Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)
TITLE: A Park Full of Strangers
By Debbie Fuhry
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“Oh man,” she muttered, “I love this shirt.” Fingering the blue blouse, she considered. “They’ll probably think I’m a tramp if I wear this…” With an air of defiance, she slipped the blue top carefully over her head. To complete the ensemble, she grabbed high-heeled blue sandals before racing to the car.
At a red light, she scanned the directions to her mother’s house. She did not want a wrong turn to make her late. “Why, oh why did I agree to this?” she wondered as the light turned green.
Her mother answered the door almost before the bell stopped chiming. Sharon leaned forward to hug her, but the other woman leaned in for a kiss. Battling her discomfort, she brushed her mother’s cheek with her lips.
“Oh, no.” she mumbled. “I’ve lipsticked you.” She swiped at her mother’s cheek. Her mother’s eyes widened and Sharon was relieved to see a sparkle of humor.
“I guess I’ll just have to lipstick you, too!” Leaning forward, her mother kissed her firmly on the cheek, breaking into laughter at the effect.
Nervousness welled up into giggles as Sharon looked in the hall mirror. Mom giggled too, breaking some of the nervous tension. “Let me grab my purse, and we’ll go, Sweetie.” Sharon watched her mom, pondering the mother’s heart that called her Sweetie, though they’d reunited only a month earlier after a lifetime’s separation.
Her mom drove while trying to explain names and relationships of everyone she might meet at the reunion, and Sharon tried to keep it straight. Eventually, her mom faltered into silence, and Sharon could see stress etching lines between her eyebrows.
“Mom,” Sharon asked the question uppermost in her mind. “Do any of these people actually know you put a baby up for adoption when you were a teenager?”
Silence. The silence lasted too long for Sharon’s comfort. Finally, her mom answered, “Some of them do, honey. My older sister – your Aunt Kate – was there. She probably told her daughter, Sophie, that you contacted me last month. I also told my younger brother, Michael, about you a few weeks ago.”
As they drove into the park where the reunion was being held, sickness clawed its way up Sharon’s throat. Who were these people? Why didn‘t she bring her own car so she could escape? She was not reassured by the fact that her mother looked almost as nervous as she felt.
As they walked toward the pavilion, a white haired woman approached with her arms outstretched. “Marcy, I’m so glad you could make it!” After exchanging a hug, the other woman looked curiously at Sharon. “Who’s your friend?”
“Sharon, this is Aunt Lucy.” Marcy reached for Sharon’s hand and held it tightly as she continued, “This is Sharon, but she’s not just a friend. She’s my daughter.”
Aunt Lucy looked stunned for just a moment, before turning to Sharon with a bright smile. “I’m happy you’re here, dear. It’s very nice to meet you.” Turning to Sharon’s mom, Lucy said, “Let me take this salad over to the food table for you. It looks delicious.” Lucy took the pasta salad and walked toward a table buzzing with busy women. Within moments, all work had ceased, and she was surrounded.
Sharon felt her face turn red with anger and embarrassment. Her mom swallowed convulsively before laughing. “Well, at least no one else will ask who my ‘friend’ is!”
Sharon wanted to suggest that they just leave, but her mom was looking behind her. Sharon turned and saw two other women approaching. This time her mom’s greeting seemed genuinely warm. “Kate, Sophie. I’m glad you’re both here.”
The older woman looked like an older version of her mom. She spoke to Sharon, a smile shining through the tears in her eyes, “You must be Sharon. You were such a beautiful baby and now you’re a beautiful young woman. I never expected to see you again. I’m your Aunt Kate, and this is your cousin, Sophie.”
The four women embraced, tears and words flowing like wine.
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