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Drama Fiction Inspirational

Olivia’s day was filled with calls, emails, and meetings. Her lunch was a granola bar pulled from her gym bag. A gym bag that hung on a hook behind her desk untouched all week. Her hand found her head and she rested her mind for the first time all day. 

The decision to stop at her favorite take out place on the way home was a no brainer. 

The Golden Wok became her go to her first week in town. They had amazing food and delivered which on a sleepy, snowy, Sunday was the best gift ever.   

Her dad loved Chinese food, but her mother didn’t, so it was always something special they shared.  On his monthly visits this is where they’d come first.

She turned left on Third Street and pulled into the parking lot while smiling at the thought of her dad. No need to ponder over what to get. She ordered the same thing every time. The clerk at the counter smiled as Oliva walked up to place her order. 

“Hello, Helen. How are you tonight?”

“Just fine, Olivia. It’s good to see you! The usual?”

“You got it! Sweet-N-Sour chicken balls, Teriyaki noodles and an eggroll. Thanks!”

“Coming right up!” Helen filled out the Guest Check sheet and headed to the kitchen. 

Once home, she walked into her apartment and the quiet hit her as a deafening defeat. She’d been thinking of getting a cat, so at least when she came home from a long day someone would be waiting for her. Unfortunately, she hadn’t made time for that and now she was going to eat alone again. 

She grabbed a fork because she never had been able to figure out the chop sticks. She took a few bites of her noodles, poured a glass of wine, and walked to her bedroom.

A 4-poster bed with the Queen-sized quilt made by her mom greeted her as she entered the room. Her desk and workstation near the window and an attached bathroom with a soaker tub was her perfect escape after a long day. She started the bath and went back to the kitchen.

The voice mail alert on her phone dinged which caught her attention, unlike the stack of mail that sat beside it on the table, untouched. 

She glanced at the number but didn’t recognize it. She did notice the area code was from Williams. The town she grew up in. She punched in her voice mail code and walked toward the bathroom. She stopped dead in her tracks. “No,” her voice dropped off in a breathless whisper.  

The next 15 minutes felt like an out of body experience. She packed, grabbed the remaining take out container and a thermos of coffee and was out the door. 

On the road she punched the mobile phone button to make a call. “Call Marie.” She spoke into it.

Marie was Olivia’s boss. She was also her closest friend in the city. “Marie it’s me. I just received a call that my dad passed away. I’m on my way home right now. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Oh, my Olivia, I’m so sorry. Drive carefully and call me when you get there. You don’t worry about anything. You be safe!” Her friend encouraged her.  

The 4-hour drive was excruciatingly slow. Her heavy heart hurt every time she thought of the call she’d received. It left her so confused about what had happened to him.

She thought back to the last visit he made.  He didn’t come last month. She hadn’t asked why, she assumed he was busy, and they would catch up the next time he came to town.

There were so many thoughts flying through her mind, she decided to call her aunts to see if they knew anything. Neither one answered, but she assumed they’d be on their way too.   

The streets were dark and empty at this late hour. She drove east through town and turned right onto Wildflower Route. Her dad’s farm was 3 miles from town. As she drove down the winding highway she began to cry. It hit her that when she arrived, he wouldn’t be waiting for her. He had always said he wanted her to come to his farm, but in three years she could never find the time to come. 

She wiped her tears and suddenly realized that she would be all by herself in a house she didn’t know. She would be alone with her thoughts and emotions until her aunts arrived. When her mom had passed, she had her dad to lean on. They had each other to lean on. Then she moved away, and he retired and fast forward 3 years and here she was.   

She slowed her car and turned left into the driveway. As she pulled up to the house there were lights on and cars in the drive. She parked behind a blue Jeep Wrangler and walked up to the steps feeling confused. She jumped when the screen door creaked open and smacked shut. A middle-aged woman with beautiful white hair and pink lipstick appeared on the porch. 

“Oh, you must be Olivia!” The woman exclaimed.

“Ah yes, I am, may I ask who you are and why you’re in my father’s house?” Olivia asked with a quizzical expression.

“I’m Elizabeth. Your father and I were dear friends.” The woman said.  “Come here dear.” Elizabeth pulled Olivia in for an uncomfortable hug. 

Olivia simply patted her back and stood stiffly waiting for the hug to end. 

“Come in. There are some people who want to meet you.” She steered Olivia to the living room where a crowd had gathered.

Olivia spent the next hours in a daze listening to her father’s friends tell stories. The screen door kept creeping open and smacking shut as people came and went. 

After the final condolence was given Olivia felt like she’d been hit by a semi-truck. She lowered herself to sit on the top step. The air was crisp, and the sky was lit up with stars. Goose bumps formed as she shivered but didn’t move.  

“Where did all those people come from? It’s 2am for Pete’s sake!” Olivia asked Elizabeth who stood by the door.

“Your dad was so loved and respected. As soon as news got out, they called to see if they could come. They wanted to be here to welcome you and console you.”

“But they don’t know me. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel. I drove right here without even thinking of what comes next. Now what am supposed to do?”

“I’m going to go home and let you get some sleep I’ll be back tomorrow. We can go through your dad’s papers and find his will. He has everything laid out and ready for you.” Elizabeth patted Olivia on the shoulder and walked to her Jeep.

Olivia was left with so many questions, but she couldn’t bring herself to verbalize any of them. Who was this woman and how did she know so much about her dad and his wishes? Why hadn’t her dad mentioned her before?

She showered and walked into the spare room. She first went to her father’s bedroom, but the smells and memories were too much for her. She slept horribly. Her dreams moved from the friends of her dad that she met, to her mom, to the town she left years before. 

Williams was such a small town. A small grocery store, a gas station, a café and a post office were about all that it had. There was a small newspaper office, but her dad had told her it wouldn’t be open for long. She didn’t understand why he wanted to stay after her mom had passed. She was sure he would come to Granville to be nearer to her, but he bought this place instead. She didn’t blame him, this place was peaceful and beautiful, but she had hoped for him to move closer.

She woke the next morning to the sun rays shining through the small window over the bed.  She had a slight headache and was not ready to face this day. 

She padded across the living room floor to the kitchen. She hoped her dad had coffee and Ibuprophen. 

A small red gift box with a white ribbon and bow sat on the counter with a note.

The note read, Good morning, Olivia. I hope you were able to get some sleep last night. This gift is something your dad wanted you to have. I’ll leave you alone with it this morning. There’s a letter explaining everything. I’ll be over this afternoon to check on you. Elizabeth’s words were so confusing. She made it sound like her dad knew he would die and had planned for her to come. 

She teared up again and sat with the red box. She ran her fingers over it gently and began to sob. 

She dragged herself off the stool to look for the coffee and Ibuprophen. She found both and took it and the box into the living room. Her dad’s cottage was small and cozy. The wood furniture appeared to be handmade. She could see the craftsmanship and that it was made from real wood. The plaid curtains made her smile for the first time that morning. Her mother loved plaid. She would have also adored the stone fireplace.  She found a spot on the couch and pulled a beautifully crocheted blanket over her lap. 

The box sat in her lap. She removed the cover and lifted the folded paper from it.

My dear Olivia,

If you are reading this, then the cancer has ended my earthly life. I know how confusing this must be for you and I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you earlier. I was diagnosed a few months ago, and I didn’t even really have time to deal with it myself. My sickness took hold so quickly and I didn’t want to burden you with the care I needed. When I didn’t visit last month, it was on my doctor’s recommendation.

I trust that you met Elizabeth. She is so special to me. Elizabeth has been here for every moment of my sickness and well before that. 

Please let Elizabeth show you around the barn to see what I’ve been up to the last few years. It’s a thriving business that I’ve grown and love. 

I’ve lived a great life. Your mother was the great love of my life. When she passed, I was so lonely and looking for something to fill my time. I started to play around with wood working again. I used to make wood toys with my grandfather, and I found some of his toy making plans in a box in the attic. I also found this toy that we made together. I want you to have it and pass it on to your children when that time comes. 

I love you so much and I’m so very proud of the woman you’ve become! I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter.  

But my dear Olivia, you have got to slow down and start enjoying this life. It will go so quickly. Please spend some time in Williams and get to know it again and love it like I did. I think you might find some peace that you’ve been looking for and you might see we aren’t as small town as you once thought. 

Please be kind to Elizabeth. She has been kind to me and stayed by my side during this terrible time. I hope you’ll let her help you through this and enjoy getting to know her as I have.

I love you my dear.

Dad

Olivia sat with her tears and the wooden train engine her dad had given her. She felt so selfish. Her dad had created a whole life after her mom died and she didn’t ask about it once. He let her talk about what was happening in her life every conversation. Not once did Olivia asked her dad what he was up to.

***

The screen door smacked against the wood frame and Olivia sat straight up. She had trouble opening her eyes and focusing on the person standing near the couch. She had cried herself to sleep after reading the letter.   

Elizabeth came a little closer and asked, “Is it alright if I come in?”

“Hello again. Yes please, let’s make more coffee.”

“That would be lovely.”  Elizabeth answered.

“I’m going to wash up a bit while the coffee is brewing.” She wasn’t sure where to start with the questions. Dad had mentioned the barn in his letter and she guessed that was a good place to start, but this Elizabeth person was a mystery she intended to solve first. 

“Take your time, dear.” Elizabeth called after her. 

Olivia knew why her father was drawn to Elizabeth. She had a calming presence, and her voice was soft and gentle. Olivia heard a hint of the south in her words and wondered where she was from.

The pair sat across from each other at the whitewashed kitchen table. A tray with mugs, coffee condiments and the coffee carafe sat between them. Elizabeth had brought caramel rolls which were warming in the oven. 

Olivia’s first question surprised Elizabeth. “Where are you from? I hear a little southern drawl in your voice.”

“Oh! My! Well, I wasn’t expecting that to be your first question, but let’s start there.”

Elizabeth told Olivia a little bit about herself, but then about her move to Williams and how her dad and her met at a community ed class. 

“There was an ad for a wood working class in the paper. I have always been an artist of sorts and wanted to try my hand at a crafted wood project. The moment I walked in your dad was drawn to me and we chatted the whole class. I think the other students might have been jealous, because he was the teacher after all,” She chuckled and choked back a tear in the same breath.   

Olivia smiled at the thought of her father teaching a class. He was always so patient with her. He taught her all about wood working and that sparked her interest in art. Olivia painted all of her life, but when she moved to Granville there was no time. Her real passion was writing.  She realized she missed all of it like crazy. She had a sudden need to see what was in that barn. 

“He was so proud of you. He talked about you all the time. I told him he should tell you he was sick, but he didn’t want you to see him deteriorate. It progressed so much more quickly than we thought it would.” Elizabeth was struggling to hold back her tears.

“Thinking back to the last few conversations I had with him, I think I did get to say goodbye. I thought he seemed down, and we talked a little longer than usual each time. I think maybe he was letting me know something was wrong, but I was too busy to notice.”

“Alright, we don’t want to travel down that path.  Let’s go see your father’s other pride and joy.”

They walked down a short rocky path to an oversized red barn. Olivia figured it would be dilapidated after years of neglect. That was not the case.

They entered through a small side door and Olivia gasp at the sight before her. “What is all this?”

“This is what your dad left to you. It’s his legacy and your inheritance.” Elizabeth said. She stayed by the door as Olivia walked through the rows of finished and unfinished wooden toys and beautiful works of art. There were also crocheted blankets and beautiful intricately made quilts hanging on racks.”

“Your dad wanted to showcase the talents of people in town. He made most of the wooden toys you see, and he took the rest on consignment. He taught classes and helped local artists sell their goods too.”

She let this soak in for Olivia before she continued.

“Your dad lives on the Wildflower Route. Lots of people turn off the main road and want to drive along a scenic road. There’s also a revitalization initiative in town. They’re trying hard to get the town recognized as a place to stop and stay. There’s a beautiful bed and breakfast opening soon and cottages to rent. Your dad was so involved with this. It’s what kept him busy and happy.”

“I can’t believe I didn’t know any of this. Why didn’t I just come once when he asked me?”

“Oh dear, he knew how busy you were building your career. He told everyone he talked to about his big city daughter and her career as a book editor. His dream was for you to come and fall in love with this place like he did. But he knew he couldn’t force you. He hoped you would settle down and slow down.”

“But my life is somewhere else. My job is somewhere else.”

“This is yours. He updated his will and trust, so this place could keep going. You won’t have to worry about the money, and you’ll have volunteers here every day. It’s an exchanged for their goods being on display and for sale. Believe it or not this place has a website and it’s listed on the Chamber of Commerce site.” 

Olivia blew out a long breath. “Wow, I’ve got some thinking to do.” I have been so bogged down for so long. The weird thing is my boss and I had lunch last week and I showed her a pitch for a book I’ve been toying around with. She loved it. She wants me to write it.”

Elizabeth gave her a wink. “Well then, it looks like your guardian angel has gifted you that opportunity.” 

November 26, 2022 03:39

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3 comments

Eileen Turner
22:04 Dec 01, 2022

We get so busy with what we call life that we let it fly past us mostly unused and unappreciated. We all know life on this earth is finite, but we act as if there is always tomorrow and don't use enough of it to make time for our loved ones. Nice story. Makes you think.

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Wendy Kaminski
02:05 Nov 29, 2022

This is such a perfect and heart-warming story for the season. Thank you for sharing it!

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Tanya Humphreys
16:33 Dec 01, 2022

You'll catch the typos if you read the story out loud as your final edit. As the reader reads, they find themselves not liking the protagonist very much. It would be different if the dad was a bad dad, but he's not, so we see her as selfish and self-centered. What I like about the story is that it may open readers' eyes to introspect their own actions...or inactions more likely than not. Thanks for that.

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