The girls chose Hawaii

Submitted into Contest #135 in response to: Write about a casual act of bravery.... view prompt

43 comments

Friendship Sad

This story contains sensitive content

*Warning: mention of cancer in story


My daughter and I sat on the hard bench. She was in her sophomore year of high school, yet she still held my hand as we sat there together. We were both lost in our own thoughts. Watching. Staring. Fascinated by the two girls in front of us who were moving so gracefully. They wore simple black dresses that seemed to make their dance appear ever more elegant as they moved to the music. I couldn’t tell you the tune. It was melancholy and peaceful and sweet. Just like the girls who were dancing. One of the girls was the same age as my daughter, the other girl, the girl’s sister, was a few years older than her. Mary and Willa. 


Mary and Willa were dancing to their mom’s favorite song. Laurie had paid for years of dance lessons for her daughters. As well as any sport that the girls took on. Mary excelled at lacrosse. Willa excelled on the volleyball court and in the pool. Laurie attended all of their events with enthusiasm and a loud voice. Not all of the parents appreciated Laurie’s sense of humor or her intensiveness. For her, if you were going to show up, you should give 100% or not show up at all. And she let you know it. She expected nothing less than the best for her children and from her children. Period. 


Laurie and I met when she retired from her first job. She had made a career out of working Nuclear Plants. Her last job landed her in Fribitzville and this is where she decided to stay. She bought a handyman’s special to turn into her permanent home. After living in that house for a few minutes she decided that what that house really needed wasn’t repairs and reconstruction - although it really did - was children. 


She had never taken the time or interest in finding Mr. Right, as there were so many Mr. Wrongs out there she would say. So she went the adoption route. First she found Mary in China. Mary was a toddler and a handful and just what Laurie was needing. Her face lit up each time she was asked about how Mary was. “Oh, Mary climbed up on my lap and wanted to read another book today!” She would exclaim quite frequently. Mary started reading before she went to school. She became Valedictorian of her graduating high school class. You never saw a more proud, yet humble mother. Laurie said, “Don’t look at me, Mary did all the work!” 


When Mary reached eight years of age she gained a little sister, Willa. Willa was already five years old and had spent her whole life in an orphanage. She didn’t speak a word of English. She barely spoke at all. And, she couldn’t walk. She had a tiny wheelchair that she used to move about. Laurie took this child in and loved her 100%. She took her to all the best doctors she could find to fix Willa’s hips. Over the years it took numerous surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy to help Willa. Laurie would stop at nothing to help her daughter. 


So Laurie and I met when she came to work as a teacher’s aide at the school where I also work. We connected as we are both transplants to the area and we could easily relate to each other. We don’t speak the local lingo that is thrown around the faculty lounge.


“Hey do you remember hanging out with John Doe?” 


or “Do you remember when Patty Sue fell off the balcony of the Glod?” 


and “Is IDK still on the corner where WTH lives?” 


or my personal favorite, “You know so and so, well…” 


Actually, no I don’t know so and so, thank you very much.


Needless to say, we were often left out of most conversations. We would stare at one another across the room and be thinking the same thing: what the actual fuck. Do they even know how exclusive they are? 


Laurie and I both shared another common denominator. We both had daughters. As fate would have it, my middle daughter was actually in the same grade as Willa. They had gone all through elementary school together. I had seen Laurie at the games and concerts but hadn’t really gotten to know her until she came to work at my school. We soon became friends.


We sat with one another at games and swapped rides for practices. My daughter and her daughter have been friends since Kindergarten and couldn’t figure out why it took so long for us to get our act together. Kids are always so perceptive.


Then when our girls were in middle school, Laurie received terrible news. Breast cancer. She took what seemed like very little time off for treatment and then bounced right back to work. She didn’t want to slow down ever. She worked right through all of her chemo treatments, even while losing her hair. She eventually wore a purple bandanna to work every day to cover up, what she called, her ugly noggin. Purple being her favorite color. She pushed right though and beat the cancer and her hair grew back to its former grey glory. She said she preferred the bald. 


The house that I mentioned earlier? The fixer-upper? The one that needed loads of repairs and reconstruction? With all the adoption money, surgeries, tuition, medical, car, you know, life expenses, there just never seemed to be enough money to go into the house. When Laurie finally saved enough money to fix up the bathroom so that the door would finally properly shut, she asked the girls. By now Willa was in high school and Mary had recently graduated. She asked the girls, “Should I fix the bathroom or do we go to Hawaii?” 


I can still picture the tanned Laurie standing in the faculty lounge telling me all about how the girls chose Hawaii. And how much fun they had. She is wearing a lei and talking about the luau they went to where the girls danced in the sand. 


The song ends and the girls go to sit with their aunt and uncle on the other side of us. They hide their faces. I don’t blame them. But part of me, the part that hears Laurie’s voice, is saying, “Now girls, be proud! Look at the crowd and smile!”


Mary sits for a moment to collect herself and then walks up on the altar to the pulpit to begin speaking.


“My mom was a remarkable woman…”


My daughter gives my hand three quick squeezes. I know what she is thinking. I’m thinking about it too. This could have been me. This could be me. Last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 


Laurie was my rock during this. She was my go-to person. She gave me advice and wisdom and humor. She knew exactly what to say and how to say it at the right time. I am healthy and cancer free today, but will it stay away? Laurie’s cancer didn't. Hers came back. Hers came back and it took her. She was here one day and the next I was getting a phone call telling me she was gone. She knew she was leaving, that was the last time I visited her in the hospital. She was still giving me pearls of wisdom. She will always be my hero. She was brave and strong right up to the finish line. 


“Life is short, she said, eat the chocolate.”  


But I think I will always remember her as, “The girls chose Hawaii.” 


February 27, 2022 15:17

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43 comments

Maria Avisal
02:56 Mar 03, 2022

I really like the way you set the scene at the beginning, went back to tell the story of her daughters and Laurie herself, and then came back to the scene at the end. Also the title, something I struggle with in my own writing, was absolutely perfect.

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Francis Daisy
03:17 Mar 04, 2022

Thank you! I am rather proud of this story myself actually. I have a LOT to work on and a LOT to learn, but I think this one has something different about it. I keep trying and trying and one day I may just write something amazing (and maybe win a contest or something even!)!😀 I struggle to find the perfect titles too! I want them to be catchy and funny! But mostly I feel like only I will find them witty...thanks for liking my title!

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Sharon Hancock
02:41 Mar 01, 2022

Awesome! You somehow managed to tell a really sad story in a very uplifting way. I’d have chosen Hawaii too. I enjoyed this very much🥰

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Francis Daisy
01:22 Mar 02, 2022

Thank you Sharon!

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Daniel R. Hayes
07:08 Feb 28, 2022

You seem to switch genres so easily and I think that's a testament to your writing skills. This story was amazing to say the least. I've never been to Hawaii, but now I really want to go, and I'm not sure why... lol ;) Great Job on this one, I loved it!

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Francis Daisy
01:24 Mar 02, 2022

Thank you! The prompts lead me, or inspire me? Push me? I am not sure, but Reedsy seems to help to make magic happen. And everyone on here certainly helps! Thank you for all the support and kind words for sure! I've never been to Hawaii either, but it sounds beautiful. I am glad that Laurie and her daughters went.

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Kendall Defoe
04:08 Feb 28, 2022

With stories like these, I have to ask: how much of it is personal? Still, a very moving story.

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Francis Daisy
01:15 Mar 02, 2022

Kendall, this is very much based on a real person. Laurie is, was, a beautiful human being. She loved like no other. She cheered for her daughters like they were the only players on the floor/field/pool. She bravely walked the hallways at school wearing her purple bandanna even when I knew she was feeling most nauseous and had just left the restroom after puking. She always had a sense of humor and a positive word for everyone. She is the only reason I am here today. I swear she took my cancer away with her. She probably got to Heaven and th...

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Kendall Defoe
05:00 Mar 02, 2022

Thank you. My mom has had chemotherapy - happens when you marry a smoker - and she is recovering quite well. I have lost others, though, and I always note that people have to get over the stigma of asking for help.

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Francis Daisy
01:52 Mar 03, 2022

That's so very true! And, that when people offer to help, they really do mean that they want to help. We want to do something for the person as we feel utterly helpless sitting back and doing nothing while the other person is suffering. It is okay to say yes when the neighbor offers to mow the lawn. It is perfectly fine to say yes to the friend bringing over a casserole dinner. We need to learn to be less independent and know that it still takes a village to raise adults too. Not just the children. We are pack animals. We need one another. A...

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Francis Daisy
01:53 Mar 03, 2022

PS - I'm glad your mom is recovering quite well!

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Kendall Defoe
05:41 Mar 03, 2022

Thank you for all of your comments. I speak to my family every week and my mom seems to have a wider and more interesting social life than I will ever have. :)

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Francis Daisy
03:19 Mar 04, 2022

Good for your mom!

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18:36 Feb 27, 2022

Sweet story.

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Francis Daisy
22:39 Feb 27, 2022

Thank you!

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Shea West
16:46 Feb 27, 2022

I like how you played with the something as important as fixing the bathroom door, a home she poured her heart and soul into with going to Hawaii instead. Because what good is a house if you're not making memories with the people that live within it. This was so sweet Francis!

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Francis Daisy
22:39 Feb 27, 2022

Absolutely! She knew that the heart of her house was the people who lived within it. Not the walls around it. Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment! :)

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Felice Noelle
01:15 Mar 30, 2022

Francis: I loved this, but quite naturally because:l. I have a dancer daughter 2. BRCAA 2 is in my family and we are all tested and getting operations a la Angelina Jolie 3. I have had cancer twice 4. I am a teacher,of spec. ed kids 5. my best friend had a daughter who was a dancer, was crown Junior Miss about 25 years ago, went to Hawaii as her prize trip, and died of cervical cancer five years after she became an attorney. You checked all my sensitive boxes on this story. Please, please, do not think you cannot keep up w...

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Francis Daisy
00:48 Mar 31, 2022

Maureen, You gave me a LOT to process. Thank you for your words of wisdom, advice, and encouragement. Thank you for trusting me with your real life connections. God Bless you and your daughters. Best of luck with your surgeries. As a breast cancer survivor, I know that the path of recovery after a double mastectomy is painful, but so worth it. I do not miss the boobies - they turned traitor on me (but that's a story for another day). You are brave to make this decision. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend to cancer. I am certain yo...

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Felice Noelle
03:05 Mar 31, 2022

FD: If you think your stories are not up to par, take a look at some of my earlier skanky stories. Talk about embarrassing. I even have one that I thought was so awful I deleted it a day later. My problem is getting people to comment, so I can react and re edit. Just having someone read my story doesn't really help me the way I need. I want to improve. I figure I can always delete it if it is too awful, or you can go back and do a lot of editing before Friday, especially if you write it early in the week. That's my new plan, and I pl...

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Francis Daisy
10:43 Apr 08, 2022

I love the story behind your pen name! Very clever and sentimental at the same time. Mine is crafted from and in honor of two people I most admire and would love to be most like someday. However, I just found out that I am a grown up and middle aged, so I better shape up and get living up to my expectations! :) I've been sick all week, so I haven't been on Reedsy to read any stories or comments. I haven't even written anything! It's catch up time! I am eager to read some of your older stories, all of your stories. I'll try to comment as t...

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John Del Rio
03:45 Mar 28, 2022

Dang it! You are so good at this. I’m man enough to admit my eyes got misty by the end of the story. Life is short….eat the chocolate…. That may be my new motto or piece of advice when someone has a question or problem. Keep up the great story telling and I will keep reading…

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Francis Daisy
22:33 Mar 28, 2022

<blush, blush> Thank you! It's nice to hear that you think I am good at this writing thing....every little piece of encouragement is much appreciated and ever so needed. Thank you!

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Palak Shah
17:10 Mar 07, 2022

Cancer is something very difficult to write about but you have done it well and it made me contemplate my life, overall it was a great read. Well done :))

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Francis Daisy
01:33 Mar 08, 2022

Thank you! It's always nice to have you read my stories! I appreciate your comments and feedback immensely.

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Palak Shah
20:55 Mar 08, 2022

No worries, thanks for the recommendation :))

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17:06 Mar 07, 2022

I really liked it, but we need to know who are those sub-characters mentioned.

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Francis Daisy
01:35 Mar 08, 2022

The sub-characters? Willa and Mary? Laurie's daughters? The two who are dancing at the beginning of the story? Or the other random voices from the faculty lounge? Can you help me be more specific and detailed? Thank you!

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Sandra Byrne
03:40 Mar 07, 2022

Beautiful story. I will admit to tears at the end. Cancer is always a difficult Story to write about, but you did an excellent job.

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Francis Daisy
11:53 Mar 07, 2022

Thank you for reading. Sorry about the tears; I admit I was crying as I wrote it. It wasn't easy to write, and I pray I did justice for Laurie. She was a wonderful human being.

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Charlie Murphy
20:09 Mar 06, 2022

Beautiful story, but why did you put a trigger warning about cancer?

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Francis Daisy
22:50 Mar 06, 2022

It's just the wimpy in me, I suppose. As a survivor, it hurts to read stories about cancer when I am not expecting it. It's hard to describe...survivor's guilt? remorse? fear? anxiety? sense of loss? I've lost so many people who are close to me to cancer, and then to have survived cancer myself...it's difficult to write about. I wanted to warn any readers about the topic before they started to read. Am I making any sense at all?

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Charlie Murphy
01:46 Mar 07, 2022

Yes. I've lost a couple family members to cancer. I was just wondering, I think you're brave to write a topic you feel personal about. Great job!

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Francis Daisy
02:36 Mar 07, 2022

You are so sweet to ask, and to understand. Thank you. It means a lot to me. Really. Thank you.

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Charlie Murphy
18:16 Mar 07, 2022

You're welcome. If you want, read my story.

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Francis Daisy
01:32 Mar 08, 2022

I will, absolutely!

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Thom Brodkin
18:59 Mar 05, 2022

You are quickly becoming one of my favorite writers on Reedsy. You write with heart and you aren’t afraid to show us a little of your soul. This is one of your best. Great job.

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Francis Daisy
22:46 Mar 05, 2022

OMG! Really? <blush, blush> Thank you! What an amazing compliment! Thank you so very much! You completely just made my day, week, month! WOW! Just wait until you read this week's story then...I have such angst over posting it...yikes!

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Thom Brodkin
22:48 Mar 05, 2022

Those are usually the best stories. I can’t wait.

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Francis Daisy
22:51 Mar 05, 2022

OH dear, well, buckle up! and PLEASE give feedback where needed! I am sure since it was such a tough piece for me to tackle that there are some rough patches. Thanks!

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Thom Brodkin
22:55 Mar 05, 2022

Let me know as soon as it’s posted. I’ll give feedback while you can still edit.

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Francis Daisy
02:59 Mar 06, 2022

It's posted! Thank you!

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