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Coming of Age Inspirational Contemporary

Drab. Who would design anything in drab?

Carole looked around. It seemed everything sang a dirge of that same ‘blah’ color.

Evelyn entered. Carole stopped sketching and watched her daughter make herself breakfast. She sat opposite her mother without speaking.

“Good morning…”

Evelyn nodded and took a bite. Carole returned to her sketch but soon set the charcoal onto the table.

“Is something wrong? Are you not speaking to me?”

Evelyn swallowed. “You always say not to talk with my mouth full.” She took another bite. Carole rolled her eyes.

“Then I’ll talk…”

Evelyn stood and walked out.

“Eve, I want to talk.”

From the hallway, “Got homework, Ma. College is tough. But you wouldn’t know that. Don’t let me interrupt your doodling.”

“I’m sketching.”

She leaned in on the door frame.

“I thought sketches got used for something. Doodles just waste time. So, I called it doodling.”

“What is your problem, Eve?”

“You could have been great, Mom. Why didn’t you go for it? Afraid you’d fail?”

Carole sat back. ‘So that’s it.’

“Do you want the simplistic answer? Or the real one?”

Her candor caught Evelyn by surprise. She sought escape.

“Got class, Ma. Catch you later.”

“Sit down. You can’t pinch and run, little girl. You asked, so I’ll answer.”

“Mom!”

“Sit.”

Evelyn sat. She drummed her fingers on the table and feigned interest.

“You’re right. I could’ve been a designer. Even a great one. But I wanted to be with you and Daddy.” Evelyn rolled her eyes. “Being naïve, I wanted to design something pure, you know? I had a taste of success, early on. But it’s an industry. Churning the next big trend. Not as glamourous as the hype.”

“But… you gave up everything… to stay home and raise a kid?”

“That ‘kid’ would be you, by the way. Seriously? You wish I’d chosen differently?”

Evelyn realized the implications of the question. “Was there no middle ground?”

“I didn’t see it. It’s such a commitment. Can’t do it part time. They had no patience. I saw myself designing clothes that would be fashionable… forever. Not for a season. But classic. Timeless.”

Evelyn stifled a yawn.

“Someone actually said to me, ‘Togas are so last millennium. And after everyone’s bought your one perfect design?’”

Evelyn laughed at that. She leaned in. “So, what about me, then? Am I wasting my time?”

“That’s your call, honey. You’ve drawn pictures since you could hold a pencil. Don’t become a designer only to exceed what I didn’t do. Aim higher.”

~

Destiny Nova startled awake and groaned. The designer behind the fashion brand, Wings of Change, tried to shake off her vivid dream. She felt like someone stuffed a blanket into her brain.

“Again…? what is that about? Feels so real…” The alarm rang. She sighed. “Got to get ready. Big day.”

Today, her ordinary hectic schedule would intensify. She had to attend an awards event as guest of honor. The Fashion Design Association was presenting Destiny with a lifetime achievement award.

‘I’m not dead yet. Still have much to do… Why me? A gracious way to kick me to the curb…? ‘Buh bye…’’

Destiny gulped her strong coffee in the shower, grabbed her gown and went to work. Once there, Esme, briefed her on the day’s schedule.

“A car’s coming for you at three. You’ll have plenty of time to get to the dinner, change and chill.”

Esme nodded at Destiny’s sigh.

“I know events can be tedious, Des, but it is a net positive. No bad pub, and all that.”

Destiny laughed. “What’s next?”

They attended a series of meetings, some virtual. Destiny preferred actual face time with team members. A computer screen cannot replicate the feel of fabric on skin. Approving fabrics and print patterns made the rest worthwhile.

At three, Esme texted Destiny about her waiting limo. Destiny brought her gown, accessories and laptop along. Esme would arrive later.

Riding to the event, Destiny sensed a creeping anxiety. She usually scoffed at such feelings. She’d been to a million functions and had a closet full of plaques and awards collected over decades. It wasn’t a contest. She would be the honored recipient. And yet…

Her dream lurked at the back of her mind.

The limo stopped. Destiny disembarked and walked alone into the center. She expected to spend the evening feted by industry luminaries, her best friends. Esme was certainly her closest. Yet they were work associates. She barely knew anyone in outside the industry.

She had no close family. Only distant cousins living out of state. She was alone. And too busy to change that.

Shortly before the starting time, Destiny sat in her dressing room. She wore her gown. The make-up girl had perfected the finishing touches. Destiny attended to correspondence.

Esme arrived and filled her in on the last few hours at the office.

“You’re all set. Unless you need something, I’m going to go. You don’t mind my missing tonight’s festivities?”

“Not at all. Envious, actually. Would you accept it for me, so I can leave?”

Esme laughed. “If you hadn’t already spoken to the host that could’ve been an option. I’m afraid I wouldn’t look as good in that dress as you.”

“Thanks… I have a question.” Esme nodded. “Are you happy? Have you ever wanted kids?”

Esme scoffed. “Renting is cheaper. What would I do with them? I’d rather have my own assistant.” They laughed. “Seriously, I never cared to have power over anyone.”

“What about your dog?”

“Choo-choo? She’s the power mongrel. She knows I worship her.”

“I didn’t mean power. Maybe teach them to love…?”

Esme thought and shook her head. “Not with my schedule… Why?”

Destiny said, “I’ve had a recurring dream about a family. Non-sense… I don’t know them. But do…”

An alarm sounded. Someone banged on the door and yelled, “Evacuate! Everyone out of the building. Not a drill!”

Esme opened the door and they saw people rushing toward the exit. Esme held the door. The alarm blared over the chaos.

Destiny shrugged and laughed. “I swear I didn’t do it.”

Outside, they joined the throng on the sidewalk. Fire trucks lined the street. Police and building personnel directed people to cross at the light. No one knew what caused the emergency. Destiny and Esme followed the crowd. They soon found themselves surrounded by pedestrians and street people.

Esme scanned in every direction, concerned at Destiny standing out in her evening gown.

She said, “Relax. I’ll cope.”

A sidewalk vendor called out, selling cold drinks. Esme offered to get one for Destiny and left her.

“Ms. Nova?”

A young woman wearing business casual and carrying a portfolio approached Destiny. Strangers approached her all the time. She wasn’t alarmed.

“Are you Destiny Nova?” She sensed a familiarity about her.

Destiny said, “Do I know you?”

Eve juggled her portfolio, offered her hand and didn’t stop talking. “Hi. I don’t think so. But I know you.  I’ve spoken to your assistant by phone. I’m Eve. And your biggest fan. Congratulations on the award. I hoped to catch you. Do you have a minute?”

Destiny usually told people she was, ‘too busy to talk. Please call my assistant for an appointment.’ But, right then, she had no pressing business. And this brash young woman intrigued her. Destiny shook her hand.

“I’m about to attend an event.”

Eve nodded. “Again, congratulations. You earned it.”

“Thank you. What do you need?”

Eve gestured toward a fire truck. “I know this is a big favor, but could you look at my designs?”

Destiny saw Esme and signaled. Eve had already opened her portfolio supported against the truck’s fender. Esme attempted to run interference but Destiny waved her off.

Eve said, “You can be brutal. Criticism doesn’t scare me. ”

Destiny flipped through the drawings, murmuring approval and nodding as she went. She looked Eve in the eye and smiled.

“You have talent, Eve. Are you in school?”

“I’m a senior at City... You think they’re derivative? I’ve studied your work since I was a kid.”

“Keep studying the best. Not only me. You’re on the right track. You’ll develop your style.”

Eve said, “You reinvented fashion. You influenced my generation.”

Destiny said, “Yes. It’s earned me a life time achievement award at forty-five. Being an honored has-been before fifty is quite an accomplishment. I now compete with a dozen more brands than when I started Wings of Change.”

“You gave them the courage to start.”

“That’s kind. I wanted my designs to be the new standard… what everyone looked to, forever fashions.  But tastes change. Everything has a shelf life of six months.”

“Until it comes back.”

“Yes, it always returns. I hear bustles will be in next year.”

“You sound like… But you’re brave. You’re my idol. Not like…” Eve stopped herself.

“Who do I sound like?”

Eve balked. “By the way. I love your dress. Is it one of yours?”

“Yes, my design. Couldn’t accept this award wearing someone else, could I?”

They laughed.

Destiny paused. “But tell me, Eve. Who do I remind you of?”

“Oh, no one important… My mother says stuff. But she’s nothing like you. You took on the world. And won!”

“Where is she?”

“She gave up. Abandoned her dreams.”

“Which were?”

“Design. I hate that she quit.”

“Another competitor bites the dust.”

“That’s it! All she does is dust. Sweep, cook… I hate it… and her.”

Destiny thought. “I don’t know you or your mother, Eve. But imagine nurturing another unique human to adulthood. You know what she gave up. Have you considered what she clung to, keeping you?”

“Bad decisions, mainly…”

“Without which you wouldn’t exist?”

“But you’re brave.”

“I’m not brave. I’d say your mother is. I took the easy part. The sure thing. You don’t know my compromises. She gave up her dreams?”

Eve nodded.

“What about her dreams for you? You can’t compare sacrifices. Everyone chooses.”

Eve shut her portfolio.

Destiny continued. “I answer only to myself. That’s why I started my business. No backtalk. I risk nothing but time. Nothing brave there.”

Eve said, “Yeah… My mom hates backtalk.”

“Who invests in something that might not play out? Been to Vegas?” Eve shook her head. “Why risk a tenuous relationship? Why surrender control?”

Eve and Esme exchanged glances.

Destiny didn’t stop. “In business, I have contracts. If a fabric producer doesn’t deliver, I find someone else.”

Eve said, “Marriages have contracts.”

“Yes. A weak attempt to enforce the unenforceable. Lacking good intentions, they’re worth nothing.”

Eve shook her head. She didn’t ask for this.

Destiny said, “There’s few guarantees in human relationships, Eve. You may give much and get back only hate. You can’t simply return to the drawing board. Is it worth it? Your Mom could answer.  I couldn’t.”

Eve stared at the sidewalk.

Destiny said, “I’m sorry. How did I get on such a rant?”

People began moving toward her building. Esme signaled.

“We’re about to start. Where are you sitting?”

“I don’t have a ticket. I hoped we’d cross paths somehow.”

“Come in with us. I’ll get you a pass. Friend of the honoree, and all that.”

Eve wanted to say yes. “Thanks, but I really need to meet someone. I need to repair… something I’ve let go too long.”

Destiny nodded. “Got it. Here, take my card. Esme needs an assistant.”

Eve took the card. “Thanks, Destiny. You are amazing. I’ll call you.”

They touched hands and parted ways.

Destiny and Esme went to the big event. Esme sat at Destiny’s table.

Holding that award felt good.

May 03, 2023 14:59

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10 comments

Michał Przywara
20:34 May 10, 2023

That's a neat take on the prompt. It's not two views on the same life, but two similar lives that walked down different paths - and then the kicker is, this is all for a third life, Eve, who now stands at the crossroads. Neither path is better or worse. Both women made sacrifices, both are cognizant if that, and both are content. For someone in Eve's position, either one of the other women would be a great source of wisdom and guidance, but she lucks out in having both - and in realizing her luck. Very enjoyable :)

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John K Adams
20:51 May 10, 2023

Wow, Michal! Thanks for taking the time to read and provide such deep analysis. You read it right. I hope Eve realizes what she has.

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Delbert Griffith
22:46 May 05, 2023

Damn, John, this is really good! You really have a unique and powerful take on the prompt, along with a moral to the tale and some good, solid advice thrown in for good measure. You really captured the essence of parenthood, and of ambition. Great work in putting them at odds with each other and not allowing one side to overwhelm the other. Wonderful writing, my friend. Cheers!

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John K Adams
22:51 May 05, 2023

I always look forward to your comments, Delbert. You point out things that might escape casual reading. Your assessment is always valuable to me.

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Mary Bendickson
19:01 May 03, 2023

Excellent take on the prompt. Excellent story. Excellent advice. Well, excellent all around!

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John K Adams
20:13 May 03, 2023

Mary, if you don't mind, an excellent comment on my story. Thank you very much! I look forward to reading your stories too.

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Mary Bendickson
20:18 May 03, 2023

Thanks for taking a look:)

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John K Adams
13:22 May 05, 2023

BTW, if you like my stories, or anyone's, Clicking like on them helps build up points. Thanks!

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Juliet. B.
16:45 May 03, 2023

I love this story, I love it! I love the characters ad how the story was formed! Amazing job!

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John K Adams
17:57 May 03, 2023

Thank you, Juliet. I'm sure you know how much seeing a comment like this means to a writer. And from another writer? Even more so. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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