This is maybe the first chapter in the story of how the Society was formed.... well, I don't actually get to that part in the story here, so you'll just have to stay tuned each monday in case there is another chapter sometime soon. This is where we meet the characters that started the Society......
It was that time of year in the valley, the time where nature turns to powder and sprinkles itself everywhere. Pollen floats through the air with crabapple petals and last years milkweed fluff. The phlox bloom overnight in the corners of the fields and under the trees in the dark edges of the forests.
Mrs. Prickle, who runs the small bed and breakfast in town has to wipe down her patio table twice a day because the pollen settles on it in a green film, covering the glass.
Just yesterday Mr. Jacobson stepped out onto his front porch on his way to work and slipped in the green layer of pollen on the floor and fell flat on his back. He hopped up before anyone could see, mumbling something about slippery new shoes, and headed off to his car. When his daughter, Greta, came out to call to her kitty, she saw her dad's outline on the floor and ran to get a piece of white chalk. She traced around the shape of her dad's body like a police crime scene in a detective novel. It was still there when he arrived home from work and scuffed it out with his slightly worn dress shoe to hide the evidence.
Tempers and passions run high this time of year in the valley, and people have been known to do things during phlox season that they later regret. Love affairs, secret goings on, and any number of ill advised projects have been started over the years when the pollen drifts through the valley.
Bennett Wordsworth was immune to phlox season, or so she thought. She felt calm, organized and rational as always. She expected an ordinary but peaceful day on this tuesday. It was her day off from the insurance agency now that she'd started working Saturdays. She'd planned to catch up on housework and write a letter to her Grandmother Kaye who lived in Florida, the Grandmother who'd raised her from the time she was ten when her mom, Lucy, had run off with a man just released from prison.
It had happened the day the phlox bloomed purple and white that year so even those who hadn't seen it coming were not surprised. Bennett's grandma knew her daughter wasn't crazy, just foolish. She knew her daughter's heart, and she'd been telling her for months to get over that man, and find a nice responsible banker. Bennett's Mom didn't listen to her mother any better than any daughter does. Lucy had never been the kind of Mom a girl dreams of having. She'd never packed a lunch or helped with girlscouts. She'd never driven Bennett to school or braided her hair. Bennett did the family dishes and made her own sandwhiches long before her Mom left.
Her Mom came to tell her good-bye that May evening, the day after Bennett had seen the phlox on the edge of the woods behind their house. Their perfume filled the yard where Bennett sat on the little metal lawn chair with the green plastic woven strips sticking to her bare legs. Lucy came and gave Bennett a hug and a lipsticky kiss and told her she was going away with Tony. She asked Bennett to be happy for her, and she talked for ten minutes straight about where they were going and how Grandma Kaye would come to live with Bennett and her little brother, Bobby. She ended up with, "oh, Bennett, I just can't resist his muddy brown eyes. They look at me and I melt into a big 'ole pile of pudding!" Bennett remembered the feeling of disgust and annoyance she felt toward her Mother. There was no anger or shock, with Lucy one got used to these kinds of things, plus she'd heard her Mother for eight nights in a row talking on the phone with this man, saying things she might not have said if she'd known Bennett could hear.
All Bennett could say was, "Why should I be happy for you?" and since she felt a bit grumpy and out of sorts on this day she decided to hurt her Mom just a bit, "Real Moms don't leave their kids alone you know, especially when they're only nine years old." Lucy's face had been expectant and excited and full of hope but now it slumped. Her whole body lowered in defeat, twenty seconds of a posture that gave Bennett the short lived belief that her Mother might actually stay, start over and be the Mom Bennett had always wanted. It took ten seconds for the thought to appear and another ten for her to enjoy it before Lucy popped back up, angry now with a snarl on her lips. She spit out, "You are ten.... Ten years old, not nine! And... YOU don't need me, You have never needed me. I am just a joke to you and I deserve a little fun. Tony is fun and HE needs me! He's the only one who has ever needed me!" She clomped back to the house in her tight jeans, big worn work boots and dangly silver bracelets. Bennett heard the bracelets clinking all the way into the bouse where Lucy gabbed her bags and headed out to the little purple VW bug with the happy face sticker in the back window. Bennett wouldn't see her Mom again for over five years.
The phone ringing took a minute to register in Bennett's mind, and she just barely reached it in time to answer. It was her friend, Darby Moon, apparently playing hooky from her job at the newspaper, calling to say she needed company for lunch and had something important to say. They made plans to meet in an hour at the little family diner in front of the school, which gave Bennett just time to finish the light housework and get in 20 minutes of yoga. Bennett had just received her barefoot sandals in the mail from her favorite etsy shop and she was happy to wear them, the white crochet looked so pretty with her peach polished toes as she bent to do her stretches. Yoga went quickly and soon she was dressing to meet Darby and arrived at the diner 2 minutes early.
Darby had been her friend since highschool. They'd both grown up in this town, their parents had been friends, throwing parties together when the girls were toddlers. Then when Bennet's Dad left them, the parties continued with Lucy and whatever boyfriend she had at the moment. Both families shared a cottage on Keuka lake for two weeks in summer every other year, right up until Lucy took off with Tony when Bennett was 10. Bennet and Darby had stayed friends through highschool and college but drifted apart during the early years of their marraiges and the baby years. Darby had moved back to town 2 years ago and it was as if the two had never missed a day. Their friendship was not based on any shared traits, the two being complete opposites in most ways.
Bennett had always been immune to phlox season. She was never a fan of the weed and still mows it down whenever any dares to grow in the corners of her yard. Darby on the other hand goes for long walks along dirt roads in phlox season. She gathers up huge handfuls of the flower and fills her home with them. It's such a short season she wants to take advantage of every single moment with the purple and pale white beauty, and she enjoys it to the fullest.
Darby and Bennett spent their lunch talking and laughing as always. They overheard Mrs. Loux at the next table tell their waitress, Sarah Jones: "I don't know what got into me, I have been doing so well on my diet for eight weeks now and I have been so good. I've lost fifteen pounds and my pants fit so much better, they're just practically falling off me. Then this morning I woke up wanting a chocolate bar so badly I ended up getting dressed and drove to Unimart at eight o'clock this morning." At the table on the far side they overheard a young girl, Polly from the bakery, telling her lunch mate about her Grandma, Mrs. Foster, who had been so overwhelmed with the scent of the first phlox that season coming in the car window that she simply forgot to brake at the end of Stephens Gulch and drove right across the Route 16 and on toward the corn field on the other side. She hadn't been hurt but her husband had a thing or two to say to her after he hired a tow truck to pull her out of the ditch.
Bennett and Darby laughed at all the chaos of the season and then out of nowhere, when a lull in conversation had them staring at their now empty plates, Bennett surprised even herself by burting out "I think I need to take off and drive to California and start a new life.... Take up with some man in a big hat named Guido." Darby let out a laugh just short of a snort, something close to the sound of a pellet gun, she was so shocked by her friend's uncharacteristic comment that she didn't perceive the lost emotion hiding underneath it. "Yeah right!" she replied.
"I'm serious!" Bennett said, almost affended by Darb's total lack of belief in Bennett's ability to be spontaneous or to do anything crazy. Normally this would have made her proud, but today it almost hurt.
" I could do something crazy you know!"
"No, You can't! You never do anything unplanned, Ever!"
"But I'm so.... Lately, I'm so.... Antsy!", Bennett pouted. She didn't even realize it till just this minute. But right now she felt lost and in need of something, some idea to latch onto.
Darby laughed again, not realizing Bennett was at all serious or in need of counsel, after all she'd never needed it before, Bennett being the most responsible person she knew. And that was never going to change as far as she knew. "Go home, reorganize your DVDs alphabetically and you'll forget all about it!", she managed by way of a reply, and promptly changed the subject. "That reminds me.... I met a man in a hat yesterday. He was tall and thin, maybe too thin. His hat had the letters P.A.T. on it, Do you know what that stands for? I don't. He tipped the hat at me when he said "hello". Don't you just love a man who tips his hat? I do! And ,oh god, he smelled sooooo good. I almost forgot that part. He walked past me as I was sitting at the river where I go on my lunch hour to sketch the phlox, you know, and I was actually a little annoyed because I wanted the river to myself. He walked up with another man in khaki's and they pointed at the water and talked for five minutes before the other man left, maybe they work for the DEC or something, then my man in the hat walked past me with his drink and I got a wiff of coffee, Old Spice and something else sort of dark and powerful smelling, when he tipped his hat and said, "Afternoon. How are you today?" I fell in love right then and almost fell in the river too because I took a step forward, drawn to him I was, and stepped on a rock and tipped sideways enough to loose my balance, and fell. Luckily I fell sideways, not forward, and plopped down on one of those big rocks butt first instead of falling face first. Not a very graceful way to meet someone, but I could see the concern on his face for a split second, then there was this sweet little smile as if he knew me, knew what a clutz I am but thought, "what a cute, adorable little clutz." I saw it, I did. And you know what else?..."
"OK, OK," Bennett interupted. "Breathe for a second! Now focus! I don't need to hear all about the love of your life number five hundred and seventy three. Just tell me what you asked me to lunch to tell me, remember the thing you said was so important?"
"oh god, I almost forgot.... It's Meera. She wants to have dinner this Thursday with you and I and Darla and Lettie and Blaire. I think it's bad news..."
So... if anyone gets this far please know that I don't actually consider myself a writer, I sketch and paint so I am really not all caught up in this being good or not. I wrote it to give it a shot and I just can't tell if it's horrible. I am actually giving you permission to give me an honest critcism, you don't just have to say..."how nice!" to be encouraging.
Oh, and I will really get caught up with my 29 faces tomorow, the long weekend just gets in the way of posting. It was fun though and I hope your memorial day was wonderful as well!