commented, "Why don't you speak English next time? Did you swallow a dictionary when you were a child?"
I got another round of cackling from that statement. "No, but think about it for a minute. What else does an old woman have to do apart from knitting? I do crosswords to fill my spare time and keep my mind active. It's an old adage, use it or lose it!"
An hour later, Bev had set me up with interviews with six working housewives in the neighbourhood. I started out with two or three hours a day. With the practice I had at home, I was able to set a routine that enabled me to take on two houses a day and still stay up with my chores at home. The ten dollars an hour made all the difference. The heartfelt thank you and compliments I received from work-harried wives was enough to make it satisfying as well. I asked Bev not to say anything to my parents and she reproved, "You better be doing this for good and not bad, child!"
I smiled right back at her. "Ohhh you have no worries about that. It's something I have to do, sort of atonement for my sins if you like. I realise like your knitting, there is only one thing I can do that is all mine, and I want to do something for some people that deserve it."
Bev frowned but said nothing. I know I was keeping this project close to my chest. I didn't know if I could do it at first and I didn't want to have the pressure of others knowing and waiting for the result.
It took three weeks of solid backbreaking work before I had enough money, just over seven hundred dollars. I bought the raw materials and took them to the basement. I read on the net about the technique and process involved with my idea. Even after all my research into the process, I still wasn't sure if I could do it. It all depended on the final step and that was the most expensive part and could make or break the whole package.
I worked diligently for hours, many times into the wee hours of the morning. Mum asked me on numerous occasions what I was up to. I just smiled and said if it works the way I want, then she'll never know. I laugh at the confused look on her face and tried to assured her it wasn't anything bad.
I found a place that could do the finishing touch, but they asked for more money than I had. They said they would start and I could pay it off. This meant I had to work for another two weeks before I had the full price. I completed the project and delivered the items for the final step.
When I got them back, I couldn't believe how nice they looked. I was actually excited as I carefully packed them up and wrapped the package in floral white wrapping paper I knew mum had. I added some flourish with a nice white bow on top. Tonight will be the night I delivered my present.
I walked into the house a week later after another afternoon of homecare. I'd decided I had to pay my parents back for the bill I incurred with the detective agency. Also having my own money felt good and I wasn't sponging off my parents. Mum was sitting in the living room. "Can I talk with you a minute Kelly?"
I moved to a chair opposite her, sat down and handed her two hundred and fifty dollars. She looked at the money and asked where I had got it and what it was for. "It's to repay the loan you and dad gave me to pay the detective agency. I've been doing housework for some working mothers in the neighbour. I thought it time to pay my way!"
My mother watched me with an expression I couldn't decipher. "I'm impressed Kelly. Doing this off your own bat is another good step forward and while I'm pleased you've taken this step, there's still something you're keeping secret. You want to tell me about it or is it still a big secret?"
I shrugged my shoulder. "I don't know what you're talking about mum. What's wrong? Have I done something to make you mad at me again?"
"Not that I know of, but you have been awfully secretive lately. You have to understand, it does worry me a little bit. I need to know what it is you've done."
"What makes you think I have done anything?" I know I was skirting the subject. I knew I had been caught out and I wasn't all that worried. I just didn't want any fuss.
"Kelly, listen to me girl. I'm not angry with you. I just want to know if you did it. If you did, then why?"
I sat with my head down wondering how she found out. "What is it you think you know and I may be able to fill in the gaps?"
Mum sighed in exasperation. "Kelly...you have a way of frustrating an angel. I was over at James's place today and they showed me a wedding present that mysteriously just showed up on their doorstep last week. They've been ringing around trying to find out who sent it, and to thank them for it. Being the sort of present it is, it's certainly an original! They want to thank the person responsible."
"So why ask me? I didn't even go to the wedding and they wouldn't have wanted me there even if I had. So to think I would give them a wedding present is unrealistic to say the least."
"Jesus Christ Kelly, Okay, I know it was you, I was hoping you'd come out with it by yourself, I haven't said anything to James. I wanted to talk to you first. The wedding paper was a one off print that I got in a special consignment. I know because James saved the wrapping paper. There is no way anyone else had access to it. It had to be you Kelly, and you've been working your arse off for the last month and a half. Now I know why! What I don't know is why you did it?"
I sat there for a minute and thought, and then decided to come clean. "Yes mum, it was me. Mrs Pascoe and I have been talking, and...and I don't know, I just had to do it. I could've bought something traditional, something cheesy and a whole lot less expensive. However, that would have just been some slap in the face to them and that's not the reason I did it. Mrs P. was knitting for the church fete and said she does it to show her appreciation for everything the community has done for her."
I was fidgeting with my purse, "She said it was the giving of one's self that made it important and worthwhile. I've never given anything to anyone in my entire life. I have always taken. I have now found out how good it feels to do something for someone without being push into doing it. I was always good at art. I managed to get hold of the photos you had of James, Michelle and the entire wedding party. Hand painting the plates was a challenge. Having the design fired was the most expensive part, but I got an amazing amount of enjoyment and satisfaction in doing it."
Mum just sat there and looked at me. Still fidgeting with my purse I asked, "You mad at me for doing this?"
Mum came around the table with tears in her eyes and wrapped me up in her arms. "No sweetheart, not in the least. However...." She held me at arm's length to look me in the face, "I think we need to let James and Michelle know who sent the special gift. They both think it's one of the best wedding presents they have received."
I looked up to mum. "They said that? They liked their quintessence imagery on the plates. I really tried hard to get their likenesses just right. James was easy as I could paint him in my sleep. Michelle's on the other hand was harder, especially when I tried to get her veil just right. I have a dozen disasters in my room if you're looking for china to throw at the next Greek wedding you're invited to."
Mum burst out laughing. "I'll keep that in mind sweetheart. Now, what are we going to do about this little secret of yours?"
I shrugged sadly, I hadn't done enough in keeping my present a mystery. "Do we have to say anything? It was what I had in mind when I decided to do it. I'm not looking for recognition, or thanks, or anything really. I suppose I'm still being selfish? I did it to make myself feel better. A little self-penance you might say! If you think James should know then I can't stop you. Although I'm a little worried they may throw the present back in my face once they find out who it's from. I know they probably have every right."
Mum didn't say any more about the present. That is at least not to anyone outside the house. Dad was coming around and talking to me more and more. I was happy to be back to square one.
I now saw it was time to move on and fend for myself. I said as much to mum as I handed her the money for my loan. "With this last payment, all my financial debts are paid in full mum. I think it's time I got myself a place and paid my own way in life. I want to thank you and dad for not giving up on me. I know there are parents who would have just sent me packing."
Mum held me and wept tears of sorrow and joy. I know I wasn't clear-eyed either. "I know I said some nasty things to you Kelly. I didn't say them because I hated you. I said them because what you did hurt so many people and I felt responsible for that hurt!" I understood her grief and held her until we both stopped crying.
Dad helped me into a small unit not far from a supermarket I had started working for as a check out chick. After all, I still had no car and public transport is so unreliable. With no real job skills and the job not paying much, I kept on with my housekeeping. Between the two, it was enough to keep the wolves from the door. Money didn't matter as much, I certainly didn't have enough time to myself to socialise to any great extent and truth be known I wasn't in the mood either.
There were times when I needed to get out of my unit. I generally went to my parent's place after doing housekeeping for the neighbours or over to Beverley's. She had recovered remarkable well from her hip replacement and many a time she commented that I didn't need to be doing housework for her anymore. "I don't mind Bev, really. I enjoy the time we have and if we both get in and get it over and done with then that's all the more time for us to chat."
"Beverley shook her head. "You don't want to be spending your time gasbagging with an old biddy like me. You should be out there having fun and meeting people of your own age!"
I just smile every time and tell her to shut up and give me the gossip. "I missed out on a lot of tuition while growing up Bev. I need to do that now so I can make good sane decisions from here on in!" Beverley is a fountain of information. I found out some interesting things since I have been talking with her.
Then my past came back to haunt me. I was just knocking off work and walking out the employee's door when I heard someone call out. "Well there stranger, haven't seen you in years. I thought it was you Kelly, I just had to make sure it was."
I looked up to see Tracy Kenmore standing not more than five feet away. My eyes narrowed. The last person I wanted to see was anyone from that bunch of...as James put it, reprobates. "Yeah well, hi, now we can go another ten or twenty before you drop right off the radar totally."
"Ohhh that's nasty Kelly, especially when I wasn't involved in your marriage break up! If you remember, I left the group when I realised Carol was just using us all. I tried to warn Sue and told her Carol had a bull ring through her nose and was leading her around. I even tried to warn you, but by then, your mother had pulled you out of school and I thought you'd dodged the bullet."
"What do you want Tracy? I have no idea where Sue is. I haven't spoken to her in years!"
Tracy smiled and then giggled a little. "I know where my stupid sister is. She's gone to the States, chasing the glittering lights of Las Vegas from what mum says. She never did have a brain in her head. I'm almost certain she was only one grey cell heavier than that airhead Beth Veivers. I was wondering if you'd like to have a coffee with me?"
I debated for a while, still suspicious of her intent. "Okay, your shout. I'm on a budget!"
We sat and talked on nothing in particular until Tracy asked the question I was waiting for. "Have you seen Carol or Pam lately?"
I felt a surge of anger and snapped irritably, "I already told you I haven't and I don't want anything to do with them either. I have just got back in the good books with my family. I have no wish to destroy my one last chance!"
Tracy held her hands up as a shield. "Settle down Kelly, I'm not the enemy here. I think what those whores did to you was despicable. But you have to admit you did put yourself in that position for Carol and her sluts to con you again!"
I started to tear up all over again. I thought I'd gotten over the pain. However, rehashing it all over again showed me it was still an open wound. "Yeah well, it still hurts. I lost someone important to me because of them. It still wrangles me to think I was so stupid as to believe what Carol was shovelling."
Tracy sat there just looking at her cup before speaking up again. "You want to know something funny?"
"What can be so funny when it concerns those sluts?"
Tracy grinned. "What if I told you that out of everyone connected with that mob, you and I are the only ones to have a life worth living!"
I looked up at Tracy and her eyes were gleaming with wicked spite. "Really?"
She nodded. "Really! My stupid sister Susan is most likely on her back somewhere being used by some Yank punter as chip money. Beth is living in a world of her own. I have no idea how she survives. She hangs around with bikers and has more artwork tattooed into her stupid hide than the Sistine Chapel. She's certainly not with Norm any more. He was done for tax evasion and is serving a stretch in prison. I don't know when he'll get out."
"This is the biggie for you! Pam has been diagnosed with AIDS and won't last another twelve months."
My eyebrow rose at that bit of gossip. Tracy continued, "Chad dodged that bullet. Not because he was smart but because after he was kneecapped, he put on so much weight and turned into such a slob, Pam stopped having sex with him not long after. He's not that much better off though, hangs around St Vinnie's looking for handouts most days.
Carol flits between jail terms on prostitution charges and back allies trying to make a few dollars to buy her next fix. Between what the inmates have done to her in prison and her drug dependency she's nothing to look at any more. She does mostly blowjobs, since her pussy isn't what it used to be either. No one has seen Mal and Ben since James brought the curtain down on the lot of them."
I sat there not knowing what I felt about Tracy's revelations. I knew Carol used drugs on occasions. Maybe a little pot but never thought she'd get hooked on the hard stuff. "So there you go. You may think your life suxs, but I can say you're in a far better position than any of the others. You have a legitimate job. A place to lay your head at night, and family and friends you can turn to when you need help. You're not doing too bad sweetie!"
I smiled at the thought that what Tracy had said was true. I tended to concentrate on what I lost and not on what I had managed to gain back. "I suppose you're right Trace. I'm lucky I have a family that didn't give up on me. I thought for a while I was all alone. But now I think about it, it was me pushing them away, not the other way around."
Tracy and I chatted well into the afternoon on past events from our school days. I filled her in what I had been doing and how I'd started to straighten out my life. It was a rather pleasant afternoon considering.
Tracy started to smile and I enquired as to what she was thinking. "You know some bloke by the name of Steve Duncan?" She asked.
I thought for a minute. "Didn't he drive that American car?"
"Yeah that's him, a black Trans Am if I'm not mistaken. He got caught by some bloke knocking off the wife and spent a couple of painful months in hospital for his trouble. From what I heard, that little fucker wants to take it careful from now on. He only has one nut left to operate with."
"I think he's the one James grabbed to get into the party and then did a runner after that. I'm not surprised he's been worked over. Always thought he was a bit of an arrogant arsehole. He kept trying to shove his cock down my throat after being in my arse. I told him the fastest way to get it bit off was to try that again. What happened to his car, James said it was blocking his driveway and had it towed away. I think it went to the car crusher?"
"Nahhh, although Steve couldn't find the money to get it out of the police impound yard. A copper by the name of R. Hin SC rescued it from being crushed."
"SC?" I enquired.
Tracy nodded. "Senior Constable Ron Hin! It seems he has a soft spot to Classic American sports cars, couldn't stand the idea of it turning into a paper weight."