Speakeasy #134 | Dawn

She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. The air was cold in Laura’s lungs, and standing around dawdling wouldn’t make it any warmer. Only thing that’d get her warm would be the cup of coffee Mama would pour when she got inside.

Dawn better illuminated the farmhouse: its peeling paint, once as bright and hopeful as a blue jay’s plumage; its wraparound porch, with split, splintered wood and creaking steps; its dull gray shutters, slats loose and hinges crooked. Inside, Laura’s mother would be sitting by her father; Laura’s father would consider getting up and would see the flag, carefully folded and loud in the spartan room. Laura’s father would not respond, but would instead roll over and weep into the pillow.

Laura cursed, seeing the gate to the road came unlatched in the night. Nothing was breached, but the barrier was broken all the same. She strode across the yard, the sound of her boots interrupting the quiet melancholy of the morning. She swung the gate and prepared to latch it when she had a vision.

She walked down the road. Laura did not say goodbye to her mother or father. She did not ask for permission to leave, so she was not met with her mother’s pleas that her father ‘cannot lose another.’ Laura did not have to make the distinction that college and death are different, which also meant she did feel the sharp slap, the severed thread of mother striking child.

Laura stood at Sam’s grave. She wept, but she said ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye,’ which were the only things she had not yet said. She knocked on her calculus teacher’s door, and Ms. Cook listened. She gave Laura money from a worn envelope she pulled from a sack of flour, and she packed a small bag with clothes she saved for the church’s annual clothing drive. Ms. Cook drove her to the city, and Laura took her first and last overnight train trip. She did not sleep, but she always had a winner when people exchanged travel stories.

College administration could not allow Laura to start in the fall, but helped her find a part-time job and housing until spring semester started. Laura waited tables and came home smelling like hot oil, soy sauce, and fortune cookies. It was a better smell than chicken shit and slop.

Laura studied mathematics and garnered a reputation for her quiet tenacity. One of the few women in her classes, she was sought after just as much for her patience and drive as she was for her natural beauty. When men told her she looked wholesome, like the ‘girl next door,’ she lost interest.

Princeton offered her a spot in its graduate program. She had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant and led an introductory logic discussion on Tuesday mornings. A young woman approached her after class for help with one of the more difficult proofs. After an hour, the student almost had a grasp on it when another TA burst in, a thick tome tucked under his arm. He apologized, and Laura spoke with him long enough to learn his name was Theo and his discussion section of Intro to British Lit met in the same room an hour after hers.

The next week, Laura lingered to grade papers. Theo arrived thirty minutes early.

For their first date, he took her to a terrible adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, complete with full-frontal male nudity. He apologized profusely after, and she kissed him in the rain.

For their eleventh date, they rode into New York City. On the train, Laura told him about her overnight trip. Theo laughed and said, ‘I love you!’ Laura said she loved him as well, and that night she took him to a pan-Asian restaurant and made him try sushi and dim-sum and cold noodles with a sweet, spicy sauce. Theo did not hate it.

They lost count of their dates, and Theo invited her for holidays with his family in Boston. She fit in, and following Christmas Eve dinner he told her he wanted to have tea, just the two of them. He brought a full tray to the guest bedroom and his hands couldn’t stop shaking. When Laura opened the lid of the tan box, an engagement ring glistened.

Laura shook her head. She latched the gate and walked back to the farmhouse.

This piece was written for the speakeasy #134 challenge. Word count is 741, right under the 750-word max. As always, feedback is appreciated!

21 thoughts on “Speakeasy #134 | Dawn

    • Justice says:

      I think when I wrote it, I wanted to give Laura this really positive future scenario. It’s not perfect, and it isn’t handed to her – you still see evidence that she works hard and experiences adversity. When she choses to turn back and latch the gate, you don’t see the rest. I originally had a longer future scenario planned, but felt leaving it unsaid and imagined worked better.

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  1. Christine says:

    I read this as a wonderful, sad daydream – sad in that it never came to be, that she found herself shackled to her home by family and duty and grief. It was easy to picture the various scenes, like snippets of a film.

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  2. Suzanne says:

    This is fantastic. I love the way you set the scene at the beginning, then paint Laura’s potential future. All the little details are fabulous. And I felt so disappointed for her at the end. Maybe another day she won’t latch the gate…

    Like

  3. Diane Corriette says:

    In my younger years I would daydream and wish life was different. My imagination was the only thing that saved me. Thank God I stepped off the path I was on and forged my own way. Took some time but it was worth it. I hope Laura gets to do the same! Loved reading this story. I was so excited for her when I thought she had ignored the slap from her mother and went ahead anyway only to find myself screaming “NO!” when I found out it wasn’t so. Woke my poor cat up with a fright 🙂

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    • Justice says:

      Aww! I’m sorry you woke your cat! I think at some point we hit a crossroads where we have to choose “our” path. I’m strongly considering writing more of Laura’s story…

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  4. Terry Winter says:

    The image you are using for Speakeasy #134 belongs to me, and as you are using it without my permission you are currently in breach of my copyright arrangement,
    Please make me a reasonable monetary offer for its continued use, or remove it as soon as possible.
    The original image and the associated copyright statement can be found here
    Sun's Rays and a Gate

    Regards,

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    • Justice says:

      My apologies, Terry. When I originally searched for images 3+ years ago, I did so based on the creative commons license to prevent situations like this. Apparently, the search I did in 2013 was done incorrectly since I do see that the license is set for All Rights Reserved. The image is now removed.

      Thanks for commenting so I could remedy this situation, and do some additional clean-up on the many spam comments, since this blog has been defunct for months and they have been collecting like mad in the meantime.

      Again, I apologize for the inadvertent, unintentional error, and the image was removed prior to this comment even being posted.

      Like

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