Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)
TITLE: Beloved Enemy
By Sarah Heywood
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Serves her right! Myrtle thought. She lived for these moments. Anytime she could view Rose in an inferior light she smiled.
It had all started shortly after both women, post- World War II war brides, had moved into the neighboring houses on Wilson Lane. One day, Rose had come charging up to Myrtle’s front door, angry that Myrtle’s young sons had thrown dirt on her freshly hung laundry. Now Myrtle knew perfectly well her darlings were innocent since, at that very moment, they were sitting sleepily at the kitchen table, eating breakfast! More than likely, it was Rose’s own hooligans that had soiled the laundry and Myrtle was quick to suggest that to Rose.
“Well, I never!” huffed Rose. She stared a long moment at Myrtle, and then turned abruptly back to her own house. The war was on.
For thirty years, the women had fought silently with each other. If Rose planted petunias, Myrtle planted rosebushes. If Myrtle put up a plastic Santa at Christmas, Rose decorated her lawn with the entire Nativity Scene. Neither woman hesitated to speak ill of the other and when they met in public, they would cross the street to avoid the other.
Still smiling, Myrtle retrieved the newspaper off the table where her husband had placed it.
She eagerly turned the paper to page ten, bypassing ads for Honest Joe’s Used Cars and news about President Carter. There it was -- “Woman to Woman”-- her favorite feature! She quickly scanned the letters, looking for one from “Blessed.” She wasn’t disappointed.
It really was a shame that “Woman to Woman” was ending, Myrtle thought. It was because, no doubt, the newspaper wanted to make room for more of those nationally syndicated columns they seemed to be so fond of. But she would miss it more than anyone would ever know.
The column had first appeared in 1954, entitled, “Housewife’s Corner.” The idea was for women to write in questions and then future issues would feature answers that other women had mailed in response. Myrtle had sent in the first question, asking for the secret to flaky pie crusts. She had signed herself as “Hapless Housewife” because that was indeed, how she felt at times! Days later, an answer from “Blessed in Bentonville” appeared. From there, a friendship was born. Over the years, “Blessed” and “Hapless” had chatted about everything from recipes to childrearing and even marriage through the newspaper column. “Blessed” was the one who had suggested to “Hapless” that her husband might appreciate a little more attention now and then, and “Hapless” helped “Blessed” adjust to the difficult empty nest . It seemed strange, Myrtle thought sometimes, that her closest friend was someone she had never met in person, let alone knew who she really was!
Several days later Myrtle received word that Rose Hillman had suddenly and unexpectedly died from a long-time heart ailment. She found herself surprised at the pang that news caused.
Three months later Myrtle was putting together some supper when she heard a tentative knock at the front door. Well, that was strange! Who would come calling at the front door? She brushed her hands on her apron and was surprised to see Bill Hillman behind the door. While Myrtle’s husband, Fred, and Bill and been friendly, she never had much use for the man. Anyone who was fool enough to marry that Rose Hillman didn’t deserve the time of day from Myrtle!
Bill awkwardly held a large book in his hands. “I’ve been cleaning out Rose’s things,” he began. “I’m not sure what this is, but I thought maybe you’d like to see it.” With that, he placed the book --a cardboard scrapbook, Myrtle could now see -- into her arms. Without another word, Bill left.
Curious, Myrtle carried the scrapbook inside and opened the cover. She gasped and her body suddenly began to shake as tears sprang to her eyes. When Fred later wandered into the house, looking for supper, he soon found his wife kneeling over an old, black scrapbook. Pasted to every page were yellowed newspaper columns, scanning several decades.
“Blessed” and “Hapless,” you see, were also known as “Rose” and “Myrtle.”
Based on true events…
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