500+ Words A Day Novel!

          Five years ago, this book was extensively outlined and ready to write. Then the notes were mysteriously lost in a single day in a single building where they should have been easy to retrieve, but they never were. Now I'm determined to write at the rate of a minimum of 500 words a day until this story is finally recovered. (Possible titles:Measure of Love, Only Skin Deep, Modeling Clay) 
          NOTE: This is a first draft, which means is has mistakes. Once done, it will be re-written. Each entry is dated so you can read them in order (starting from the bottom up!)
         Thanks for taking this adventure with me! Shirley Bahlmann 

(35,103 words total since March 8, 2014 FIRST DRAFT DONE!)

April 22 - 4,894 words! DONE!
Ruby nodded and ran for the truck.
Ginny put Kitty in her car and headed for the Cave gravel office to get Dwayne’s help. Susie left her customer’s head wrapped in a towel and told her nail technician to watch the salon. Then she went outside, got in her car, and headed west to search for the missing woman, leaning forward as she drove as if they would help her to go faster. Bejay watched her leave with a rising sense of happiness that she would be A.P.’s companion throughout his life. Then Bejay got in her car and drove south.
In spite of searching all day, there was no sign of Terrilee. The women sat in Terrilee’s living room, tapping their feet or chewing their nails.
Dwayne Cave’s truck rumbled into the driveway and he jumped down from the high seat. They moved en masse to the front door and watched him hurry up the stairs. “One of my guys, Bruce, found her,” he panted.
“Where?” the woman chorused.
“She was at the airport.”
“What? Why?”
“You’ll have to ask her. He talked her into coming back with him.”
“Oh, thank goodness.”
“What was Bruce doing at the airport?” Susie asked.
“He left the search to go pick up his mother-in-law and happened to see Terrilee there. He called awhile ago, and I just got the message. He should be here soon.”
Bejay must have looked down the road fifty times before Bruce pulled up with Terrilee leaning against the back of the seat beside him. Bruce slid out of his car and hurried around to Terrilee’s door while Bejay flew down from the porch, followed closely by Ruby and Madge and less closely by Susie holding Kitty’s hand. “Terrilee!” Bejay said as Bruce helped her out of the passenger seat. “What were you doing?”
Terrilee looked up, her eye makeup smudged beneath her left eye. It was such an unusual sight that it made her look almost malformed. “I went to help you,” she said, gripping Bruce’s arm.
“Help me? How?”
“Let’s get her inside,” Ruby said. “Once she’s sitting down, we can ask her more questions.”
Terrilee didn’t let go of Bruce as he steered her up the stairs into her house. She fell into her armchair, leaned her head back, and closed her eyes.
“Let me get you something to eat,” Ruby said. “What would you like?”
“Rice pudding,” Terrilee said.
“On its way.” Ruby bustled into the kitchen.
“Do you want something to drink?” Ginny asked.
“Soda pop!” Kitty cried.
“Come on, little one, come with me and I’ll buy you some strawberry pop,” Dwayne said.
“Yay!”
“Are you okay?” Dwayne asked Ginny, resting a hand on her shoulder.
Bejay watched Ginny slide her hand across Dwayne’s, then tip her head so that her cheek rested briefly on the back of Dwayne’s hand. It was the most romantic gesture Bejay ever remembered seeing. “I’m fine,” she said. “Thanks for taking Kitty.”
“Sure thing,” Dwayne said. “See you later.” He didn’t bend in for a kiss, just gave his wife’s shoulder a light squeeze, then he took his daughter’s hand and walked outside.
Ginny was one lucky lady.
Susie appeared at Terrilee’s side with a tall glass of water, a single ice cube floating on top, a slender plastic straw leaning against the side.
“Oh, thank you,” Terrilee said. Without taking hold of the glass, she sipped from the straw and smiled at Susie. Then Bejay realized that Terrilee was still holding onto Bruce.
“Here,” Bejay said, sidling in beside Bruce and extending her arm for Terrilee to hold. Bruce pulled his arm free and Terrilee clutched Bejay. Looking into her eyes, Terrilee burst into tears.
“Uh, excuse me, but I’ve got to get home,” Bruce said. “My family…”
“Go on,” Susie said. “We can’t thank you enough for your help.”
Bejay kept her eyes fixed on Terrilee. “What’s wrong?” she asked, patting the woman’s soft hand.
“I wanted to help you,” Terrilee said, her chin trembling. “I wanted to go find your young man, to tell him to come back and look at you now so he’d fall in love with you again.” She wiped her eyes, then stared in horror at the black smear on her finger.
“Let me get you a tissue.” Susie hurried to a tissue box on the end table and carried it to the arm of Terrilee’s chair.
“How did you get to the airport?” Bejay asked.
Terrilee wiped her finger clean and dabbed the tissue at her cheeks. “Taxi.”
“What time did you leave?” Madge asked.
“When I woke up. It was still dark, but I wasn’t tired anymore. All I could think of was helping Bejay get her boyfriend back. It’s terrible when you lose your love, just terrible.”
“Tell me about your lost love, dear,” Madge said, sitting on the couch closest to Terrilee.
Bejay wanted to tell Madge that Terrilee had never been in love, that she’d never married. But Terrilee surprised her.
“He was the mailman,” Terrilee said, fixing her wet eyes on Madge. “My daddy didn’t let me go out after Mama died. But he couldn’t stop me from seeing the mailman, because the mailman came to our house. Nick was young, just starting out in his career, and he was nice to me. Always. So he was handsome, too, his long nose, his round eyes, his straight hair. Everything. I loved everything about him, and made sure I was at the mailbox every time he came to deliver the mail. He never made me feel ugly. Mama had my harelip fixed when I was little, even though it cost money and Daddy was angry about spending that kind of money on a girl. Mama was steady. She was brave. She put makeup on my face to cover the scar when I was just a little girl. She curled my hair and told me I was pretty. I was her beautiful girl.
Then Mama died when I was fifteen, and I was left with Daddy. After the funeral, he took me home and scrubbed my face clean of every bit of makeup. The soap was harsh, and it burned my skin. I cried, but he was stronger than me. He said I was ugly, and no amount of makeup could hide it. He said I was so worthless, no one would ever want me.
But he was wrong. Nick wanted me, even without makeup on. He made me feel like Mama had when she told me I was her beautiful girl. Now I was Nick’s beautiful girl. When I turned sixteen, he told me he wanted to marry me. I said we had to elope. He was an orphan, so he was fine with that. We ran away to Louisiana where he was from and got married. He was the nicest man I’d ever met.”
“What happened to him, honey?” Madge asked.
Terrilee shook her head, the lines in her face deepening as Bejay watched. How could Terrilee have such fascinating and heartbreaking story of her life that Bejay had never heard before? “We’d been married two years when he got the fever and died. He left me with enough money to take care of myself for awhile. I got a job at Woolworth’s so I would be all right even when it ran out. Somehow Daddy found out I was alone and said I had to come home. I told him I didn’t have to. He was angry, but I stopped reading his letters. I didn’t have to see him. People at work were kind, and I had memories of Nick.” Terrilee squeezed her hands. “I missed him, though. I missed my Nick.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Then Daddy had a stroke.” Terrilee’s eyes were dry. Her voice continued without a tremor. “He couldn’t hit me anymore. He couldn’t yell at me or make me do anything I didn’t want to, so I came home and stayed with him until he died. Then I sold that evil house and bought this one.” She smiled as she looked around the room.
There was silence in the room. Ruby came through the kitchen door, holding a bowl in both hands with a spoon handle leaning against the rim. “Rice pudding,” she said. “I started making some up fresh until I looked in your refrigerator and saw that you already had some. I just needed to warm it up.”
“Thank you,” Terrilee said as Ruby set the bowl on the table beside her.
“Terrilee,” Bejay said, taking one of the old lady’s hands. “I didn’t have the same thing with Phillip that you had with Nick.”
Terrilee’s brow creased. “But you took his ring. You wanted to marry him.”
“I thought I did,” Bejay answered, “but he turned out not to be who I thought he was.”
Terrilee’s brow creased even further, and frown lines deepened between her nose and mouth, making her look more like closer to her actual age than Bejay had ever seen her. “Like Daddy,” she said. She picked up the bowl of rice pudding and took a bite. “Thank you, Ruby.”
“You’re welcome.”
Bejay insisted on staying the night, and she and Madge made sure Terrilee was resting comfortably before they went to bed. Bejay would only sleep on the couch in the living room where she could guard the front door.
The next day, Terrilee seemed smaller. Her skin was paler than usual, even under her makeup. She was listless during the day, and Bejay wanted to take her to the doctor, but Terrilee refused. “Maybe if she had some Milk of Magnesia, she’d feel better,” Madge suggested.
“I don’t see why,” Bejay answered.
“It’s just an idea.”
Bejay ended up going out to the pharmacy and picking up several things that weren’t in Terrilee’s medicine cabinet, from Milk of Magnesia to Fisherman’s Friend throat discs. Terrilee took a throat disc and nearly choked on it, so Bejay put everything back in the bag.
Over the next three days, Terrilee seemed to fade. She sat in her chair all day, and only ate a few bites of food when it was presented to her. The only time she smiled was when Susie showed up at the door with her cosmetic supplies and spent two hours setting and combing out Terrilee’s hair after she used a portable hair drying on it. The whole time, Susie kept her conversation on upbeat topics, such as dancing, fashions, or the latest movie stars. After Susie left, Terrilee patted her hair, leaned her head back, and went to sleep.
After she woke up, she didn’t smile, didn’t initiate conversation, and wasn’t her usual self at all. She still refused to see a doctor.
Finally, Bejay called the doctor and asked if he would stop by. When he showed up, Terrilee didn’t seem surprised, and she didn’t seem hostile either. She cooperated with his directives to lift her arm for the blood pressure cuff, breathe in and out for the stethoscope he put against her chest, and open her mouth for the thermometer.
Bejay walked the doctor to the front door while Madge talked with Terrilee.
“There’s nothing apparently wrong,” the doctor said. “I don’t see any reason to admit her to the hospital as long as she’s eating and drinking.”
“But she’s not eating enough,” Bejay protested.
“She is elderly. Older people don’t require as many calories.”
“But she’s different,” Bejay insisted.
“We all change as we age,” the doctor said. “Call me if there’s an emergency, such as developing a fever or refusal to eat. Have a good day.” The doctor put on his hat and walked out to his car.
“That was nice of him to come,” Madge said from behind Bejay.
Bejay turned. “But he didn’t do anything!”
Madge’s voice was quiet when she said, “Sometimes there’s nothing that can be done.”
Bejay pressed her lips together, then asked, “Why aren’t you with Terrilee?” Whirling to return to Terrilee, she was stopped by Madge’s hand on her arm.
“She fell asleep before I came out here.”
“But it’s only been five minutes!”
“There’s something you should know. She told me that Nick is coming.”
A cold chill shot between Bejay’s shoulder blades. “She’s always saying things that don’t make sense. All you have to do is tell her what’s real. Then she knows. Then she believes you. It’s not hard, you just have to tell her. Don’t let her go to sleep thinking something that’s not real. That’s just…cruel.” It didn’t feel right to talk that way to Madge, but Bejay wasn’t thinking about what was right. She was running on pure, raw emotion. She was glad when Madge didn’t answer her, but simply followed Bejay back into the living room.
“I’m sorry,” Madge said.
“Why should you be sorry?” Bejay asked, tearing her gaze from Terrilee.
“I’m sorry that you’re hurting.”
“She’s more than just a neighbor to me, Madge. When I was little, my mom was so busy with her other girls that she sometimes left me with Terrilee. We had makeup parties. Terrilee let me try on her high heeled shoes and feather boas. She even let me wear her real fox fur and her jewelry. She’d pin up the hems on her sparkly dresses so I could wear those, too. I was a princess in Terrilee’s house. She’d curtsy when she saw me, and applaud as I walked around her living room. She gave me the love and attention that I was desperate for.”
“What a nice thing to do.”
Bejay dropped her head.
“I’m sure your mother loves you, too.”
“I know.” Bejay raised her head. “She also loves to help other girls who are in trouble like she used to be. I think she wishes someone had rescued her, stopped her from partying before her friend died. In some way, she thinks that by helping other girls in trouble, she’s preventing the past from reliving itself.” Bejay gave a mirthless snort. “Maybe I would have gotten her attention if I’d been a bad girl.”
“You don’t have it in you,” Madge said.
When Ginny stopped by later, she took one look at Terrilee and her eyes filled with tears. Bejay didn’t ask her what was wrong. She didn’t want to hear what Ginny would say.
Two mornings later, Bejay found Terrilee lying cold in her bed, a gentle smile on her face. Although she wasn’t surprised, she was heartbroken. She sat by the old woman’s bed, tears dripping from her face, until Madge came in, bent over to give Bejay a warm hug, then walked out into the living room to call the doctor.
Terrilee Tembler’s will left her skin care formulas to Beatrice Jayne MacAvoy.
“Why, that’s wonderful!” Madge said.
“I’d rather have Terrilee back,” Bejay answered.
“Of course. We all would. But this way you can carry on her legacy.”
“I don’t know how to make cosmetics,” Bejay replied.
“I’ve had a bit of experience, if you’d like me to help you,” Madge said. “There are plenty of people who have scars and birthmarks who would be able to be themselves if only they had something to help cover what they see as imperfections, even if they’re perfect just the way they are.”
“I’ll think about it. Right now I just don’t know what to do.”

Ruby tried to cheer Bejay up, but Bejay didn’t feel like being happy. When Ginny drove up to Bejay’s house and walked Kitty in by the hand, Bejay suspected that Ruby had called her, but Bejay didn’t really mind. It was good to see her friend, and Kitty was a bundle of energy.
“Bejay, I’d love for you to come with me to the Modeling Clay concert in Dallas tomorrow.”
“I go concert,” Kitty said, looking up from the tub of Lincoln Logs that Ruby had dug up for her to use.
“Honey, it’s too late. You’d fall asleep.”
“Thanks, but I really don’t feel like it,” Bejay said.
“Look, I’ve been wanting to go make a memory before I can’t go out anymore.” Ginny put a hand over her round abdomen.
“Take Madge. Or Mom.”
“It’s not their kind of music.”
Bejay tipped her head and squinted her eyes. “What was the name again?”
“Modeling Clay.”
“That sounds ridiculous. I have better things to do.”
Ginny folded her arms. “Like what?”
Kitty glanced at her mother, folded her arms, looked at Bejay and echoed, “What?”
“I’m…going to work on Terrilee’s makeup formulas.”
Ginny’s face brightened. “Oh, that’s terrific!”
Encouraged by her friend’s enthusiasm, Bejay made a sudden decision. “I’m even changing the name,” she said. “I’m going to call it Lovelee.”
Ginny’s eyes went soft. “That’s perfect.” She leaned forward, clasping her hands as if in prayer. “Please let me be your first investor.”
“No, Ginny, that’s not why I…”
“I want to be a part of this company,” Ginny insisted. “You’re going places, I just know it. Please don’t shut me out.”
Bejay relaxed and smiled at her friend. “Okay. But you’ll have to make a contract with my business manager.”
Ginny cocked her head. “Madge?”
Bejay shook her head. “I was thinking of Susie. Madge is already in product development.”
“That’s perfect!”
Bejay felt warm all over, although it came with a cold shot of worry. She hoped that Susie would agree, but it wasn’t something wanted to talk about over the phone.
Once Ginny left, still insisting on Bejay going to the concert and Bejay insisting that she didn’t have time for such nonsense, Bejay watched the clock until it was nearly closing time at Susie’s Salon. Then she told Ruby she’d be back soon, and drove to Susie’s.
The salon was dark when she got there. Bejay checked her watch. It was a quarter after. The clock at home must be wrong. Afraid she’d missed Susie, Bejay climbed out of her car and saw Susie unlocking her own car parked at the side of the salon.
“Susie?” she called.
Susie stopped for a moment, then dropped her hand and turned toward Bejay. “Yes?”
“Susie, I’m sorry.” Bejay walked closer, but stopped a few yards away. “I’m afraid I haven’t been fair to you, and I hope you will forgive me.”
Susie shrugged. “It’s okay. We’re all entitled to our own opinions.” She turned back to her car.
“That’s not all,” Bejay said, moving four steps closer.
Susie turned, her puzzled eyes clear to see from this distance. “What else is there? I forgive you.”
“Two more things,” Bejay said. “Do you…do you want to go to the diner and talk?” She moved her hand in the direction of the café. “I’m paying.”
Susie looked as if she were thinking hard. Then she finally re-locked her car and turned toward Bejay. “If you’d like to.”
Bejay smiled. “I would. I really would.”
Once they were seated with slices of pie in front of them, Bejay said, “Look, Susie, I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Susie took a bite of pie.
“Look, it’s my fault about you and A.P. I really wish you’d reconsider about marrying A.P., because because he’s awfully dull as a single man.”
Susie’s eyes grew warm. “Is he really?”
“Completely. He’s just not himself without you.”
Susie set her fork down and said, “I won’t come between you and him. It’s not right to cause contention in a family.”
Bejay put both hands out, palms toward Susie. “There’s no contention! In fact, there might be contention if you don’t marry him!” Bejay dropped her hands and picked up her fork.
Susie leaned forward. “Do you want me to join your family, then?”
“Yes!” Bejay pointed her fork at Susie. “In fact, I’d like you to join me in business.”
“What business?” Susie’s eyes were at half mast as she regarded Bejay doubtfully.”
“Terrilee’s skin care line. I’ve renamed it “Lovelee, and Ginny is an investor, and Madge is product development, and it would be so wonderful to work with you, too. Your experience running a business would be invaluable, and I would love so much for you to be part of the team.”
Susie picked up her fork and aimed it at Bejay. “You’re serious?”
“Absolutely!” Bejay’s gaze dropped to the two forks, one aimed at Susie and one aimed at her. She burst into laughter.
Susie laughed, too. “Drop lances?”
“On three,” Bejay said, “One, two, three.” Both women dropped their forks into their pieces of pie, scooped up a bite, and slid it into their mouths. The deal was done.
Madge was reading over the ingredient list and making notes in the margins of small changes to Terrilee’s methods of skin care creation while Bejay washed the pans they’d already used and looked over the ingredients to make sure they hadn’t used up some key ingredient for the next practice batch. After swiping her face beneath her disorderly bangs with a bandanna, she stuffed the handkerchief into her jeans pocket.
She was stirring a new batch of foundation with Madge’s changes when someone knocked on the door. “Mom?” Bejay called. She glanced at the doorway, then swiped the back of her hand against her bangs.
“I’ll get it,” Madge said, leaving the kitchen. She came back with Ginny at her heels.
“Bejay, I thought we had a date,” Ginny said, looking worried beneath her false eyelashes and newly swirled hairdo.
“I told you I didn’t want to go.”
“But that was before,” Ginny said. “I really thought we were going together. Dwayne is watching Kitty, and I have the whole night free, and I really wanted to go, but not by myself. I already have the tickets and everything.”
Bejay stuck out her free hand while the other kept stirring. “I just can’t.”
Bejay didn’t notice that Madge had disappeared again until she came back in the room with Frank right behind her. “Take over,” Madge said, pointing to the pot. Frank moved in beside his daughter and took the spoon from her hand without breaking the stirring pattern.
“What are you doing?” Bejay asked, her frustration rising. “This is important work! Dad, do you know what you’re doing?”
Frank tipped his head toward Madge. “Whatever she tells me to do, until your mtoehr gets back.”
“I need to be here,” Bejay insisted.
Madge gave Bejay a stern gaze. “Friendship is important work, too.”
Bejay glanced at all the faces around the room. Ginny looked as if she might cry if a broom tipped over. Madge looked as if she would take a bite out of Bejay if she didn’t leave. Frank stared into the pot as if he were afraid of the concoction inside. Bejay threw up her hands. “Fine. I’ll go get ready.”
Ginny tipped her wrist and glanced at her watch. “I should have called you. If we don’t leave in a few minutes, we’ll miss it.”
“Okay,” Bejay said, grabbing the bandana from her pocket and tying it around her head. “I’m ready.”
Ginny gave her a doubtful glance, but Madge broke into a smile. “That’s fine, just fine. You go along and have a good time.” Pressing her hand against each woman’s back, she steered them toward the front door. “Remember that a smile is 90% of a woman’s beauty.”
Then Ginny was hurrying toward her car and Bejay was right behind her. She slid into the passenger seat, her mind on the kitchen creation she was leaving behind.
She felt a hand on her leg and looked down to see Ginny patting her knee. “Thank you,” Ginny said, pulling her hand back to put on the steering wheel. “I love my babies, I really do, but when I get a little breather, I’m a better Mama.”
Bejay’s heart warmed toward her friend. “You’re a wonderful mom,” she said. “Kitty is lucky to have you.”
“And I’m lucky to have you for a friend,” Ginny replied.
The drive into Dallas went by quickly. They parked and entered the conference hall. Bejay wasn’t surprised to see the tickets were for the front row. She felt a bit conspicuous in her jeans and shirt and headscarf, until she saw that other people were dressed casually, too. The conference fans ran the from diamonds to jeans.
Bejay was soon caught up in the excitement of the environment. “How did you hear about this group?” she asked.
“Madge told me about them,” Ginny said. “They’re new, only formed about two weeks ago, but they’re supposed to be really good.”
“We’ll see,” Bejay said, unconvinced. How could a band be good after only two weeks?
Finally the lights went down over the audience, and the lights went up on the stage, spotlighting a huge man with a bald head. but there was something different about his baldness. It wasn’t a smooth head, but carried pink scars of puckered flesh in a few places. Bejay felt her stomach twist in a mix of sympathy and revulsion. Then a light board flashed up behind him with the words, “Modeling Clay.” The man pulled a flute out of his back pocket, an instrument so slim against his bulk that it looked like a toothpick in his hands. He brought it to his lips and began to play, the music so beautiful that tears sprang to Bejay’s eyes. She no longer focused on the man’s scars, but on his soul pouring out from his instrument.
Then a drum sounded, and a sliding platform came forward from backstage, showing a dark-skinned man with a puff of hair curling down past his shoulders playing a supporting riff on his well-worn drum set for the flute. A guitar joined in, a man with a red crew cut strolling onto the stage, his freckles apparent from where Bejay sat.
Finally, a harmonica joined in the tune, and Bejay’s heart nearly stopped. She knew that music. She’d heard it in the hospital in Mexico. It was Clay. Then he appeared, a tall man with broad shoulders and dark, curling hair. He walked in offstage and stood near the flute player, nodding his head along with the beat, the flute player tapping his big footm his body swaying in perfect rhythm with the music. When the number ended, the audience erupted in applause. Bejay couldn’t clap. She couldn’t move as she stared at a young and handsome Clay, with a bandanna tied around his neck. It wasn’t enough to completely hide the burn scar that crawled up his skin in an angry red patch behind his ear. He stepped up to the microphone, and in his familiar old-man raspy voice, said, “Thank you. We’re so glad you came out to this debut concert of Modeling Clay. We believe that anyone can change at any time for the better. As soon as you want it, you can have it. Just follow your heart.” Then he put his harmonica to his mouth and started a rollicking song that had the audience clapping along in sheer joy and happy energy.
Bejay turned to Ginny. “It’s him. It’s Clay. I don’t believe it. I just can’t believe it. He’s…young.”
Ginny looked puzzled. “What did you expect?”
“He’s the guy who played his harmonica for me in Mexico when I was first hurt and in the hospital. He was old, though. I wanted him to be my grandpa.”
Ginny looked even more confused. “He was old?”
“He sounded old. Close your eyes the next time he talks, and listen to his voice.”
Ginny grabbed Bejay’s arm. “You know him? We’ve got to go meet him after the concert!”
Bejay’s heart flipped over. She looked down at her jeans. “I don’t think I should.”
Ginny huffed. “He saw you in a hospital with bandages and IV’s. Don’t you think you look a little better now, no matter what you’re wearing?”
Bejay’s hand flew to her scarred cheek. Then she looked up at Clay, who played with his eyes closed, his scar in plain view. It didn’t matter if she had scars. It didn’t matter to Clay, anyway.
After the concert, which ended with a standing ovation and three curtain calls, the two women approached the backstage entry. The bouncer tried to turn them away, until Clay’s voice sounded down the hallway. “Who is it, Larry?”
“A couple of young women.”
“Let them back.”
“If you say so, boss.”
Ginny was first to shake Clay’s hand. “I loved your music,” she said. “It was wonderful. I’m going to buy all your records.”
Clay smiled. “Thank you. As soon as we get one done, we’ll be glad to know we have a buyer.”
His gaze slid to Bejay, and his eyes clouded with a question. “Do I know you?”
“Yes,” Bejay said, her heart pounding, her breath coming in quick breaths.
Clay took one of Bejay’s hands in both of his. “Where do I know you from?”
Suddenly taken by an idea, Bejay reached up with her free hand and pulled her bandana down over her eyes. “Does this look more familiar?”
Clay’s hands tightened. “Bejay? Is that really you?”
Bejay pushed the bandana back up on her head and smiled. “It is.” The next thing she knew, she was in Clay’s arms, and she felt as if she was right at home.


April 21 - 887 words!
“What was Bruce doing at the airport?” Susie asked.
“He left the search to go pick up his mother-in-law and happened to see Terrilee there. He called awhile ago, and I just got the message. He should be here soon.”
Bejay must have looked down the road fifty times before Bruce pulled up with Terrilee leaning against the back of the seat beside him. Bruce slid out of his car and hurried around to Terrilee’s door while Bejay flew down from the porch, followed closely by Ruby and Madge and less closely by Susie holding Kitty’s hand. “Terrilee!” Bejay said as Bruce helped her out of the passenger seat. “What were you doing?”
Terrilee looked up, her eye makeup smudged beneath her left eye. It was such an unusual sight that it made her look almost malformed. “I went to help you,” she said, gripping Bruce’s arm.
“Help me? How?”
“Let’s get her inside,” Ruby said. “Once she’s sitting down, we can ask her more questions.”
Terrilee didn’t let go of Bruce as he steered her up the stairs into her house. She fell into her armchair, leaned her head back, and closed her eyes.
“Let me get you something to eat,” Ruby said. “What would you like?”
“Rice pudding,” Terrilee said.
“On its way.” Ruby bustled into the kitchen.
“Do you want something to drink?” Ginny asked.
“Soda pop!” Kitty cried.
“Come on, little one, come with me and I’ll buy you some strawberry pop,” Dwayne said.
“Yay!”
“Are you okay?” Dwayne asked Ginny, resting a hand on her shoulder.
Bejay watched Ginny slide her hand across Dwayne’s, then tip her head so that her cheek rested briefly on the back of Dwayne’s hand. It was the most romantic gesture Bejay ever remembered seeing. “I’m fine,” she said. “Thanks for taking Kitty.”
“Sure thing,” Dwayne said. “See you later.” He didn’t bend in for a kiss, just gave his wife’s shoulder a light squeeze, then he took his daughter’s hand and walked outside.
Ginny was one lucky lady.
Susie appeared at Terrilee’s side with a tall glass of water, a single ice cube floating on top, a slender plastic straw leaning against the side.
“Oh, thank you,” Terrilee said. Without taking hold of the glass, she sipped from the straw and smiled at Susie. Then Bejay realized that Terrilee was still holding onto Bruce.
“Here,” Bejay said, sidling in beside Bruce and extending her arm for Terrilee to hold. Bruce pulled his arm free and Terrilee clutched Bejay. Looking into her eyes, Terrilee burst into tears.
“Uh, excuse me, but I’ve got to get home,” Bruce said. “My family…”
“Go on,” Susie said. “We can’t thank you enough for your help.”
Bejay kept her eyes fixed on Terrilee. “What’s wrong?” she asked, patting the woman’s soft hand.
“I wanted to help you,” Terrilee said, her chin trembling. “I wanted to go find your young man, to tell him to come back and look at you now so he’d fall in love with you again.” She wiped her eyes, then stared in horror at the black smear on her finger.
“Let me get you a tissue.” Susie hurried to a tissue box on the end table and carried it to the arm of Terrilee’s chair.
“How did you get to the airport?” Bejay asked.
Terrilee wiped her finger clean and dabbed the tissue at her cheeks. “Taxi.”
“What time did you leave?” Madge asked.
“When I woke up. It was still dark, but I wasn’t tired anymore. All I could think of was helping Bejay get her boyfriend back. It’s terrible when you lose your love, just terrible.”
“Tell me about your lost love, dear,” Madge said, sitting on the couch closest to Terrilee.
Bejay wanted to tell Madge that Terrilee had never been in love, that she’d never married. But Terrilee surprised her.
“He was the mailman,” Terrilee said, fixing her wet eyes on Madge. “My daddy didn’t let me go out after Mama died. But he couldn’t stop me from seeing the mailman, because the mailman came to our house. Nick was young, just starting out in his career, and he was nice to me. Always. So he was handsome, too, his nose, his eyes, his hair. Everything. I loved everything about him, and made a point to meet him whenever he came with the mail. Before very long, he told me he wanted to marry me, I told him that we had to elope. So we ran away to his home state of Louisiana and got married. He was the nicest man I’d ever met.”
“What happened to him, honey?” Madge asked.

Terrilee shook her head, the lines in her face deepening as Bejay watched. How could Terrilee have such fascinating and heartbreaking story of her life that Bejay had never heard before. “He got the fever and died, but he left me with enough money to take care of myself for awhile. I got a job at Woolworth’s so it wouldn’t run out. Somehow Daddy found out. He said I had to come home. I told him I didn’t have to, not any more. He was angry, but I didn’t have to see him. People at work were kind, and I had memories of Nick.” Terrilee squeezed her hands. “I missed him, though.” 

April 19 - 724 words!

“What?”
“Terrilee is gone!” I fixed her some breakfast and waited and waited and finally stuck my head in her room to see if she was all right, and she wasn’t there!”
Stunned, Bejay asked, “Did you check the bathroom?”
“I checked everywhere! She’s not here! I need to call the police.”
“Okay,” Bejay said, digging in her purse for car keys. “She tends to wander, so don’t panic yet, but it’s a good idea to get the police to help us look. You stay there and I’ll look for her on my way.” Bejay hung up and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Ruby called from the kitchen doorway.
“Terrilee is missing,” Bejay said.
“I’m coming too.” Ruby pulled off her apron, turned off the oven, and followed Bejay out to the car.
As they headed toward Terrilee’s house, Ruby looked over at Bejay. “You don’t have your hat on.”
Bejay shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. We’ve just got to find Terrilee.”
“While we look for her, I just want to let you know that I think it’s good that you’ve quit hiding.”
“Hiding?”
“You used to hide your face if we had to go somewhere, or else you didn’t go out at all.”
“What difference does my face make at a time like this?”
“My point exactly,” Ruby said, turning to look out her window. “I wonder if she could be out picking plants again.”
“We’ll see what the police say.”
They pulled up in front of Terrilee’s without a squad car in sight. Bejay rushed up the stairs and met Madge at the door. “They said she has to be missing for a whole day before they look for her, unless we declare her insane,” Madge said. “I don’t understand! She’s a harmless old lady, not insane!”
“Then we’ll just have to do the looking,” Bejay said.
“I should have brought Frank’s truck,” Ruby said. “Then we’d have three vehicles to use.”
“Madge doesn’t know the territory,” Bejay said. “I think it might be best if you just drove the perimeter of town, Madge. If you see anyone on the side of the road, ask them if they’ve seen Terrilee.”
“What if they don’t know here?” Madge asked. “Should I ask if they’ve seen an old woman in a nightgown?”
“She won’t be in a nightgown,” Bejay said. “She never goes out unless she’s fully dressed with her makeup on.”
“I’m on it,” Madge said, heading for the brand new car.
“I’ll drive you back to get Dad’s truck,” Bejay said.
“Let’s go another way than we came,” Ruby suggested. “How about down Main Street?”
“Good idea.” Bejay turned the car and drove toward Main Street, her face in full view at the window as she glanced out from time to time to try and spot Terrilee. They reached home without seeing her.
“I’ll go out to the country north,” Ruby said. “I’ll get your dad and A.P. on horses to help us look. They can see if she’s out in the fields.”
“I’ll go get Ginny and Susie,” Bejay said. “They’ll want to help. We’ll go east and west and south. Let’s meet back at Terrilee’s house.”

Ruby nodded and ran for the truck.
Ginny put Kitty in her car and headed for the Cave gravel office to get Dwayne’s help. Susie left her customer’s head wrapped in a towel and told her nail technician to watch the salon. Then she went outside, got in her car, and headed west to search for the missing woman, leaning forward as she drove as if they would help her to go faster. Bejay watched her leave with a rising sense of happiness that she would be A.P.’s companion throughout his life. Then Bejay got in her car and drove south.
In spite of searching all day, there was no sign of Terrilee. The women sat in Terrilee’s living room, tapping their feet or chewing their nails.
Dwayne Cave’s truck rumbled into the driveway and he jumped down from the high seat. They moved en masse to the front door and watched him hurry up the stairs. “One of my guys found her,” he panted.
“Where?” the woman chorused.
“She was at the airport.”
“What? Why?”
“You’ll have to ask her. He talked her into coming back with him.”

“Oh, thank goodness.”

April 18 - 636 words!

The four women sat in Terrilee’s parlor, sipping tea. “Tell me what’s new in the modeling world,” Terrilee asked Madge.
“The shoots are getting more daring and the dresses are getting brighter,” she answered with a glance at Bejay.
“The makeup,” Terilee said, her voice full of longing. “Tell me about the makeup.”
“The eyes are getting darker and the lips are getting paler,” Madge said. “You’ve got to have a steady hand to draw the elaborate sweeps of black eyeliner that most photo shoots demand these days. The hairstyles are getting looser, though, not so much teasing and spraying as last year, even.”
“I wish I could go with you when you go back,” Terrilee said.
There was a long silence before Madge looked around at all the expectant faces and said, “I’m not going back.”
“Why not?” Terrilee asked, leaning forward, her eyebrows raised.
“I decided I don’t really like very many of the people I have to work with.”
“But that Nicholeen is a pretty girl. I liked the picture of her sitting in the daisy field. Isn’t she one of those Coronet models?”
Madge’s voice was clipped. “Yes.”
“But you get to work with that handsome Phillip Foxwell, Bejay’s boyfriend,” Terrilee went on.
Madge darted a look at Bejay.
“It’s all right,” Bejay said. “He already left me. You might as well satisfy her curiosity, and mine.”
Madge sighed. “Well, Nicholeen is now wearing a big ring with a diamond set in a flower setting. It looks like a rose, with little diamonds on the rose leaves.”
Ginny put her hand on Bejay’s arm and squeezed. Bejay hadn’t realized that her face had betrayed her emotions. Phillip hadn’t flushed the ring after all, and now he’d given it to Nicholeen. He probably hadn’t told her that he’d used it before, because if he had, she would have refused it.
“Yes, he told her it was one-of-a-kind,” Madge said. Bejay looked up to see that Madge’s eyes were on her. Bejay tried not to show that Madge’s words bit into her heart.
“No!” Terrilee cried, struggling to stand up from her chair. “He can’t do that to her!”
“It’s all right,” Bejay said, moving to sit at Terrilee’s side and take her hand. “He didn’t really love me anyway.”
Terrilee glanced at Bejay, large tears gathering in her eyes. “It’s because of this, isn’t it?” She stroked one of Bejay’s scars with careful fingers.
Bejay wasn’t sure what to say because she didn’t know why.
Madge steered the conversation to her career of putting makeup on models and fixing their hair. (Perhaps put her back story here instead of where it is earlier. What do you think, reader? That is, if there are any readers out there reading my rough draft as I go along.)
An hour later, Bejay felt Terrilee’s clutch on her hand loosening. Terrilee yawned, her bright eyes dimming as her eyelids drooped and she lay her head against the high back of her chair.
“I’d better get home to Kitty,” Ginny said, pushing herself to her feet.
Madge turned to Bejay and whispered, “You go on home. I really think that seeing you will just upset Terrilee right now.”
“But…”
“None of us knew she’d react that way to the news about Phillip. It’s fine, Bejay. I’m happy to stay. Terrilee and I are friends now, so go on home. Ruby might be wondering where you are.”
Bejay didn’t argue. She hugged Terrilee goodbye and turned to see Madge ready with a hug for her, too. Bejay climbed into her car and drove home, but it wasn’t her mother waiting for her. It was her father.
“Are you all right,” Frank asked.
“As all right as I can be,” Bejay said.

The next morning, Madge called Bejay. “She’s gone!”

April 16 - 520 words!
Then Ginny looked up. “Can we take her home?”
“Unless someone can be with her for the next 24 hours, she should stay here for observation.”
“I’ll stay with her,” Bejay said at the same time that Madge said, “If she’ll let me, I’ll stay.”
They looked at one another, and Madge smiled.
“I’d do it if it weren’t for Kitty,” Ginny offered.
“No, you stay at your house, we’ll cover it,” Bejay said.
“Well, then, I’ll just go and sign the release papers.” The doctor turned and hurried away.
“Bejay, would you be okay to drive Terrilee home, and let Madge ride with me?” Ginny asked.
Bejay frowned. “Well, I guess so.”
“Only if you’re sure you’ll be all right,” Ginny insisted.
“Yes, I can get Terrilee home. You go ahead and I’ll meet you there.”
But Ginny wouldn’t leave until she saw Terrilee safely seated in Bejay’s car. “All right, Madge, let’s go,” Ginny said.
“I’m ready,” Madge called as she climbed into the front passenger seat of Ginny’s car. Ginny took off without looking back, but Madge’s hand waved out the window, and Bejay thought she could hear Madge call out, “Woowee!”
Terrilee looked much better sitting up with her eyes open. Someone at the hospital had been thoughtful enough to give her a bag full of ice, and she held it on a towel on her lap. Bejay started for home. When she turned at the head of Bodillo Street, Terrilee sat up straight, her eyes wide. “No, oh, no,” she cried. “You can’t drive on this street.”
Bejay braked, earning a honk from the driver behind her. She glanced down the road, looking for construction signs or roadblocks. “What’s wrong?”
Terrilee clutched her bag of ice, which had turned to water. “It’s evil.”
“How can a street be evil?”
Terrilee’s wide eyes turned toward Bejay, and she saw a frightened little girl’s eyes in a softly wrinkled face. “People make it evil. Mean people.”
To her surprise, Bejay saw that Terrilee was trembling. “I’ll turn around,” Bejay said, looking over the back of her seat at the space that was now clear because the impatient car had roared on past.
Terrilee leaned her head back on the seat and closed her eyes. “Thank you.”
It took two hours for Ginny to show up in her car, but when Bejay went out onto the porch, she saw that Ginny was alone. “Where’s Madge?” Bejay asked.
“She’s coming,” Ginny answered,  brushing past Bejay and heading straight for Terrilee. “How are you?” Ginny asked, taking Terrilee’s hand.
Bejay started to follow Ginny inside, but then she saw another car coming down the street. She paused to admire the brand new powder blue Chevy Chevelle when to her surprise it turned in to the front of Terrilee’s yard and shut off the engine. Then Madge stepped out of the driver’s seat. “She bought you a car?” Bejay asked, incredulous.
“Oh, it’s not for me,” Madge said, touching the gleaming roof of the showroom-perfect car. “It’s for Terrilee, and I’m her chauffeur.”
“But, why?”

Madge winked. “It has air conditioning.”

April 15 - honestly, I'm trying to get the storytellers done for Scandinavian Festival, plus working 2 part time jobs and being a mom and wife. That's just an excuse, though. I do get distracted, and I can pop out 500 words easy in under an hour. TIME TO REPENT of my distracted ways!

April 14 - 406 words!
“It’s very good,” Madge said, “except for those lines from your nose to your mouth.”
“She said she needed to put some more aloe vera in it,” Bejay said. “I can’t imagine using that stuff in makeup.”
“Something’s working,” Madge said. “I’d like to know what she uses to get the different skin tone shades.”
“Madge, my friend might be dying and you’re talking about makeup.”
“Well, it calms me down,” Madge said. “I don’t mean anything by it. If we could go back and visit her, then that’s what I’d do, but I don’t think they’ll let us yet. If Clay were here, I’d have him play for her.”
“I have one of his records,” Bejay said.
“Only one?”
“How many does he have?”
“Ed Edger and the Electric Eels have at least half a dozen records out.”
“How many of them have Clay on the harmonica?”
“All of them.”
“But in every song?”
“Ooo, I’d say you have it bad for him, Bejay.”
“Yeah, if I wanted someone to go for walks in the park and feed crumbs to the squirrels.”
Madge looked puzzled. “Well, I don’t know about the squirrels, but I could see you two walking in the park.”
“Now, I thought you had a crush on him, Madge.”
“If our ages matched up better, then definitely,” Madge said.
It wasn’t until Ginny appeared, breathless and round, that a doctor came out into the waiting room. He appeared before Ginny could finish filling out the forms. After a nurse pointed at Bejay, the doctor walked over, white coat flapping behind him. “Hello, I’m Doctor Morse.” He glanced around at the three women. “Who is next of kin?”
Bejay linked arms with Ginny. “We’re the closest thing she’s got.”
Ginny waved her clipboard, and Doctor Morse directed his comments to her. “Miss Tembler is rather ill.”
“Is she going to die?” Bejay asked. Madge gripped her arm and leaned closer to the doctor, who pulled back a step.
“Well, not today. She appears to be suffering from dehydration, which is harder on a woman her age than it would be on women like you. She simply must keep herself in a more temperate environment, staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Some cars come equipped with air conditioning, you know.”

Ginny wrote that down on her paper, even though it was the hospital’s official form.

April 12 - 578 words! (Explanation for the word count gap - This past week I wrote a short story titled "Bernie "Blaze" Hickman and the Manuscript of Doom." Since it's not 500 words a day on this story, I know it doesn't count. (But if it did, 6,200 words over six days is still over a thousand words a day. (6,033.3333333 etc.) At least I didn't leave my post to sit and write NOTHING! Still, I feel a great need to make up the lost words, 3,000 word's worth. It's coming... wait for it... wait for it... 

Terrilee climbed into the front passenger seat and began fanning herself with her hat. Bejay rolled her window down, because she knew that Terrilee would not roll down her window and risk messing up her hair. It was pinned up in beautiful swirls of soft white strands, as shiny as a teenager’s.
By the time they reached the Dallas airport, Terrilee was positively wilting. Bejay was glad to see Madge jump up from where she was waiting at the curbside as soon as she recognized Bejay through the windshield. “Hi,” Madge said as she hefted two pink suitcases by their U-shaped handles. “It looks like I’m in the back seat.”
“Yeah,” Bejay said, casting a worried glance at Terrilee.
“Hello,” Madge said to Terrilee after she shoved her suitcases onto the back seat and climbed in after them. “My name is Madge Quill, and I just love your lotion.”
Terrilee acted as if she didn’t even hear Madge. She kept her head against her car window, her eyes closed.
“Terrilee?” Bejay called. No response. “Terrilee!” Bejay shook the old woman’s shoulder. Terrilee moaned and rolled her head back onto the seat.
“She doesn’t look so good,” Madge said, leaning forward to touch Terrilee’s forehead.
“I’m taking her the hospital,” Bejay said.
When Terrilee didn’t even protest, Bejay gunned the engine and sped off toward the hospital as fast as she could go without crashing. Once she arrived, Terrilee was taken away on a gurney by a doctor in a white coat and two nurses in white dresses and little caps pinned to their poufy hair.
“Are you her next of kin?” asked a woman in a jacket and blouse with a Peter Pan collar.
“No,” Bejay said. “She doesn’t have any relatives. I’m her friend.”
The woman tucked one hand under the elbow of the arm that dangled the clipboard out in front of her. “Well, someone’s got to fill out the form.”
Bejay took the clipboard. “May I use your phone?”
The woman shrugged. “If it’s a local call.”
Bejay didn’t answer, just headed for the desk and the cream colored phone. She dialed Ginny. “I’m at the hospital,” Bejay blurted when Ginny picked up the phone.
“What happened?”
“It’s Terrilee. She kind of passed out in my car.”
“Which hospital?”
“Methodist Dallas Medical Center.”
“I’m coming. I’ve just got to get my husband in here to watch Kitty.”
Bejay heard Kitty’s voice in the background ask, “Watch me do what?”
“That’s a long way to drive,” Bejay said. “I’ve got Madge with me.”
There was a pause. “Your makeup lady?”
“Yes. She just flew in. It was a surprise to me, too.”
“Well, someone’s got to fill out the paperwork,” Ginny said. “I will take care of it. Just stay there until I get there.”
“I will.” Bejay hung up the phone and glanced at the doorway where Terrilee had disappeared.
“Come and sit down,” Madge said, taking Bejay by the arm. “There’s nothing we can do for her now. She’s in the best place possible.”
Bejay turned to Madge. “Thanks. I’m glad you’re here. I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but I’m glad to see you.”
Madge ran her finger down Bejay’s cheek. “What do you have on your face?”
Bejay’s hand flew up to cover the side of her face. “You mean besides the scars?”
“Scars, schmars,” Madge said. “I’m talking about the makeup.”

“It’s Terrilee’s,” Bejay said, her eyes darting back to the doorway.

April 5 - 730 words!
Bejay cantered Queenie back to the barn, feeling more like herself than she had in a long time. After she unsaddled the old horse and rubbed her down, she gave her a scoop of oats and headed for the house. There was someone at the back door in a bright pink hat and a flowered dress. “Terrilee? Is that you?”
Terrilee turned and shaded her eyes with a gloved hand as she watched Bejay approach. “Oh, your poor face,” she said. “Where’s your hat? Come in, I’ve got something for you.” She shifted her large bag from her hand to the crook of her elbow and opened the door as if it were her house.
“How did you get here?” Bejay asked.
Terrilee shrugged. “I got a ride.”
“With who?”
“Some farmer, I don’t remember his name, but he used to snitch candy from the store when he was little. He’s fat now, and that’s the reason why, although I didn’t tell him so. I just said, ‘Thank you kindly.’ Now come inside out of the sun. What were you thinking? You’ll freckle up just like an old banana skin.”
Bejay followed Terrilee into her own kitchen and followed Terrilee’s example when she sat at the kitchen table. “Now see what I brought you.” Terrilee opened her large handbag, took out three jars one at a time, and set them on the table. Then she twisted the lid off one. Bejay saw some tan colored cream in it, and pulled back a little when Terrilee lifted it up and held it next to Bejay’s face. “You’re right, that’s not the right shade.” She opened another jar and held it up. “That’s better. We’ll just try the last one to be sure.” Deciding on jar number two, the old lady refused to let Bejay try it until she’d washed and moisturized her face. “You can’t build a house without a good foundation.” When Bejay smoothed the base over her skin, she closed her eyes at the blissfully smooth consistency. She blended it around her mouth and along her jawline before glancing in the mirror that Terrilee held out to her. Bejay blinked, amazed to see that her skin appeared flawless. She leaned closer and scrutinized the side of her face before she could make out a couple of tiny shallow bumps from the stitches. “What have you made?” Bejay breathed in wonder.
The elderly woman smiled at Bejay, her eyes soft with tears. “There’s my pretty girl,” she said. “No more scars.”
“This is a wonder,” Bejay said.
“It’s yours.” Terrilee pushed the jar across the table toward Bejay. “I even named it for you. It’s called “B.J. for ‘Beautiful Joy,’ because you’re beautiful, and making it for you brought me joy. Do you like it?”
“I do,” Bejay said. “I love it.”
Terrilee smiled at Bejay. “I thought you would.” She turned and looked at the refrigerator.
“Oh,” Bejay said, “can I get you something? Are you hungry, or would you like a drink?”
“Water is very good for the complexion,” Terrilee said. “I would like some water.”
Bejay stood to get a glass of water for her guest when the phone rang. She picked it up on her way to the sink. “Hello?”
“How in the world do you get to your house?” Madge’s voice asked.
“Madge?”
“The one and only.”
“Where are you? Aren’t you heading for Hawaii?”
Madge let out an exasperated sigh. “Without you? Where’s the fun in that? I flew in to Dallas, but I don’t know where you live. Once I get a taxi, should I go north, south, east, or west?”
“Oh, my goodness! Why didn’t you let me know you were coming?” Bejay glanced back at Terrilee, who watched her patiently. “Oh…just a minute.” Bejay set the phone down, filled a glass with water from the sink, and carried it to Terrilee. “Would you like a ride home?” she asked, “or do you want to ride into Dallas with me?”
“I’d love to go for a drive with someone besides a candy-snitching farmer,” Terrilee answered.
Bejay picked up the phone again. “Let me come and get you. I have something to show you, and you can meet my friend Terrilee Tembler.”
“If you’re sure. I didn’t mean to make you drive in to pick me up,” Madge said.

“No trouble,” Bejay said.

April 4 - 780 words!
On the day she got her sling off, Bejay sat in the living room, rubbing her skinny arm muscles while the harmonica music from the “Ed Eager and the Eagles” record that Ginny had bought for her played on the record player. She raised her arm experimentally, testing her range of motion.
“You’re all put back together.” Bejay dropped her arm and studied her brother standing in the doorway. Two hundred years earlier, he could have worn buckskin and feathers and looked every bit the part of a wild Indian looking over his domain. When he moved into the room to show his freshly cut hair and cowboy shirt with pearl snaps, the illusion faded. “Let’s go horseback riding.”
Bejay stuck her recently healed arm out in front of her. “I’d probably drop the reins.”
“Once you ride a horse, you never forget how.”
“But the horse might not know. What if it can sense that I have a weak arm and bucks me off?”
“Queenie wouldn’t.”
Bejay’s eyes softened at the thought of the old horse she’d ridden to explore the Texas countryside while she was growing up. “Can she still be ridden?”
“By you.”
Bejay thought of sitting safely in the house with the curtains drawn, letting the harmonica music flow over her, and then imagined riding through the fields on Queenie’s back, her hair bouncing on her shoulders, warm sun on her skin.
“You’re smiling,” A.P. said.
Startled from her thoughts, Bejay glanced up at her brother and his white teeth flashing in a handsome smile in his tanned face. Bejay stood. A.P. pulled her into a warm hug for a moment before leading the way out to the barn.
They rode side by side, Queenie’s familiar gait comforting beneath Bejay’s saddle. “Why do you like Susie?” Bejay asked.
A.P. didn’t act startled. He rarely seemed surprised by what people said or did. “She’s cute, kind, ambitious, and she loves me.”
“But she didn’t like you at first.”
A.P. leaned forward, his body moving in rhythm with his horse as he turned toward Bejay. “That’s because she didn’t know me. She thought I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. Once she found out I was the real deal, she gave me a chance.” When Bejay didn’t say anything else, A.P. asked, “Is this about Phillip?”
 “Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Look, Sis, I don’t know what you and he are to each other, or were to each other, but I don’t like the way he treated you when he came to visit.”
Bejay felt tears rising and turned her head so A.P. wouldn’t see. “I’m not the same.”
“You’re the same to me,” A.P. said, his voice full of passion. “In fact, you’re even better.”
Bejay turned to face him. “How? Why? Look at my face!”
A.P.’s eyebrows rose, his gaze never wavering. “I’m looking.” His steady expression of love never changed, never slipped away with a flicker of revulsion. “You’re my beautiful sister. You could be a hundred years old, or have your features completely rearranged, and you’d still be my beautiful sister.”
A dust cloud showed up on the horizon and drew closer to them. One of the ranch’s hands drew up alongside A.P. “Cows are out along the highway,” he shouted. “We need your help.”
A.P. turned to Bejay. “Do you want to come?”
Bejay shook her head. “I’ll just ride back home.”
“You feel all right?”
“Better than ever.”
A.P. gave her a salute and turned to follow the galloping rider.
Bejay decided to go home along the river. The sound of running water soothed her as it flowed over the rocks in cheerful cadences of sound on its way to offer life. Not everything here was perfectly symmetrical. There were scars gouged into the tree trunks and lopsided bushes crowding up to the banks. In spite of its asymmetry, it was welcoming and calming. It didn’t need to be tended like castle gardens with rows of flowers marching up and down the square flower beds to offer a tranquil environment.
Bejay rode on, her mind drifting from places that would make perfect backdrops for photo shoots to the carefree days of her youth where riding away from home meant that there was a reason her parents didn’t pay attention to her.
Yet her father had hugged her and told her he loved her. She couldn’t remember the last time he’d hugged her, and she could never remember him speaking words of love. She had always had what she needed, and many things she’d wanted. He loved her by providing a good living for her, not by saying it in so many words.

April 3 - 1,470 words!
“You ought to get your nails done, too,” Ginny said. “It feels so good, doesn’t it, Kitty?”
Kitty nodded, her fingers still splayed as far as she could make them go.
“Ready?” Ruby asked, walking up to them.
As Bejay followed her mother out, she asked, “What time does the salon close?”
“Six o’clock.”
“But it’s…” Bejay’s voice faded away.
“Susie wanted to help,” Ruby said.
Bejay glanced back toward Terrilee, who chatted happily with Susie while the nail girl screwed lids on bottles and tossed cotton balls into the trash can. “Is Terrilee really losing her mind?”
Ginny opened the door for Kitty and said, “I don’t know that she’s losing it so much as that she sometimes gets confused.”
Ruby climbed in the car, shut her door and started the engine while Bejay got in the passenger seat and Ginny got in beside her daughter. “After what happened to her in her childhood, it’s a wonder she can think at all.”
“What did happen?” Bejay asked.
Ruby looked back over the seat at Kitty and said, “Not now.”
“If Susie asked her to pay in her other money, Terrilee would have done it,” Ginny said.
“Then why didn’t she?”
“Because Terrilee doesn’t have a lot of money, and Susie is willing to take her lotion as partial payment,” Ruby said. “It’s pretty good lotion, you know. Even A.P. uses it.”
“He does?” Bejay asked, picturing her manly little brother slathering on lotion from a beauty cream jar.
“Yes. Don’t you still use it, too?”
“I do,” Bejay admitted. “Even my makeup lady, Madge, likes it.”
“Terrilee’s been making some base makeup lately,” Ginny said. “She says she wants to make every lady in the world feel beautiful.”
Bejay looked out the window at the dark night sky, thinking what a great world it would be if Terrilee could have her way.

The call from Phillip came the next day. “Hello, beautiful,” he said on the phone. “Have you seen your cover?”
“Just yesterday,” Bejay said.
“Lovely,” Phillip answered, “We’ve already got requests for more photo shoots for you. I told you, you’re a rising star.”
“I got my stitches out,” Bejay blurted, then pinched her lips together. Why had she reminded him of her scarred state? It would be better if he had the image of her cover face in his mind.
“See?” Phillip answered. “My beautiful Beatrice Jayne is coming back. I’ll be in Dallas in two days, and I’m determined to see you. No more excuses.”
“Of course,” Bejay said, not daring to glance at the window for fear she’d seen her own reflection, however faint. “I can’t wait to see you.”
“And I to see you,” Phillip said. “Love you, darling.”
“I love you, too,” Bejay replied. As soon as she hung up, she went in search of her mother. “Phillip is coming in two days,” she said. “What am I going to do?”
“You’ll greet him like the good hostess you are, and we’ll feed him,” Ruby said. “Is he allergic to anything?”
Bejay thought for a moment. Was the man she agreed to marry allergic to any foods? She didn’t know. “Not that I know of.”
“Good. We’ll have beef.”
No surprise there.
Phillip arrived in a taxi, even though Bejay had told him that her father would pick him up at the airport. When he reached the front door, the taxi turned off its engine. He knocked. Bejay stood on the other side of the door, wiping her hands down her skirt.
“Go ahead, open it,” Ruby whispered.
Bejay reached out and turned the knob. She managed to keep her chin up as she smiled at Phillip and said, “Come in.”
Phillip put on a smile that Bejay had seen many times when he was doing publicity shoots for newspapers and magazine photographers who were after interviews with the director of the always on-site photo shoots for the Coronet models, all so beautiful they had no equal in any other modeling agency. “Hello, darling,” he said, taking her hand and looking pointedly at the sling she still wore on her other arm.
“That is coming off in three days,” Bejay said. She backed into the room, into the safety of the shadows before Phillip could get a good look at her face that was so heavy with base that Bejay felt as if she were wearing a mask. “Come in and sit down. We’ve got lunch almost ready for you.”
“Oh, I can’t stay,” Phillip said, following Bejay into the house with his gliding stride.
“You can’t…then why…” Bejay’s voiced faltered to silence.
“Because I wanted to see you,” Phillip said, looking into her face, his eyes roving over her nose, her cheeks, her mouth. His brow creased before it cleared and he said, “I love what you’ve done with your hair.”
Bejay lifted her hand and fingered the flip at the end of her blond hair. “Thank you. It’s from Susie’s Salon.”
Phillip laughed. “Oh, how quaint!”
“Won’t you at least sit down?” Bejay asked, gesturing to the sofa.
“Meter’s running on the taxi,” Phillip said.
“Just for a minute.”
“Just for you,” Phillip said, his practiced smile back in place.
As soon as they were seated, Bejay wasn’t sure how to bring up the Hawaiian photo shoot, so she asked, “How’s Madge?”
“As opinionated as ever,” Phillip said.
“And how are the photo shoots going?”
“As well as ever,” Phillip answered, glancing out the window. Then he turned his eyes back to Bejay. “Of course they’re not the same without you, dear.”
There. He’d opened the door, and Bejay rushed right through it. “I’m ready to go to Hawaii and do the shoot there for you,” Bejay said, leaning forward, her hand fisted in her lap. “I’ll have my arm brace off. I’m ready to go.”
Phillip’s smile faltered. He glanced down at Bejay’s belted waist, then reached out his hand to touch her stomach with the flat of his palm. “Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds, dear.”
Bejay’s hand flew to her stomach, pushing Phillip’s hand away. “Nothing I can’t take care of in three weeks.”
“I don’t know,” Phillip said, his eyes downcast. Was he picturing her thighs in a swimming suit? How could he know what they would look like without the full skirt she wore? “The other girls have been tanning.”
“I can tan,” Bejay said.
“It’s got to be gradual,” Phillip said. “If you try to do it too fast, you’re more likely to burn, and then you’d be completely useless.”
Bejay straightened up, a fire suddenly kindled in her gut. “And am I useless now? all along you’ve been telling me that I’m still your rising star, that there will be a place for me in the Coronet line up again, that I’m still your top model.”
Phillip’s eyebrows rose. “My funny little Bejay, have you looked in a mirror lately? I know you couldn’t look with your eyes bandaged, your poor little eyes, back in Mexico. But now that your eyes are healed, have you looked?” he reached out a hand and touched the line where Bejay had had stitches down the side of her face. “I can see the scar.”
Bejay jumped up, away from his fingers that felt like ice against her skin. “It’s not done healing yet. The doctor said it could take longer. He said some scars fade even more over the years.”
Phillip stood. “The scars fade, the wrinkles come. It’s a fine line that models walk, Bejay, you should know that. There’s a window of opportunity that you can work in, then it’s over. You don’t see Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth on magazines anymore, do you? Not as models, anyway. They had their shot, and now they’re history.”
Phillip leaned in  toward Bejay, and she drew back,  unsure of what he meant to do. He straightened. “I’d kiss you goodbye if you’d let me.”
Bejay shook her head, her lips clamped tightly together in order to keep the tears from coming. She didn’t want him to see her cry. Not now. not ever.
“Well, then, my beautiful Bejay, I will say goodbye. I wish you the best luck in the world.” He turned and walked out the door. She watched from the window as he climbed into the taxi and drove away.
Ruby and Frank appeared through the kitchen doorway. “I’ll just go turn off the oven,” Ruby said.
Frank stood for a moment, regarding his daughter as she wept into hands that covered her face. Then he moved toward her, silently, slowly, and wrapped his arms around her. She stiffened. “I love you,” Frank said, his voice sounding as rusty as an old gate hinge. Bejay relaxed against her father’s chest and cried.    

 April 2 - 534 words!
The door opened and Bejay opened her eyes to slits. Terrilee Tembler walked in, her face alight with smiles. She stopped inside the door and sniffed the air appreciatively. “Hello,” Susie called. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Bejay turned to check the clock on the wall. It was after 8:00 p.m. Surely Susie’s shop would be closed by now.
“I brought you more cream,” Terrilee said, opening a paper grocery sack.
“Thank you,” Susie said, unsnapping Bejay’s cape. “You’re done,” she said to Bejay. “I hope you like it.”
Bejay turned hesitantly toward the mirror. Her scarred face stared back at her from a frame of blond hair that was combed over from a deep side part, effectively hiding the bald spot. Her bangs swept sideways and blended into the style, which ended in a saucy flip at the end.
“Oh, it’s so cute!” Ruby said. “You should wear it that way all the time.”
Bejay agreed that it was an improvement over what she’d walked in with. She didn’t even feel like wearing her floppy hat.
As she stood up from the chair and turned around, she nearly bumped into Susie, who held out a regular sized magazine cover of the flame dress. “I hope you don’t mind,” Susie said shyly, “but I was hoping you’d autograph this for me.”
Bejay froze. Is that why Susie had done her hair? She glanced at her mother, who gave her a little nod. Bejay wanted to say no, to turn and walk out of the salon, but before she did, A.P.’s face came to mind. This was the girl A.P. loved. No matter what Bejay thought of her, she should sign the magazine cover for A.P.’s sake.
Susie pulled the magazine back and said, “That’s okay. I hope you like your hair.” She smiled, dropped the magazine and pen onto a table, and hurried over to Terrilee. “Now it’s your turn. You just go sit down, and I’ll be right over.” Bejay watched Susie turn her “Open” sign to “Closed.” Then she made her way back to where Terrilee had climbed into the chair that Bejay had just left.
“I brought my money,” Terrilee said, pulling out a stack of small, colorful bills.
“That’s fine,” Susie said, pulling out three bills of Monopoly money, each one a different color. “When we’re done, I’ll pay you for the lotion, and then we’ll be square.”
Terrilee fixed her eyes on Bejay. “Oh, you look so pretty!” Her eyes focused on Susie in the mirror. “I want you to cut my hair like Bejay’s, please.”
Susie smiled back at Terrilee’s reflection. “I’ll do my best.”
Ruby moved in beside Susie as she started snipping, asking if she’d like to come for Sunday supper.
Bejay turned away, bent, and signed the magazine cover, her hand shaking just a little.
“Look!” Kitty said, rushing toward Bejay with her fingers splayed out. “Pretty fingernails!”
“They certainly are,” Bejay said, looking down at the coral colored tips of Kitty’s fingers.
Ginny came up right behind her daughter. “Wow, Bejay, I like that side swept look,” she said. “Phillip can’t help but take you back now.”

“Thanks,” Bejay said, unconsciously moving her hand up to check her bald spot that was so artfully covered she couldn’t feel through her new hairdo.  

April 1 - 632 words!
With her mother and Ginny propelling her along, Bejay had no choice but to end up at Susie’s beauty salon. As soon as she stepped out of the car, Bejay glanced up at the beauty salon window and was transported back in time. She stared at her own face looming up above her, a curious mixture of triumph and wide-eyed expectation on her face as she balanced on top of the rocks, the wide sleeves of the flame gown filled with air and light from the rising sun. With a sudden flash of realization, Bejay recognized the moment she knew she was going to fall, and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. One of the photographers had caught the moment she was transitioning from triumph of being on top of the world to knowing she was losing her balance and could not regain it. It was a haunting face, beautiful in its clashing emotions, savagely hurtful it the reality that Bejay felt when her fingers crept across her scarred face.
As she turned to climb back into the car, Ruby took hold of her arm. “There’s Susie! She said she’d stay open for us, and even talked her best nail technician to wait and do Ginny’s nails.
Bejay was ready to pull against her mother’s touch until Kitty slid her small hand into Bejay’s. Bejay glanced down to see a frown on the little girl’s face. “What is it?” Bejay asked.
“Does fingernails hurts?” Kitty asked, looking up at Bejay with a crease between her eyebrows.
“No.”
“You do it, too?”
Bejay squeezed Kitty’s hand. “If there’s time, I will.”
“You do it with me,” Kitty said, leaning against Bejay’s legs.
“All right.”
Bejay avoided looking at the poster of the magazine cover that mocked her and led Kitty into the salon.
“Wow, your nose!” Susie said. “It looks so good!”
Bejay barely heard the compliment as she gazed in surprise at her face in more than one place inside the salon alongside Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Raquel Welch, and Elizabeth Taylor. Dizzy, she sank down on a nearby chair.
“Are you all right?” Susie asked, her smile slipping.
“She’ll be fine as soon as you can help her with her hair,” Ruby said, rubbing Bejay’s shoulders. It wasn’t comforting, but Bejay didn’t stop her. She let her mother help her up and sit her in a chair in front of a mirror. Bejay saw herself in the mirror through her sunglasses, and didn’t like what she saw, especially when her glance caught one of her magazine covers in the mirror, hovering over her head like an angel of lost hope. Her eyes welled with tears, her heart slipping down into her stomach.
Susie spun the chair to the side so Bejay no longer faced the mirror. “Now, I have some ideas on how to reshape your hair,” she said. “May I?”

Ruby made a move as if to take off Bejay’s hat, but Bejay saw Susie stop her with a lifted hand. For some reason, that single movement, the idea that Susie was waiting for Bejay’s permission, caused Bejay to lift her hat from her head and slowly slide her glasses off her eyes. Susie smiled. “Now, here’s a smock to keep your clothes clean.” She flung a plastic sheet over Bejay’s chest and fastened it with a snap in the back. Even though Bejay was no longer facing the mirror, she closed her eyes and let Susie snip and comb her hair while Ruby talked about Bejay’s childhood and how she was always such a reliable little girl.

March 31 - recuperating from the weekend

March 30 - 3,000 word interview for newsletter spotlight!

March 28-29...Write Here in Ephraim Conference Chair!

March 27, 2014 - 2,413 words
Bejay got a phone call from Ginny the next day. “Hey, I hear you’re not up for a trip to the city,” Ginny said.
“You go with Mom,” Bejay answered.
“We can go later,” Ginny replied. “I’ve got plenty to do around here. Hey, do you want to come over? I could pick you up when I go out for some milk.”
“I really don’t…”
“Please say yes,” Ginny begged. “I’m longing for some big girl talk. I love my little Kitty, don’t get me wrong, but one more program of “Howdy Doody” and I’m going to ride off into the sunset myself.”
“Well, if it’s that serious, you can come and get me, but don’t drive me down Main Street. Come pick me up after you get the milk.”
“All right,” Ginny said, her voice brightening. “Moo, then you.”
Bejay rolled her eyes and hung up the phone.
Ruby had no objections to Bejay going out with Ginny, in fact, she was delighted. She told Bejay to stay as long as she wanted.
Bejay got into Ginny’s powder blue Cadillac and wondered at her petite friend’s skill in backing the big car out of the driveway to roll smoothly down the street. Kitty hung over the front seat, dangling a doll by the hair.
“What’s your dolly’s name?” Bejay asked.
“Beatrice,” Kitty answered.
Bejay glanced at Ginny, who kept her eyes on the road. “Why do you call her that?”
“That’s my mommy’s best friend’s name, and I like to have a best friend, too.”
Bejay sqeezed her hands together and looked out the window at the flatland rolling past.
Before they got very far from Bejay’s house, Ginny slammed on the brakes. Bejay stuck her hand out to brace herself against the dashboard and Ginny threw her arm up to stop Kitty from tumbling over the seat.
“What’s going on?” Bejay asked.
“It’s Terrilee,” Ginny said, popping her door open. “She’s a little ways out of town, and I just need to make sure she’s all right.”
Bejay looked out the windshield to see a lady in a wide yellow sun hat walking carefully along the edge of the road away from town. She couldn’t see her face, but she could tell from her posture and her carefully tended clothing that it was Terrilee. Bejay pushed her door open, but then stopped. What would Terrilee think if she saw Bejay’s face? She probably wouldn’t even recognize her. She’d been so encouraging of Bejay’s career, giving her the brushes and face cream as a going away gift, and sending Bejay more cream every time she asked for some. Bejay owed it to Terrilee to at least greet her. Still, she waited, watching Ginny waddle up to Terrilee and say something to the old woman. Terrilee’s hat moved up and down, and Ginny led her back to her car. She opened the back door behind the driver’s seat and said, “Well, look who we have here!”
Kitty regarded the old woman with round blue eyes. “I like your hat,” she said.
Terrilee slid onto the seat, her hands gripping the back of the driver’s seat ahead of her. “Why, thank you, dear. You are a lovely child. Where is your hat?”
“Don’t have one,” Kitty said.
Terrilee raised a gloved hand to her lipsticked mouth. “Oh.” She dropped her hand. “You must have a hat. If you don’t, you’ll get brown, and you’ll freckle, and you won’t be pretty anymore.”
Kitty shot a look of alarm at her mother who slid in behind the wheel. “Mommy! I’m going to get speckles!”
“It’s freckles,” Ginny said. “You have a hat at home. If you want to wear it, you can go get it from your room as soon as we get there.”
“I have a hat,” Kitty said, turning to look at Terrilee, who was staring at Bejay in open horror.
“See?” Terrilee whispered. “That’s what happens if you don’t take care of your skin.”
“That’s Beatrice Jayne,” Ginny said.
“No!” Terrilee shrank back in her seat. “Did she go down the evil street? They should put a sign up on the evil street. No one should go there. Oh, my. I should have warned her.” She reached out and touched Bejay’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Beatrice Jayne. If I’d known you were going there, I would have told you not to.”
Bejay lifted her hand to pat Terrilee’s, but Terrilee drew hers back. “It wasn’t any street,” Bejay said. “I fell off a cliff.”
“Fell off a cliff?” Terrilee folded her hands in her lap. “Perhaps you should have your eyes checked. Even though glasses are unbecoming, it would be better to wear them while walking than to fall off a cliff. You can always remove them before any social function, once you are on level ground, or a solid floor.”
“It was an accident,” Bejay said. “The wind blew me over.”
“Well, then I suggest you stay away from cliffs.” Terrilee turned her head to look at the passing scenery. “I do have some makeup that will help, you know.”
“I don’t know of anything that will completely cover this,” Bejay said, indicating her black eyes.
“That’s because I made it after you left,” Terrilee said. “You may have some, but not if you don’t believe in what it does.”
“I’d love to try it,” Bejay answered. “I’ve used the brushes you gave me ever since I left, and my makeup artist loves your cream.”
Terrilee sniffed. “I expect she does. Mother perfected it, you know. Well, almost. I tried a few things after she was gone, and I think I made it even a little bit better.” She smiled, her face brightening. While it was an elderly face, her cheeks were fairly smooth, and her wrinkles were soft around her eyes. Her makeup was applied with an expert hand. If she’d been younger, Bejay would have taken her along to do her makeup on modeling shoots.
“I was going to take Terrilee to my house, then drive her back home after I dropped you off,” Ginny said. “Would you want to go to Terrilee’s before I take you home?”
Bejay considered. Terrilee lived in a populated area of town. Did she really want to risk having someone see her just to get the makeup that would cover all of her faults? She didn’t, but neither did she want to hurt Terrilee’s feelings. It seemed as if the old dear was becoming a little bit forgetful. “What were you doing all the way out here?” Bejay asked, trying to buy herself some more time to think.
“I saw an article on wildflowers in my magazine,” Terrilee said. “I decided to try decorating with some, but I couldn’t find any wildflowers in town. I kept walking, looking for some along the way, but I never saw any pretty enough.”
“They sell them at the store,” Ginny said.
“How can they be wild if they’re bought from a store?” Terrilee asked. “I think wildflowers should be growing in the wild.”
“Music, Mommy,” Kitty said, reaching toward the radio knob.
“All right, let’s see what’s on.” Ginny turned the car radio on to find an announcer talking about President Johnson’s efforts to fill in President Kennedy’s shoes.
“Music,” Kitty said.
“I’m looking.” Ginny turned the dial and an advertisement for Bryl Cream sounded through the speakers. Then she turned the dial again, and a drum beat accompanied a harmonica.
Ginny hesitated, glancing over the seat toward Kitty, when Bejay cried, “Leave it there!”
Ginny turned wide eyes on Bejay. “Why?”
“I know that music,” Bejay said. “What is the name of it?”
“I’m not sure,” Ginny said with a shrug. “It’s a newer group, called something about Angels.”
“Angels Rising,” Terrilee said. Bejay glanced back to see her hand waving gently in the air. “The harmonica is such a versatile instrument,” Terrilee continued. “Its notes can play like a child, and they can weep with the saints. It can bring about sunshine, rain, and moving streams.”
“You know this group?” Bejay asked.
Terrilee nodded, but whether she was nodding to the music or in answer to Bejay’s question, Bejay wasn’t sure. “I know the harmonica player,” Bejay said. “He’s a sweet old man who played to me in the hospital in Mexico.”
Terrilee’s eyes opened. “They are on tour. They’re heading to South America, although I don’t know why they don’t just travel here. I’d like to see them play.”
A flute blended in with the harmonica, soaring its mellow notes in perfect harmony with the harmonica’s rhythm. Then a guitar joined in, making a solid wall of music that engulfed Bejay and made her feel better instantly. “I’d like to see them, too,” Bejay said, “or else get a record and listen to it over and over.”
“We could stop by the music store,” Ginny offered.
The song ended, and Dianna Ross and the Supremes came on singing, “Baby Love.”
“No, no, not today.”
A gleeful chorus of “Baby love, my baby love,” came from the back seat, with Terrilee’s gentle quaver and Kitty’s high, young voice sounding together along with the Supremes.
Once Terrilee quit giving Bejay sidelong glances, Bejay was surprised to find that she enjoyed her visit. Ginny’s house was huge, with two stories, a columned porch, and a big expanse of lawn with flowers around the edges. Two Hispanic men worked with clippers on the shrubs that served as a backdrop for the flower gardens. “Wow, Ginny, this is a gorgeous house,” Bejay said, walking inside the large foyer.
“I only told my husband I’d move in as long as I didn’t have to clean it all myself,” Ginny said. “I was actually more interested in a little house on Back Street, with a smaller floor plan and a yard that I could have mowed each week to catch some sun.”
Terrilee stiffened. “No!” she said, her voice agitated. “Not that street! Never live there!”
Ginny took her arm. “I don’t live there, Mrs. Tembler. I live here, and I have some cookies and punch we can all eat.”
Terrilee relaxed and let Ginny lead her into a living room papered with flocked green wallpaper in a fleur de lis pattern, a rectangular sofa of mustard yellow upholstery, and two padded armchairs with green and yellow paisley patterns. The cream colored carpet felt as soft as walking on a cloud. 
Bejay was surprised to see Kitty tug at her mother’s hand, and Ginny sliding her diamond ring off her finger and handing it over to her little daughter. “Aren’t you afraid she might lose it?” Bejay whispered as Kitty swirled around the room with the ring on her finger.
“The rule is that she doesn’t leave the room I’m in,” Ginny said. “She likes to play princess, and if she loses it, then she won’t be able to play Princess Ring Ring. I know she doesn’t want that to happen.”
Although a woman brought out a plate of assorted cookies that looked awfully tempting, Terrilee pulled off her gloves, helped herself to just one Oreo cookie, and asked for a glass of water. The maid brought the water, and left. Bejay looked at the cookies, hungry for a chocolate chip one. The trouble is, if she started, would she be able to stop at just one? She glanced over at Terrilee, who carefully bit the edge of the cookie and chewed with a barely perceptible movement of her jaw. No wonder she kept her slender figure.
Watching Ginny eat three cookies, Bejay decided that she as convalescing, and maybe cookies would help get her strength back. She took two chocolate chip and tasted the green drink, which had the tiniest hint of lime in it, but was also mellow flavored, like banana. She gladly took a refill of juice and another cookie. Terrilee drank her water after her single Oreo and was done. She asked Bejay about her modeling jobs, and Bejay was happy to recount her travels to her rapt audience. Even Kitty came back to the group of women, tucked the ring back into her mother’s hand, and chewed on a lemon bar while listening to Bejay talk about her adventure of being photographed on the top of the Empire State Building.
When it was time to go, Terrilee said, “Let’s go get that make up for you, now, Beatrice. It will do you good.”
Bejay offered to ride in the back seat with Kitty, and Terrilee graciously sat herself on the passenger side of the front bench seat. Ginny shifted gears and drove to Terrilee’s house. “come along,” Terrilee said, opening her door.
“Let me come,” Ginny said, casting a glance back at Bejay. “I’d like Bejay to stay here with Kitty. We don’t want my little girl getting into your pretty things, now, do we?”
Terrilee gave her a surprised smile, then nodded. “But you do have a pretty girl, Ginny.”
“Thank you. And when she grows up, we’ll be getting some make up from you for her, too.”
 As they headed toward the house, Bejay heard Terrilee say, “But it’s not too soon for her to start using my face cream. The sooner the better, I always say.”
“All right,” Ginny said, following Terrilee’s figure up the stairs to her front door.
Bejay turned her attention back to Kitty, only to see the little girl staring at her with great intensity. “What is it?” Bejay asked.
Kitty shook her head. “If her cream makes me look like you, then I don’t want some, no thank you.”

At the end of the week, Ruby and Bejay drove to Ginny’s to pick up her and Kitty. Then they headed into Dallas to see Doctor. He carefully removed the splint from Bejay’s nose. “That’s looking really good,” he said. “Do you want to see?”
Bejay shook her head. “I didn’t like the last glimpse of myself.”
“Well, your eyes don’t look as black as the first time you came to see me,” the doctor said. “They’re actually healing quite nicely.”
“Maybe I’ll look when they’re all healed,” Bejay said. She hadn’t worn Terrilee’s foundation yet because it still hurt to touch her eyes.

When she went out into the waiting room where Ginny sat with Kitty, Ginny looked up and said, “Looking good. With a little bit of Terrilee’s makeup, you might even agree to go shopping with me.”

March 26, 2014 - 574 words
After Ginny left, Bejay looked through some old magazines. She found her favorite fashion models from when she was a teenager, only now she could see them as flesh and blood people instead of some kind of goddesses that lived in a glass palace in the clouds and only came down to have their pictures taken for mere mortals to admire. Not only did the lighting help make their skin look flawless, but the makeup used on them was thick enough to hide freckles.
“Hey, sis,” A.P. called.
“In here,” Bejay said, closing her magazine and stuffing it under her pillow.
A.P. walked into her room. “Are you ever going to come out of here?”
“I’m recovering,” Bejay said, lying back on her pillows.
“You can recover downstairs, too. We’d like to see you sometimes.”
“I’ve seen enough of Susie.”
A.P. was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “I wasn’t talking about Susie. I was talking about Dad.”
Bejay wasn’t sure what to say, but she blurted, “I don’t think you missed me much while I was gone. After all, you have Susie.”
“What do you have against Susie anyway?”
Bejay didn’t see how she could possibly explain that it appeared Susie had taken her place in her mother’s affections. Before, it had been faceless girls, more than one, which diluted the effect of not having her mother pay attention to her and help her and be available as a mother should. This time, it was one girl, a single face, a body at the dinner table offering to do Bejay’s hair as if she weren’t good enough the way she was. Bejay settled for, “She seems young and immature.”
“Maybe she’s young, but how is it immature to own your own business at nineteen years old? And how is it immature to step in to help a woman who unexpectedly lost her 17-year-old daughter?”
“Exactly,” Bejay said, sitting up. “She took my place, so I’m just an extra around here anymore. You said she thought you were a name-dropper, and that’s why she wouldn’t go out with you. Have you ever considered that Susie didn’t want to date you until she found out I was your sister because she’s shallow?”
A.P. sounded like he was trying to swallow his words. “Don’t say that!”
“Because you don’t want to think it?” Bejay asked. “Sometimes you just don’t know about people, A.P. You’ve got to look beyond a cute face and a curvy figure. You need to know what the motivations are behind someone’s actions instead of just thinking it’s the one you want it to be.”
“I’m not so sure that your world travels have taught you anything about the motivations of people around you either,” A.P. said. Then he turned and left the room.
That night, dinner was a quiet affair, since neither A.P. nor Susie were in attendance. As Bejay chewed her way through a beef burrito, her mother said, “Ginny wants to go to Dallas tomorrow, and would like us to go along.”
“You go,” Bejay said.
“But you’re her friend.”
“So are you.” Bejay took a sip of milk. Her mother was convinced that having her drink milk three times a day would heal her bones faster. “She told me yesterday.”
“You could just ride along, not have to go in any stores if you don’t want to.”
“I already know I don’t want to. You have fun, though.”

March 25, 2014 - 1,546 words
The next day, Bejay got a phone call from Madge. “Hey, Bejay, I’m so sorry about when you left,” Madge said. “I would have visited you again, but Philip told me you were already gone.”
Bejay felt deflated. “Why would he lie?”
“Well,” Madge said, her voice brightening a bit. “He is a shrewd businessman. He knows that certain things must be done in order to succeed. A girl who gets hooked up with him would never need to worry about being taken care of. He would do whatever it took.”
“But lying? How does that help anything?”
“Bejay, come on, what about that time when Melissay Mercury asked you if the dress she had on for the runway flattered her? Do you remember what you said?”
Bejay fidgeted with the phone cord. “It wasn’t as if she had a choice on what she could wear. She had to wear the dress she was assigned, so what good would it do to tell her that it made her butt look big? I complimented her on the color.”
“But you avoided her question.”
“It was the nicest thing to do.”
“So, maybe Phillip telling me that you were gone was the nicest thing he could think of to do, since I still had my job to finish, and if I was thinking of you in the hospital all alone, I might not be able to concentrate on my work. Besides that, I would be unhappy.”
“And do you feel better now?”
After a brief silence, Madge said, “No. I wish I could have seen you again. But he thought he was doing the right thing.”
Bejay thought about the argument they’d had in Philip’s hotel room two nights ago. Was it really only two nights ago? Philip had waited until they were engaged to push her to get physical with him. Maybe in his mind, that was the right thing to do. “He called me and sent me flowers,” Bejay said.
“Can you smell them?”
“No. If you really want to, you could come to Texas, you know.”
“Maybe I’ll do that. You get well, Bejay. I mean it.”
“I’m working on it, Madge. Thanks for calling.”
After lunch, Bejay was resting in her room when her mother walked up the stairs and knocked on her door. “Yes?” Bejay said.
“Someone’s here to see you,” Ruby said.
“No,” Bejay answered, pulling a pillow over her head. “I don’t want to see Susie.”
“I’m not Susie,” said a familiar voice.
Bejay flung the pillow away and stared at her best friend from high school. Ginny smiled at her from Bejay’s bedroom doorway, her hair curled and piled on her head, her rounded stomach covered by a loose smock. A blond girl who looked like she was about two years old clung to her mother’s hand and stared around Bejay’s room. The child looked like she would be small like her mother. 
“I knew my way up, so I just followed your mom,” Ginny said.
Bejay bounced out of bed and bent to hug her friend. “It’s so good to see you!” Bejay cried. She glanced down at the child. “Your daughter is so cute.”
The little girl stared up at Bejay with wide blue eyes before turning to press her face into her mother’s leg.
“Oh, yes,” Bejay said, putting a self conscious hand up to her hair. “I’m not exactly presentable.”
“Come on, Kitty, she’s a nice lady who just got a big owie,” Ginny said. “Remember when you got an owie on your leg and it turned a funny color?”
Kitty nodded, her face still pressed against her mother.
“Oh, let me get you a chair,” Bejay said.
“I’ll go fix you girls something to eat,” Ruby replied. “Do you want to come and help me, Kitty? I’ve got some cookies.”
Kitty took one last look at Bejay, then grabbed Ruby’s hand and left the room.j
Ginny sunk down into a chair. “Oh, it feels good to get off my feet,” she said, rubbing low on her belly.
“When is your baby due?” Bejay asked.
“Four and a half months. I’m only halfway.”
Bejay bit her lip. She’d thought Ginny was going to deliver in another month at the most, but she wasn’t going to say that out loud. “How are things going for you, Gin?”
“Oh, you know, I’m happy,” Ginny said, her round face beaming. Bejay believed her. “I love my little Kitty, and I can hardly wait for this one to join our family. Bud is happy crushing rocks, and I’m happy to have him home after he takes a shower.”
“You look well,” Bejay said.
“Thank you.” Ginny twisted a ring with an alarmingly large diamond around her finger.
“Wow, that’s quite a ring,” Bejay said.
“Yes,” Ginny said absently. “Bud is doing so well, he insisted on replacing my original wedding ring with this one. I told him he didn’t have to, but he insisted. When I had Kitty, I had to take this off toward the end of my term because I got so big. That’s the way it goes for short women, I guess.” She eyed Bejay. “You shouldn’t have any trouble, with all that space between your hips and your bust.”
Bejay laughed. “I’m not even married.”
“But you’re close, right?” Ginny asked.
“I don’t know.” Bejay could feel her face flush red and turned away.
“Come on, this is me,” Ginny said, reaching out to touch Bejay on her knee. “We don’t keep secrets.”
So Bejay told Ginny about the botched engagement, Phillip’s coldness the next morning, and his subsequent apologies and terms of endearment. When she finished, Ginny’s head was bent. She didn’t say anything.
“What’s wrong?” Bejay asked.
Ginny raised her head, tears glistening in her eyes. “It’s my fault,” she said.
Shocked, Bejay gasped, “What? How could it possibly be?”
“I’m the one who talked you into ditching classes to go to the fashion show with me. If I hadn’t taken you there, you wouldn’t be a model, you wouldn’t have left school, you wouldn’t be hurt now.”
Bejay knelt beside Ginny’s chair and embraced her with her free arm. “It’s not your fault, Gin. I would have left anyway. Somehow I would have found my way out.”
“But why?” Ginny wiped her eyes with her fingers, and Bejay pulled away to grab a tissue from her bedside stand. She handed it to Ginny, who blew her nose. Bejay got her another tissue and her small trash can. “You have a wonderful mother and father, and a nice brother. Why would you want to leave them?”
Bejay didn’t know if she could put it into words. Her mother was nice, certainly. She was an angel to many a wayward girl. Her father was wonderful with horses, not so wonderful with people. A.P. was a good enough brother, but they just didn’t have much in common. Look at who he was planning to marry. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just felt…confined. I needed to get away and live my own life. I made something of myself, I made my parents proud, and now I came back a disappointment.”
“Not to me,” Ginny said. “I’ve missed you.”
“What about Susie?” Bejay asked. “She could be a replacement friend.”
Ginny’s eyes went wide. “Replace you? Never! You are irreplaceable, my friend.”
Bejay nearly started crying at her friend’s loyalty. “I feel the same way about you. We will be friends forever.”
“And ever.”
“What do you think of Susie, though?”
“She’s a nice enough girl. She’s buying that beauty shop where she got hired on last year. She’s ambitious, that’s for sure.” Ginny stopped and tilted her head, looking at Bejay’s hair. “What happened right there?” Ginny touched the side of her head, mirroring the spot where Bejay had her hair shaved off.
Bejay put her hand up to her head and tried to smooth strands of hair over the bald patch. “They had to put in stitches, so they cut my hair.”
“You ought to go see Susie,” Ginny said. “She’s real good with hair. If anyone can fix that and make your hair look good again, it’s Susie.”
“I don’t feel like going out just now,” Bejay said.
“Well, I don’t blame you for that. It looks like you went wild with the eye shadow.”
“Yeah,” Bejay giggled, surprised that she could laugh again. “I’m all ready to do a graveyard shoot.”
Ruby’s footfalls sounded in the hallway, accompanied by lighter ones. Ruby walked right in with Kitty at her heels. She set a tray with cookies and milk on Bejay’s bed. “Here you go, girls, snickerdoodles, just like when you were little.”
“Wow, Ruby, this just takes me back,” Ginny said, leaning forward to get a cookie and not quite reaching.
“I do it, Mommy.” Kitty scampered to the bed and handed her mother a cookie.
“Thank you, Princess,” Ginny said. She took a bite. “Mmmm, this makes me feel like a kid again.”
Kitty hesitated, then lifted another cookie from the plate and held it out toward Bejay. “For your owie,” she said solemnly.

Bejay took the cookie, looking into the child’s Ginny-blue eyes. “Thank you,” she said. “I feel better already.”

March 24, 2014 - 1,962
After a dinner of beef, of course, and a good night of sleep with no bad dreams, Bejay woke up to the sound of birds singing. She knew her parents must be up, but no one had come in to wake her. She could imagine her mother opening her door and looking in just to see if she was awake, but Bejay hadn’t heard a thing. She could take her bandages off today. That made it a good day.
She sat up in bed and carefully removed the bandages from her eyes. She squinted against the morning light, but soon it felt comfortable. There was almost no blurriness at all. Deciding to take a look in the mirror before she risked blurring her vision again with the drops the doctor had given her, she got up and walked into the bathroom.
The image that greeted her in the mirror was fit for a fright house at any amusement park. Both of her eyes looked out at her from bruised sockets, the black giving way to sickly green and yellow skin. Stitches puckered her forehead and down her right cheek, making her look worse than Frankenstein’s monster. Her hair stuck up every which way, worse than a fright wig, and her nose was covered with a bandage that made it look twice as big as normal.
“No!” she cried, turning and running from the bathroom. She dashed into her bedroom and slammed the door, then jumped into her bed and pulled the covers up over her head. Crying into her pillow, she told herself that she’d never leave this room again.
“Bejay?” Ruby’s voice sounded closer as she walked into Bejay’s room. “What’s wrong? Do you need a pain pill?”
“No!” Bejay shouted. “I need a new face!”
Ruby tugged on the covers, and Bejay tightened her grip on them. “Bejay, you are beautiful as you are.”  
Bejay kept crying.
“Won’t you look at me?”
“I’m hideous!”
“Not to me, you aren’t. I saw you in Doctor Wheeler’s office yesterday, remember?”
“I don’t want to look at you.”
There was a long silence, then Ruby said, “I’ve never figured out what I did to drive you away from home. I didn’t want you to go, but you were so determined, I didn’t feel as if I could stop you. It was like you were running away from something, but what?”
When Bejay didn’t answer, Ruby continued, “I love you so much. Your father does too, in his way. Won’t you talk to me? Won’t you let me help you?”
“You have plenty of girls to help,” Bejay said. “You don’t need to bother with me.”
Ruby’s breath came out in a quiet, “Ohhhh.” After a moment, she said, “So that’s it. I thought you were big enough to take care of yourself while I went out helping other girls, when you were still just a little girl, too. Honey, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”
Bejay flung the covers away from her face and reached out her free arm to her mother. Ruby leaned in and hugged her daughter the best she could without hurting her.
“Hey,” A.P. called from the hallway. “Are you decent? I’ve got a special delivery!”
“It’s going to be all right, Bejay,” Ruby whispered. “Are you ready to see your brother?”
Bejay gave her mother one more squeeze. “I might as well.”
Ruby pulled away, but kept her hand in Bejay’s. “Come in.”
A.P. pushed the door open and made his way through the doorway, in spite of being nearly obscured by a huge bouquet of flowers.
“Oh, my,” Ruby said. “Who are those from?”
“There’s a card in there somewhere,” A.P. said, struggling to set the multi-colored flowers down on the bedside table. Once they were balanced in their wide vase, he stepped back, then got a look at Bejay’s face. “Hey!” he said, his face turning up into a smile. “You look like the day we got into that chocolate pudding fight.”
Bejay couldn’t help but break out in a laugh. “And you won.”
“Darn tootin’,” A.P. said, sticking his thumbs in his jeans pockets. “I won and you got the most pudding to lick off your face. I think that makes you the winner.”
“Here it is,” Ruby said, pulling a card from the rainbow mass of flowers. “Do you want to read it?”
Bejay took the card, relishing that fact that she was able to read at all. She pulled out the card and saw written on there in an unfamiliar hand, “Since you can’t smell, I’m sending you bright flowers in the hope that you will soon see them. I love you, my darling, get well soon, Phillip.”
When Bejay lifted her eyes to the beautiful arrangement, they were filled with tears. “Who sent them?” Ruby asked.
“He’d better have written something nice,” A.P. growled, putting his hand out for the card.
“Oh, he did,” Bejay said, handing it over. “A.P., what would you think of having a double wedding with your sister?”
A.P. scanned the card. “Well, if he’s as nice as his words, I’ll talk to Susie, but I’m pretty sure she would be very excited. She’s a big fan of yours, Bejay. In fact, when she first met me and we got to talking about your families and I told her you were my sister, she didn’t believe me.” Bejay looked at her brother’s olive skin and dark hair, evidence of their father’s American Indian heritage, and could understand why Susie doubted him. “She thought I was name dropping just to try to impress her. I had to talk her into coming over and having Mom show her some of our photo albums so that she could see we grew  up together, and so Mom could tell her that we were both her actual children.”
“So Susie’s not a pushover?”
“Not in the least.”
“Well, maybe I’ll have to meet her again in six weeks.”
A.P.’s mouth dropped open. “Six weeks?”
The phone rang, and Ruby left to answer it. She called to Bejay, “It’s for you!”
Bejay walked past her astonished brother and took the phone from her mother, absently curling the cord around her finger when she said, “Hello?”
“Hello, darling,” Phillip said, his smooth voice sending shivers of warmth down Bejay’s spine. “How are you today?”
“I’m doing better, Phillip, really,” Bejay said. “I got the bandages off my eyes this morning. I’m not going to lose my sight.”
“That’s wonderful!” Phillip said. “I couldn’t stand it if something permanent happened to hurt those baby blues. How are things at home?”
Bejay lowered her voice. “It’s an adjustment.”
Phillip lowered his to match the tone of Bejay’s. “I can imagine.”
“The doctor said I would be well in six weeks,” Bejay said. “I’d like to make that Hawaiian photo shoot.”
“That would be the best thing ever,” Phillip said. “I really must come and see you, darling, as soon as we wrap things up here in Mexico.”
Bejay’s hand flew to her face. How long did it take black eyes to heal? How long did Doctor Wheeler say it would be before he could take her stitches out? “Uh, it would be great to see you again. I don’t think you have to rush right back, though. Take your time. Oh, and thank you for those beautiful flowers!” They really brightened my day, and made me feel loved.”
“I’m so glad, because you are loved, darling. Just a minute.” It sounded as if Phillip had covered the receiver, because his voice was suddenly muffled. Then he came back on the line and said, “Well, darling, I’m glad to know you’re getting on well, and that your eyes are all right. Everything else with turn out all right, too, don’t you worry. I’ll pick out the most “it” swimsuit for my girl, and we’ll get you back on top where you belong.”
“It means so much to hear you say that,” Bejay said. “Thank you for believing in me, especially after…” she didn’t know how to explain her feelings about rejecting his proposal.
“After what? Nothing happened between us that can’t be mended, darling. I love you just as much as ever.”
“And I love you, too.”
“There, then, that’s settled. I’ve got to go now, dear, but I will let you know when I’m coming to Texas.” His voice turned teasing. “Shall I buy a pair of cowboy boots?”
“And a ten gallon hat.”
“And I’ll learn to say, ‘y’all.’”
“You’ll fit right in,” Bejay said, her heart lifting with hope.
“Goodbye, darling.”
“Bye.”
The line went dead. Bejay stood holding the receiver for a moment after the line went dead. Then she hung up the phone and went into the bathroom. Her horror face greeted her in the mirror, and her good mood vanished.

It turned out that Bejay wasn’t able to avoid Susie Penwell after all. She showed up at the dinner table, in a blue circle skirt and Peter Pan collared blouse that was fashionable a decade earlier. She barely stood higher than A.P.’s shoulder, and that may have been because her glossy brown hair was teased up so high. Her root beer brown eyes sparkled from her round face. Her cheeks were rosy, and Bejay couldn’t help but think that she would make a very fine Christmas elf for Santa’s workshop at the North Pole.
Susie sat across from Bejay at the table, next to A.P, and studiously stared her in the face whenever talking to her. Bejay got the feeling that Susie would have rather looked away, but was trying to prove that she wasn’t put off by Bejay’s appearance.
Frank MacAvoy was quiet, as usual, eyes on his plate. At least Bejay was used to him not looking at her. He would only look full on at his horses, although with Ruby’s tutoring, he’d learned to at least make eye contact. “How are you feeling?” Frank asked Bejay.
“I’m still sore,” she replied, “but at least my eyes are going to be okay.”
“I’m very glad to hear that.”
Ruby brought in a bundt cake with chocolate frosting dripping down the sides. “Mom!” Bejay said, “that is not on my diet.”
“Well, you don’t need to diet while you’re recovering, do you? I’m thinking that a little sugar would help you have energy for your body to heal faster.”
Bejay looked at the cake with suspicion. Sugar making her heal faster had never been covered in school.
“You can just have a little slice,” Ruby said, “or you don’t need to have any at all.”
“It looks delicious,” Susie said. “Did you make it yourself?”
“Thank you, Susie, yes, I made it myself. Here. You cut as big a slice as you like.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Susie said, taking the cake knife and sliding it through the heavy cake.
Bejay watched her, thinking that Mom had a replacement daughter already on the porch, so it didn’t matter if Bejay went off to Hawaii or Alaska or anywhere else.
“I’d be flattered if you’d stop by Susie Q’s and let me style your hair for you,” Susie said.
Bejay looked up, wondering if her mother would take Susie up on her offer, but to her surprise, Susie was looking at her. “Me?” Bejay asked.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” Susie replied. “It would be my honor.”
“No,” Bejay said. A bit belatedly, she added, “thanks.”
“Why not, honey?” Ruby asked. “You might feel better with your hair freshly done.”

“I’m not exactly going out in public right now, Mom,” Bejay said. “I didn’t feel like having company, either. I’m tired now, so I think I’ll just go up to my room. Good night.”

March 23, 2014 - 1,434 words!
True to his word, Phillip stayed with Bejay until she boarded her flight. “I’ll see you soon, darling,” he said, squeezing her hand as a flight attendant pushed Bejay’s wheelchair out to onto the tarmac.
“Here we are,” said a female voice with practiced kindness. “Take my arm, and we’ll climb the stairs together. Your seat is on the aisle, next to the restroom. I’ll show you how to get to it. Or else you can raise your hand and I’ll come help you. Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of you.”
Once Bejay was settled in her airplane seat and the stewardess stopped her chatter, Bejay put her head back against the backrest and tried not to think.
She felt the pressure change in the airplane cabin when the flight descended toward Dallas. She hadn’t been in town last November when President Kennedy was assassinated, but she still felt a pall of sorrow as the plane taxied down the runway. How ironic. She used to walk down a runway with beautiful clothes, and now the plane carried her down a runway with her face bandaged, her arm in a sling, and stitches all over her face.
Bejay waited while she listened to the sounds of other passengers getting off the plane around her. The stewardess’s voice said in her ear, “I’ll be helping you just as soon as the aisle is clear.”
Bejay sat wondering what her parents would think of her now. Her father had never had much to say, and her mother had not been around very often once Bejay was in high school. Maybe they’d just stick their blind daughter in a corner and throw a lace doily over her head to make her look better.
All too soon, the stewardess hoisted Bejay up by the arm and walked behind her down the narrow aisle between the rows of seats, her hands on Bejay’s arms like a straight jacket. “Just a few more steps, then turn left. Almost there, almost there, okay, now!” Bejay had to twitch her arm to make the stewardess let go enough for Bejay to grasp the railing and step down to the ground. Then the stewardess was at her side, guiding her to the terminal building. “Do you have anyone meeting you? Oh, looky there, someone is waving. She looks like she’s staring straight at you. Do you know a tall blond lady?”
“Mom,” Bejay said, with a catch in her voice.
“And that must be your grandpa standing next to her.”
Bejay didn’t bother correcting her. As soon as she made it inside the terminal, she heard footfalls rushing her way and heard her mother say, “Bejay!” Her crushing hug made Bejay cry out. Ruby pulled away. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I hurt you? Where do you hurt?”
“Pretty much all over.”
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry this happened to you. Let’s get you to Doctor Wheeler for a checkup.”
“Have a nice day,” the stewardess called.
“Thank you,” Ruby said. She tentatively touched Bejay’s elbow. “Can I touch you here?”
“Yes.”
“Good, okay then, here’s your father.”
“When do those bandages come off?” Frank MacAvoy asked.
“That’s what we need to see Doctor Wheeler for,” Ruby said. “And here’s A.P.”
“Hey,” A.P. said. “How did the rocks look after you were through with them?”
“That’s not funny!” said a female voice.
“And this here,” Ruby paused as if trying to find the right words, “is Susie Penwell.”
Bejay creased her brow in concentration, which was a mistake because it hurt to move her face. Who was Susie? Someone from school? Someone from the fashion industry? She flet as if she should know her if she was here to meet Bejay at the airport, but she couldn’t recall her face, nor did she recognize the name.
“We put off our wedding until you get better,” A.P. said.
“Wedding?” Bejay blurted.
“Yeah,” A.P. replied. “Susie’s my intended bride.”
“But you’re only nineteen.”
“Twenty.”
“When were you going to tell me?”
“I sent you a letter. Didn’t you get it?”
“No.”
“Well, no time like the present. After twenty years of just having a brother, now you’re going to have a sister.”
Frank, A.P., and Susie left the airport to go back home and check on the farm animals while Ruby took Bejay to see Doctor Wheeler. When Susie said, “I could go with you,” Bejay had answered quickly that she didn’t need to. In truth, she didn’t want her there. She didn’t know Susie, and wasn’t so sure that A.P. getting married at such a young age was a good thing.
“Oh, and what have you been up to?” Doctor Wheeler said as he entered the examining room.
“I fell off a cliff,” Bejay said, surprised that she could say it with less emotion now that her mother was in the room.
“Well, that’s enough to make the papers.” Bejay heard Doctor Wheeler sit down in front of her. “Let me take a look at those eyes first.” He gently unwound the dressing and peeled off the tape from the gauze patches over her eyes. “This one’s not sticking so well,” he said when he removed the right eye patch. “Maybe that medical tape they use in Mexico isn’t as sticky as ours, or maybe you were doing some peeking.”
“I wanted to say goodbye to a friend,” Bejay said, “but it was too bright.”
“All right, we’ll  dim the lights, but I’m going to have to take a good look at those corneas. We’ll work our way up to it, okay?” Bejay’s vision was clearer than it had been the day before. She could actually see the wrinkles on Doctor Wheeler’s face. She glanced over at her mother who sat in a nearby chair, leaning close to her daughter, her face so familiar that Bejay felt tears rising in her eyes. “You can make tears,” Doctor Wheeler said. “That’s good.” After shining his light in each eye and examining them with his magnifying lense, Doctor Wheeler said some of the sweetest words Bejay ever hoped to hear. “Your vision will be fine. I’d like you to leave the patches on overnight, then you can take them off in the morning as long as you put this ointment in your eyes three times a day and wear dark glasses when you go outside.”
From her peripheral vision, Bejay saw her mother bring both hands up to her mouth as she ducked her head.
Doctor Wheeler left the bandages off while he checked Bejay’s blood pressure, lungs, and heartbeat. He examined her stitches, declaring that they were, “first rate.” He tested her arm in its sling and offered her a new sling that had a corner sewn in for her elbow to fit in. Bejay made the trade. “Well, you’re healing up nicely, I’d say,” Doctor Wheeler said. “As long as you don’t fall off any more cliffs, you should be all healed up and back to normal in 6 weeks.”
“Six weeks?” Bejay’s mind raced. She’d missed the rest of the Acapulco shoot, but she knew the Coronet models were scheduled to go to Hawaii in April for a swimsuit photo session. She might be able to make it. She’d talk to Phillip, and she’d talk him into it. How could he refuse her when he’d said it was all his fault that she’d fallen in the first place? No one could have known that wind was going to come up all of a sudden, but if his guilty conscience would play into her plan, then who was she not to use it to her best advantage?
Doctor Wheeler had his nurse put new ointment and fresh bandages over Bejay’s eyes before she left with her mother, her thoughts on Hawaii as her mother talked about Susie and A.P. and the things going on at the ranch and with “her girls.”
Bejay stopped listening and thought about Hawaii. 

Bejay was surprisingly glad to get back into her old room. “There are fresh sheets on your bed,” Ruby said as she led Bejay through the doorway. “I’m putting your eye drops on yoru bedside stand. I’ll just unpack for you, all right? Everything will be in your closet and dresser just like before you left.” Bejay felt her way around the familiar furniture while her mother chattered on. The feel of her familiar surroundings brought back memories of her childhood and high school days. Doctor Wheeler said she would see, and that she would be healed in six weeks. She was going to be just fine. 

March 22, 2014 - 773 words!
As Clay’s music soothed Bejay’s feelings, she wondered why he couldn’t be her grandpa. When he finished playing, which was much too soon, he said, “I’m leaving Acapulco tomorrow, but I’ll be sure to stop in and see you first.”
“I’m supposed to leave tomorrow, too,” Bejay said, “but sometimes things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to.”
She felt Clay’s warm hand on hers and he said softly, “But they always work out.”
Phillip called, “Hello, darling, how are…” he stopped talking abruptly.
Clay’s hand moved off of Bejay’s and he said, “Hello, I’m Clay.”
Phillip’s voice was cold when he said, “Phillip Foxworth. I trust that you are leaving.”
“On my way out,” Clay said.
“Me, too,” Madge said. “Coming in for a landing.”
Bejay felt Madge’s soft kiss on her forehead, then heard Clay’s raspy voice, “Let me get that for you.” The door shut.
“Phillip?”
“I’m here.”
“Is something wrong?”
Phillip gave a sardonic laugh. “Besides the fact that my top model is lying in a hospital bed and on her way out of my presence?”
“You were pretty brusque back there.”
Phillip’s voice softened. “I don’t want all these people bothering you. You need some quiet time to rest and recover. I only did it for you, Beatrice Jayne.”
Bejay tightened her lips, but that only made her stitches feel tight. “I like having company,” she said.
“You’ve got me.”
“You aren’t always here.”
“Madge wasn’t supposed to be here, either,” Phillip said. “She left the location before she made sure everyone was made up and before she put all her things away.”
“I like Madge. She makes me feel better.”
“I told her you were already gone. Believe me, Bejay, I’m only doing this to protect you because I love you so much.”
 Phillip stayed until the nurse came in to check on Bejay, and then he was gone. As soon as the nurse left, Bejay was alone.

Not even sure if it was day or night, Bejay woke from dozing to hear Phillip say, “Come on, we have a plane to catch.”
A new voice, probably the morning shift nurse, said something that Bejay couldn’t make out. “What’s going on?” Bejay asked groggily.
“Time to go home, my dear,” Phillip answered. “Just get in this wheelchair and I’ll ride with you all the way to the airport.”
Bejay talked him into letting her use the bathroom and put some clothes on, then the nurse insisted on changing the bandages. Bejay’s vision was still blurry, but she could see a figure that had to be Phillip standing across the room, looking out the window.
At last she was wheeled out the door and felt the pressure change from her room to the hallway. “Here, let me take that,” Phillip said. Her wheelchair slowed to a near stop, then picked up speed. “We’ll have you home in four hours,” Phillip said. “Don’t worry, as soon as I get the time, I’ll be out to see you and talk about your future with Coronet. We’re not going to let you get away from us, no sirree, we are going to put you right back up on top where you belong.”
The faint strains of harmonica music reached Bejay’s ears. “Stop!” she said.
“No time for stopping,” Phillip answered.
“I just want to say goodbye.”
“You did that yesterday, my dear.”
“Please!”
“You can write him a letter. You don’t want to miss the plane. It’s taken so long to make this happen, we can’t mess it up again.”
The music sounded nearer, and Bejay called out, “Thank you, Clay! Goodbye!”
“That’s not very ladylike,” Phillip scolded.
“Bejay?” it was Madge’s voice.
“Over here!” Bejay shouted. “Phillip, please stop for Madge.”
“We can’t risk missing your flight,” Phillip said.
All of a sudden, Bejay felt a bump from the wheelchair wheels and felt the warm sun on her skin. She was outside. The wheelchair rolled to a stop and Phillip practically lifted her from the chair into the waiting seat of an automobile. He slammed the door, then Bejay heard another door open in front of her and felt the weight of someone sitting down. She heard Madge call out, “Bejay!”
“Please wait,” she said once more.
A door slammed, and Phillip said, “Drive to the airport. Hurry.”

The car took off and Bejay lifted her bandage. The light stabbed her eyes, so she quickly pulled the bandage back down as Madge’s voice sounded one last faint cry of “Bejay!”

March 21, 2014 - 994 words!
“In spite of my meanness, Judson still said, “Hi” to me in the school halls all the time. He chose me for his team in gym. He got to pick teams as often as the rest of us because he was coach’s errand boy, staying after school to help clean up. I think Coach must have had someone in his family who was feeble minded hidden in his basement or something, because he treated Jud just like a person.
“But Jud was just too slow in the head to understand that I was trying to put him in his place. The next thing I thought of was to take his art project and throw it in the dumpster behind the school. I have to admit that it got to me when he started crying and climbing in after it, saying was his Mother’s Day present for his mom. I left him alone the rest of the school year.
Over the summer, I was too busy lifting weights and working as a lifeguard at the town pool to think much about Judson. I told myself over and over that I would just ignore him when we got back to school for our senior year.”
Clay stopped again, and this time Bejay didn’t urge him on. She heard him swallow a couple of times. She just held his hand, determined to help him through this.
“Some of the guys noticed that I wasn’t doing anything to Jud, and said that I must be feebleminded, too. I shouldn’t have listened, but I did. Their taunts really got to me, so one day I made the most stupid plan of my life. I smuggled my mother’s can of hairspray to the school and hid in the locker room after school with a lighter at the ready, just waiting for Judson to come in so I could scare him. As soon as I heard his plodding footsteps, I jumped out of hiding with the aerosol spraying and the lighter flaming up to send a stream of flame toward Jud. I didn’t know he was carrying a stack of towels. I didn’t know he’d throw them at me, but he did, and they caught fire and landed on me.”
“Oh, how awful,” Bejay said.
“I screamed and clawed at the towels, so burning hot I thought my head would fall off. Some part of my brain figured that it served me right, but I didn’t want to die.
“Then I felt big, beefy hands hitting me, pounding on me, shoving me around. I figured I deserved that, too. Judson was finally getting his revenge. He flung the towels off my face, picked me up, and carried me from the locker room into the shower where he dropped me on the floor and turned on the showerhead above me. He left me there and soon ran back with smoldering towels in his hands, which he threw on the tile floor next to me. Then he was gone.
“After what seemed like a long time, I heard sirens, Coach came in and turned off the shower, and then the ambulance arrived. I was taken to the hospital burn unit. Judson was admitted, too, with burned hands and arms. I could hear his mother crying down the hall, asking why he’d tried to help his tormenter. He said that he heard my cries of fear, and he didn’t want anyone else to be as scared as he’d been ever since he’d moved to my school.”
Bejay pressed Clay’s hand with her own. “I’m so sorry.”
“I got over it. My chest and neck and back are burned, but I can still play harmonica.” Clay lifted Bejay’s hand and let her fingers touch a burn scar on his neck. “I usually wear a scarf around my neck.”
“I’d have to wear a scarf around my whole face,” Bejay said, dropping her hand back to the bed.
“But I’m trying to tell you that even though things don’t always work out the way you plan, things always work out. It brings me real pleasure when people feel better because I play for them. I feel like I’m giving back for what I did to Jud.
“What did I do to deserve this?” Bejay asked.
“It’s not about deserving anything,” Clay said. “It’s about what kind of person you are no matter what happens to you. Ninety percent of a woman’s beauty comes from whether she’s smiling or not, and you have a great smile.”
“With this split lip, I claim two smiles,” Bejay said, “but that doesn’t make me twice as beautiful, or even half.”
Quick footfalls headed straight for the hospital room door. When the door swished open, Madge cried, “You’re still here!” Madge pounced on Bejay, squeezing her in places that made her cry out. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Madge apologized, her voice thick with tears. “I’m just so happy to find you. Hello, Clay. Have you played yet?”
Clay’s dry voice answered, “Not yet.”
“Oh, good.”
“Didn’t Phillip tell you I was still here?” Bejay asked.
“No! He just told everyone to pack up to move inland for our next shoot and that he would join us tomorrow. Something about the way he was acting made me suspicious, so I asked him why. He said not to worry about it, that he had a few things to take care of here, but we should stick to the schedule. This afternoon, when I called your house, your mother said you weren’t flying in until tomorrow. Then I knew what things Phillip had to take care of, and I knew I had to come and see you.”
“Thanks, Madge.” Bejay meant it, painful hugs and all. “I feel like I’m just a big, broken burden.”

“Not to me, you aren’t,” Madge said. Bejay pictured Madge’s jaw firming up in her characteristic no-nonsense look. “Okay, Clay, let’s have some of that heavenly music.”  

March 20, 2014 - 516 words!
Before Bejay could think of a way to apologize, Clay’s tired old voice said, “I haven’t told many people this before. You’re probably the second person who’s ever heard it from my mouth, although plenty of people have heard it via the grapevine.” Another silence. What could be so terrible in Clay’s life that he’d only told one person about it during his long life? Did she even want to hear about it? Was it something that would give her nightmares?
“When I was in school, I survived a horrible accident.” He stopped and made a small noise in his throat. “It was a fire.”
“Your scars,” Bejay murmured.
“Yes. I am not proud of the fact that I was not a very nice boy. In fact, I was a bit of a bully.”
“That’s hard to imagine.”
“Fortunately, people can change.” Bejay felt Clay’s hand take hers. Her thumb automatically slid to his burn scar. “There was this big feebleminded kid in school that I used to pick on.”
Bejay’s thumb stopped moving across Clay’s hand.
“I can’t even tell you why I did it, except that I was a football player and I thought everyone looked up to me. I was a cool cat who didn’t want to fall off the fence. Judson Kramer was the only other guy in school who was as big as me. I suppose I thought I had to put him in his place so there was no question who the leader of the school was. I figured it wasn’t size so much as smarts, but I thought I had both. How wrong I was.”
When Clay paused, Bejay unconsciously gripped his hand harder. “What happened?”
“I sometimes ask myself if I would have done the same thing even if he wasn’t slow in the head,” Clay said, his voice sounding far away and nearly worn out. “It was actually harder to do because of the way he looked at me. I don’t know if you can believe me, but I didn’t want to be mean. It just seemed like it was, I don’t know, expected of me. I don’t think it would have gone so far if I’d grown up with him, but who can know? He didn’t move to town until our junior year of school. Guess what he played in the band? A flute. Can you imagine what a flute looks like in the hands of a guy who stands 6’ 2” and weighs 220 pounds? Ridiculous. If you closed your eyes, you could hear how well he played his music. He really had a gift. It was magical. But take one peek from beneath your eyelids, and you wanted to call the circus to come take him away.

“So I took his flute. I made the clown cry. I ran off and threw his flute into the big garbage can behind the school where all the leftover lunch food was tossed. The farmer who hauled off the garbage found it when he dumped the mess in his pig trough, and returned it to the school."

March 19, 2014 2,294 words!
Then the music started. The first note was smooth and low, then slid up the scale in haunting beats. The voice of the harmonica was so hypnotic that Bejay relaxed back into her pillow, enjoying the soothing sounds of notes played so skillfully, she forgot where she was. She became a girl again, running through the Texas prairie grass, the sun on her face, her long blond pigtails bouncing on her shoulders as she raced A.P. through the grass to the cornfield. After the corn was the garden, then the yard, then the house with Mom’s sugar cookies and cold milk from the cow in the barn.
The notes changed to a rock beat, and Bejay was a teenager again, taking shorter steps than she usually did down the high school hallway so her best friend, Ginny, could keep up. Looking down at her friend’s gingerbread colored hair and warm brown eyes, Bejay felt a pang of homesickness that hadn’t been around for at least two years. As the beat increased, Bejay could see Ginny dancing like a dervish with Dwayne Cave, her high school sweetheart whose idea of dancing was to rock back and forth on his cowboy boots while he watched his diminutive date dance in circles.
“Your toes are tapping,” Madge said gleefully. Bejay wasn’t sure if she was speaking to Clay or to her, but she realized her toes were moving to the beat beneath her blankets. She smiled in spite of the stiffness from her wounds. Ginny and Dwayne were married now. Bejay wondered if Ginny was happy.
The next tune the music played was slow and yearning, full of passion. Bejay’s toes stopped moving and she clutched her blanket, feeling swept away on the tides of notes that made her heart beat faster and her lungs to send out quick, hot breaths. When the music stopped, Bejay raised her hand toward where the sound had come from. “More?”
Clay laughed, his voice rasping in his throat. “One more. Then I must go meet the boys in the band.” He played an old fashioned tune, one her mother would have loved. He played it so well, with such soulful inflection, that Bejay found herself loving it, too.
When he was done, Bejay sighed. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll be back tomorrow and play for you some more.”
Bejay was surprised at the pang of disappointment that gripped her stomach. “I’m going home tomorrow morning.”
“Oh.”
Bejay wished for all the world that she could see his face, that she could read the meaning in that single syllable from his expression. Fidgeting in the stretched out silence, wondering why Madge didn’t say anything, Bejay finally said, “You’re very good.”
“Thanks, but it’s only good if there’s someone to hear me play. I enjoyed playing for you, Bejay. You’re a good audience.”
“Good luck with your boys,” Bejay said.
She felt a tug on her foot. “This isn’t injured, is it?” Clay asked.
“No,” Bejay said, drawing comfort from the warmth of his touch through the blanket.
“I don’t dare shake your hand,” Clay said, releasing her foot. “One’s in a sling and one’s covered with a bandage, but you’re going to be all right. I know you are.” He released her foot and said, “Goodbye, Madge.”
“’Bye, Clay.” As soon as Clay’s footfalls receded and the door closed, Madge said, “Oh, he is so cute! And sweet, too, wasn’t that sweet that he wanted to make a connection with you to say goodbye, but didn’t want to hurt you?”
When Bejay nodded, her head felt loose, so she stopped. “I wish I knew if he looked like Mr. Lester. He reminds me of him somehow.”
“Who’s Mr. Lester?”
“The grocery store man back home.”
 “Well, you’ll be able to see your Mr. Grocery Store Man soon enough,” Madge said, reaching out and carefully brushing Bejay’s hair with her fingers. Her voice was thick when she said, “I hate to see you go, but I know you need the best medical care there is. I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon.”
“That will be a big phone bill, going from country to country,” Bejay protested. “Why not just write me a letter?”
“I want to know you got home safely,” Madge said. “Don’t worry about the phone bill. I’ll charge it to Phillip’s account.”
Bejay couldn’t help but giggle.
“And he’d better run up a bill of his own,” Madge said. Bejay felt Madge’s warm lips against her forehead. “Just remember, I’m your friend forever.”
“Thanks, Madge.” Bejay decided to wait until Madge had left before she asked the nurse to change her eye bandages again.

After a night’s rest where Bejay dreamed of home with harmonica music floating in through the windows, she woke up to the sounds of Phillip and another male voice and a female voice talking. The woman wasn’t Madge, though.
Bejay was about to let them know she was awake when she heard Phillip argue, “But we have deadlines. We had all the plans arranged yesterday.”
“Do you care more about the deadlines or about her?” the other male voice said. “She can’t be moved for another day.”
“Not even with a wheelchair? Isn’t that what wheelchairs and gurneys are for? I’ll pay for you to send a nurse. Hey,” he called, the timbre of his voice changing, which made Bejay imaging him turning his head, “wouldn’t you like to go to America, to Texas, to get across the border?”
“Me?” the female voice asked, clearly surprised.
“It is not up for debate,” the unidentified male voice interrupted. “She must not be moved today. I would think that you would consult with her doctor before you made the arrangements. Change her flight for tomorrow. I will not release her today. Nurse Ernesto, please chart her vital signs. I’ll check back when she’s awake.” Heavy footfalls sounded as the doctor exited the room.
Bejay lay still as the nurse gently pressed what felt like a stethoscope to the inside of her elbow. No one needed to know that she was awake. If she just lay there and didn’t move, didn’t react to anything she’d heard, then she could pretend she was still sleeping.
“Is she awake yet?” Phillip asked, his voice sharp with annoyance.
“She does not appear to be,” the nurse said. “She was given sleeping pills last night.”
“Well, this just puts everything in a twist,” Phillip growled. “What difference does one day make?”
After a brief pause, the nurse said in her soft Spanish accent, “Sometimes it is the difference between life and death, or even the quality of life, senor.”
“Well, since I can’t budge the doc, I’ll just have to send the rest of them on ahead and catch up to them later, I suppose. It’s just all so inconvenient. When she wakes, you tell her that she’s not going home until tomorrow, capisce?”
Bejay snorted. Didn’t Phillip even know that he was using an Italian phrase?
“What’s that?” Phillip asked. “Is she awake?”
The nurse moved the stethoscope. “She could have made a noise in her sleep. I will tell her what you ask when she wakes up.”
“Good.” Phillip’s footfalls moved away as if he couldn’t get away fast enough.
Once the sound died away, the nurse said in a kindly voice, “He’s gone now. Do you need your bandages changed once more?”
As the hours ticked by, Bejay grew more melancholy. She’d believed Phillip yesterday when he said she’d come back more beautiful than ever, but this morning his anger made her wonder. If she wasn’t going to be as beautiful as before, then what was she to do with herself?   She fantasized about making her way out onto the street to sit beside the crippled boy with cup in hand, the bandages and stitches and arm sling and sure sign that she was a beggar, unwanted, unloved, an unnecessary fringe member of humanity.
Footfalls drew close to her room as they had several times already that day, sometimes bringing a nurse to her side, once bringing Doctor Adame, who checked her sling, her nose, her stitches, and her eyes. When he carefully removed the bandage, the light stabbed into the backs of Bejay’s eyes. She snapped her lids shut and raised her hands to cover them. The doctor grabbed her arms and commanded, “Turn off the lights.” Once the room was dim, he let go of her arms. “You don’t want to touch your eyes just yet,” he said, his voice gentle. “Can you open them for me now, please?”
Bejay fearfully lifted her eyelids and saw Doctor Adame’s blurry brown face. “Am I going to be blind?”
Doctor Adame leaned over and brought a blurry white blob into view. “I do not think so, but I am not an expert.” His hands did something with the white thing, but when he pushed it close to Bejay’s face, she turned away. “These are eye drops,” he explained, lowering the white bottle slightly. “They will help you feel better.”
“I don’t want to go blind.”
“I don’t want you to, either.” Doctor Adame lifted the bottle. “Please try to relax while I put this in your eyes. It will make things even harder to see, but it is for you to heal better.”
Bejay obeyed. With fresh bandages on her eyes and a tray of tortillas and bananas on her lap for lunch, she sat in her bed alone and waited for the morning and her flight to come. When someone came to take her tray, she thought she heard the faint sound of harmonica music. Her spirits lifted. “Is Clay here?”
“Clay?” Came the confused reply.
“Yes. The old man who comes in every day to play his harmonica for patients.”
“I don’t know anyone like that.” Then the person was gone with the rest of her lunch, which she wasn’t hungry for anyway.
Bejay lifted her hand that wasn’t in a sling and carefully explored her face. There seemed to be stitches everywhere. Her nose felt a swollen as a rat sitting in the middle of her face, and it hurt. Why had this happened to her? How could she ever recover?
Her door swished open and a familiar raspy voice asked, “Are you all right?”
Bejay burst into tears at the sound of Clay’s voice. She felt a dip on the side of her bed and felt a big, warm hand take hold of hers, bandage and all. She tried to stop the sobs, but Clay murmured, “Just let it out. Just let it all out.” She pictured kindly old Mr. Lester when he put an extra scoop of ice cream on her cone without charging her for it. She was safe with someone who understood, so she cried until she felt better.
“Now I’ll have to ask them to change my bandages again,” Bejay said.
Clay tugged as if to remove his hand. “Should I get someone? Do you want me to come back later?”
Bejay squeezed his hand tighter. “No. Please stay. It’s been lonely, and it’s even lonelier when you can’t see. I never imagined my trip to Mexico turning out like this.” Bejay realized that her thumb was pressing on a rough spot on Clay’s wrist. She lightened the pressure of her grip and caressed the spot, trying to picture what it looked like. “What’s this?” she asked, letting her thumb roll over the rough spot again and again.
“It’s just a scar.”
Bejay’s hand stopped. “It looks like we’ll have something in common,” she said, trying to keep her voice light. “I’ll have lots of scars.”
“You’ll be just fine.”
“You said that yesterday,” Bejay said, suddenly impatient. Pulling her hand from his, she touched the side of her face, tracing the line of rough stitches. “How can I be fine? I’m a fashion model. Now I have scars. Fashion models with scars don’t get hired.”
After a pause, Clay said, “You don’t know that you will scar.”
“But if I do, what am I going to do with my life?”
“You won’t know what will happen until later, so why worry about it now? Skin is a wonderful thing that heals itself, even after terrible wounds. But even if you do scar a little, don’t you have makeup to cover things like that?”
Bejay tried to snort, but the sound came out of her mouth, which made it sound more like a burp. “Maybe it would cover it at night with all the lights off.”
“What did you do before you became a model?”
“I went to school and lived on a ranch. Then I escaped that old routine and found the job of my dreams.”
“What do you like about being a model?”
Bejay lifted her hand. “I get paid to play dress up. What girl wouldn’t like that? I get my hair done and feel pretty, instead of feeling like the gawky too-tall adolescent I used to be. I was so awkward, my father didn’t talk to me and even my mother avoided me.”
Clay was quiet.
Bejay realized she’d said too much. She didn’t even know this man, she only knew that his music touched her heart. In spite of that, he had no right to judge her. He must have money to be able to travel to Mexico and play music with the boys. “What about you?” Bejay blurted. “Did you have a perfect childhood and grow up learning how to play on a gold-plated harmonica?” Even before the words were out of her mouth, Bejay could imagine her mother’s shocked expression if she’d heard her speak to an elderly man that way.
“Not exactly,” Clay answered quietly. 

March 18, 2014 303 words!
It wasn’t until she heard familiar footsteps that her spirits lifted. “Madge? Is that you?”
“Not only me,” Madge answered. “I brought a friend to cheer you up.”
Bejay pulled the covers  up higher and clamped them under her armpits. Madge hadn’t found Phillip leaving and dragged him back, had she?“Who? Phillip?”
“No, not Phillip. A friend. I found him playing his harmonica in the children’s ward. He said he’d come and play for you to help cheer you up.”
Bejay turned her face toward Madge’s voice, but a hoarse man’s voice spoke. “Hi. I’m Clay.”
“Clay?” Bejay said. “You don’t sound Mexican.” She stopped herself before saying anything about his age. He must be nearly a hundred by the sound of his voice.
After a brief silence, Bejay wondered if she’d said the wrong thing anyway, but before she could figure out how to fix it, Clay said, “Maybe that’s because I’m not. I come from California.”
“Oh. I just thought that being in a hospital in Mexico, you’d be from around here. I’m from Texas.”
“So Madge tells me.”
“Have you ever been there?”
“Yes. I’ve been around a lot lately.”
“Doing what?”
“I like to play music with the boys.”
Bejay pictured a group of senior citizens with banjoes and harmonicas and an accordion, wearing striped shirts and bowties and singing four part harmony Barbershop Quartet songs in between their instrumental numbers. “It’s good to have a hobby,” she said.

“Enough small talk, let’s have the magic,” Madge said, her voice almost cooing. Bejay turned her head toward Madge, wishing she could see her face so she could tell if Madge really had stars in her eyes. How could she have fallen for an old coot? She wasn’t that old, only pushing 50, which was even younger than her mother. 

March 17, 2014 1,084 words!
“Oh, my love, I’m so sorry,” Phillip said, his voice breaking. “I should have never made you climb that rock. I shouldn’t have insisted you wear those shoes. What have I done to you?”
When Bejay heard the sound of Phillip’s low voice sobbing, she reached out her hand. As soon as she touched Phillip’s head, his hand gripped hers and hung on as if he would slip away and drown in his tears without her touch.
“I’ll be back,” Madge whispered. Bejay heard Madge get up and walk toward the door and heard the door swish closed. Phillip’s head didn’t move.
“Sh-sh-sh,” Bejay murmured, her fingers working their way through the slick strands of his greased hair.
“I’m so sorry. How can I ever make it up to you? I’ll never forgive myself.”
“I forgive you.” Bejay’s words sounded so much like her mother that she felt a rush of intense homesickness. More tears soaked into her bandage. At this rate, she’d need a couple of towels to cover her eyes.
“Oh, darling.” Phillip lifted his head. “You make me so happy. I’ve been worried about you all day, but Carl Coronet (the owner) said I couldn’t do anything while you were in surgery and he told me to finish the shoot. I thought about you every minute, and could hardly carry on. I came back as soon as I could.” He sniffed, then said, “Here. These are for you.” Bejay was confused until Phillip pushed her hand into a mass of velvety soft petals. “Roses. I thought you could tell by the smell.”
“I can’t smell anything.”
“Oh.” Phillip paused. After a moment, Bejay wondered what he was doing. Was he looking at her? Did he think she looked like a monster? She knew she was a mess. But maybe he wasn’t looking at her at all. Maybe his gaze was fixed on the roses. Did he think he’d wasted money on them because she couldn’t smell them? as the silence drew itself out, Bejay wondered if, in spite of his loving words, Phillip was looking at the door, wondering when he could leave. “Of course you can’t.” Phillip’s voice was soft and full of sorrow. “But you are going to recover from this, Beatrice Jayne. You are going to come back and be more beautiful than ever.”
Bejay smiled, even though it pulled at her stitches. “Do I really look all right, even with my broken nose?”
She felt Phillip take both her hands. “Plastic surgeons break noses all the time to make them more beautiful. Yours will be, too. Now, I’m arranging a flight to take you home tomorrow. You’ll get the best medical care the United States has to offer. I also made arrangements for you to call your parents as soon as you feel up to it. Would you like to make that call now?”
Overcome with emotion, Bejay didn’t speak for a moment. Then she said, “Yes! But I need some dry bandages.”
Phillip gave her hands a squeeze. “I’ll go make arrangements.”

The nurse said she’d change the bandages after the phone call. Bejay held the receiver to her ear and listened to the phone ring. Someone picked up at the other end, and she heard her mother say, “Hello?”
“Mom?” Bejay said, a lump rising in her throat.
“Bejay! I’m so glad to hear your voice! Are you all right?”
In spite of the crackly connection, Bejay hung on every word her mother said. “I fell and scratched my eyes and broke my collarbone and my nose.”
“Phillip called and told us,” Ruby answered. “I’m coming to get you.”
“Oh, no, you don’t need to do that,” Bejay said. “Phillip has arranged for me to fly home tomorrow. I’d be there before you ever got here.” Bejay turned her head on her pillow. After all the time since she left home, only going back no more than a couple of times a year, she was torn about returning. She had worked so hard to become independent. She’d made a life for herself that was demanding and rewarding. Part of her did not want to settle in Texas to recover, but another part of her, the aching part, wanted her mother to help her feel better.
“You can’t get her soon enough for me,” Ruby said. “I love you, honey.”
“Love you, too.”
“Do you want to talk to Dad?”
Bejay pictured her father standing awkwardly by, watching his wife to see if he could read any of the cues she tried to help him memorize to judge a person’s mood. “Is he there?”
“Just a minute.”
Bejay waited until she heard her father’s voice say too loudly, “Beebee?”
Fresh tears stung her eyes at the sound of her childhood nickname. “Oh, Daddy, I’m coming home.”
After an awkward moment, Frank said, “See you then.”
Ruby was back on the phone almost immediately. “We’ll meet you at the airport.”
“Is A.P. there?”
“No, he’s out. You’ll see him tomorrow, too.” Not with these bandages, Bejay thought.
 “I can hardly wait for tomorrow. Everything will be fine. Travel safely. We’ll see you soon.”
“Okay, Mom.”
“Good bye, honey.”
“Bye Mom.”
Bejay stuck her hand out, trying to hang up the phone’s receiver. Phillip took it from her and Bejay heard the tic of plastic on plastic and the ghost of a ringing sound as he set it back on the phone’s cradle. “There, now, things are going to be all right,” he said, lifting her hand to his lips and giving the back of it a warm kiss. “I’m going to go and let the nurse take care of your eyes now so you can get some rest and get well. I’ll see you in the morning, darling.”
It was only after Phillip left that Bejay realized he hadn’t even tried to kiss her mouth. Was it because she was hideous?

The dry bandages felt so comfortable that Bejay thought she might fall back asleep. She’d been able to see blurry images and colors before the nurse reapplied some kind of ointment and rewrapped her eyes. Bejay hoped that the things she saw weren’t always going to look that way. But if her eyes didn’t heal, that just might be the case. She didn’t want to imagine it, didn’t want to get the new bandages wet with tears of fear for something that might not even come to be.
She told herself to relax and believe that she would see as well as before. 

March 16, 2014 800 words!
Bejay woke up slowly to pitch blackness. Was she dead? It was hard to breathe. She tried opening her eyes, but she couldn’t see anything. She tried lifting her hands, but one of them was bound against her body. “What?” she cried. “I’m blind!”
Her free hand touched her face just as a hand grabbed her arm and pulled it back down. “Hush, Bejay, you’re in the hospital,” said Madge’s voice.
Bejay took Madge’s hand in a desperate grab. “Madge? Oh, Madge, what’s wrong with me?”
“You’re going to be all right.” Madge’s soothing voice eased over Bejay’s fears, helping her to feel calm. “When you fell, you landed in some bushes and the branches scratched your eyes.”
Panic rose in Bejay’s throat. “I’m blind!”
“No, no, they just need to heal. It’s like putting a bandage on a cut. Just be patient. You’ll be able to see again after the scratches heal.”
“Are you sure?”
Madge’s hand touched Bejay’s forehead. “I’m sure. You’ll be fine.”
Bejay let her head sink into a pillow. “My head hurts.”
“You landed head first. Look, Bejay, I’m telling you straight out. You broke your collar bone, your nose, and dislocated your shoulder.” You have some cuts on your face that had to be stitched up, and you have lots of bruises, but you probably already knew that from how you’re feeling.”
“Where’s everyone else?”
“We got you to the hospital. Once you were in surgery, Phillip got the crew together and tried to recover what he could of the morning shoot, although it was late morning by then.”
Bejay felt tears well up in her eyes, which stung like crazy. The pain made her shout. “Phillip went back to take pictures?”
“He said you’d understand because you were a professional,” Madge said.
Bejay was so hurt, she sank back into the pillow and let the tears sting her eyes. She was a professional model, but she was also a person who wanted to be loved.
“That’s not all,” Madge said.
“What else could there be?”
“Nicholeen did the sunset shoot.”
Bejay sat up, her head pounding, neck throbbing and the stitches pulling at her skin. “Nicholeen?”
“He didn’t make her climb on the rocks.”
Bejay felt completely defeated, hurting inside and out.
“Bejay, you’re going to come out of this all right,” Madge said.
“How do you know?” Bejay said with a quaver in her voice.
“I was married young, too young,” Madge said quietly. “I tried to make the best of it, but things got harder when I kept losing all my babies. We didn’t know anything about the RH factor back then, but with me having negative blood and Harvey’s being positive, well, our babies were all positive like him. I guess he was right when he told me I was killing them. But I didn’t mean to.”
“Oh, Madge, I’m so sorry.” Bejay squeezed Madge’s hand.
“I was widowed at 41, and added Harvey’s grave to the five little headstones in the cemetery, one baby boy and four little girls. I was alone. I didn’t know what to do. That’s when things started to look up.”
Genuinely curious, Bejay asked, “What did you do?”
I looked around for what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and found a job at a department store makeup counter. It was so much fun to help women put on makeup that enhanced their features. To see them come in with rounded shoulders and leave with their heads held high was one of the best feelings I’d ever had in my life. Then one day, some people in white smocks and berets came dashing into the store. They said there were with a modeling shoot and their principal makeup case had fallen into the river. They needed some photo quality makeup right now. I helped them choose what they needed, and since it was nearly closing time and I had no family to go home to, I volunteered to go with them to the site to make sure they didn’t need anything else. Once I was there, I fell in love with the excitement, the glamour, the make-believe, and the setting. I found out about jobs in the modeling industry and was hired by Haute Coronet. Then I met you.” Bejay felt Madge stroke her hair. “You remind me of myself when I was young, all colt limbs and eager eyes and wanting love. You are the daughter I wish I’d been able to keep.”
Bejay rolled over and pressed her cheek to Madge’s hand, but felt a sharp stab of pain and jumped.
“It’s okay,” Madge said. “I love you, too.”

“Darling?” Phillip’s voice was low and caressing. Bejay felt a weight sink down on the edge of her bed.

March 15, 2014 789 words!
A light ocean breeze blew across the cliffs as Bejay sat herself down at Madge’s makeup table. She couldn’t help seeing Phillip across the top of the cliff, talking to two photographers who were setting their cameras up on tripods. The other models were swishing their skirts or dashing in and out of the costume trailer or practicing their poses. Red haired Nicholeen (ollie last name) sashayed over to Phillip and touched him on the arm. Phillip turned and smiled at her. She said something, and Phillip laughed. Then his eyes shifted and met Bejay’s. Her heart stopped as she stared at him. The side of his mouth quirked up, then Nicholeen said something else and he turned his eyes away.
Was that a welcoming smile? Or was it a rebuff? Bejay wished she knew.
Madge began running the comb beneath Bejay’s hair. “Do you really love him?”
“Oh, sure.” Bejay said. “What’s not to love?”
Phillip suddenly strode toward Bejay, and her heart hammered faster as if to catch up with its lost beats. “With this wind, Madge, let’s not use hairspray.” He reached out and touched Bejay’s hair with the back of his hand. “I think we can take advantage of this breeze to get a new kind of hair shot. Instead of molded strands, let’s try for flowing locks.”
“All right,” Madge said. “She’s ready.”
Phillip took Bejay’s hand and helped her up. His gaze traveled from her hair down to her feet, making Bejay feel a tingling from her center out to her hands and down to her toes. Phillip’s eyes stopped at her feet. His voice sharpened. “What are those?”
Bejay looked down at her red flats. “Shoes.”
“Those aren’t what we planned for this shoot.” He turned and gestured to a runner. “Get the sunrise sandals.” Circling Bejay’s waist with his arm, he led her over to the cliff. “Now, as soon as you get those sandals on, you stand up here and raise your arms. We’ll get as many shots as we can while the sun is coming up.”
The runner came hurrying over with gold sandals that had three inch high heels. They were the most beautiful shoes Bejay had ever seen. She pushed off her flats, put her feet in the sandals, and bent over to fasten the buckles behind her heels. When she tottered, she felt Phillip’s steadying hand on her shoulder. Bejay’s hope soared. Maybe there was still a chance that things could work out with Phillip.
“Here we go,” Phillip said, helping Bejay over in front of the cameras. She stood in front of the imposing rocks and lifted her arms, twisting one foot toward the camera as a breeze lifted up the ends of her hair.
“No,” Phillip said. “You need to be on the rocks. Come on.” He took her hand and helped her climb up.
Bejay stumbled as the sandals wobbled beneath her feet. “I don’t think it’s safe,” Bejay said.
Phillip stopped and looked down at her, his face cold. “Do you think I’d ask you to do anything that was unsafe? I told you you’d be on the cover, so this has to be a cover quality shot. We want sunrise behind you, not rocks. You’ve got to go higher.”
When he tugged on her arm, Bejay resisted. “These shoes aren’t very steady.”
“How long have you been modeling?” Phillip asked. “I thought you knew how to walk in high heels by now. You’re a professional, aren’t you?”
Bejay straightened. “Yes, I’m a professional, but I don’t get paid enough to take risks like this one.”
Phillip turned and faced the people gathered below them, staring up at the drama. Nicholeen was the first to move. “I’ll do it,” she called up.
Bejay looked down at Nicholeen’s ocean green dress, her red hair swaying across her shoulders, one strand flirting with her perfectly blushed cheek.
“No,” Bejay said. “I’ll do it.” She grabbed Phillip’s hand and followed him up higher on the rocks, stepping as carefully as she could with her shoes and Phillip’s speed.
“It’s time,” Phillip said, glancing up at the peachy orange sky. “Stand here and I’ll get out of the shot.”

Bejay raised her arms and twisted her foot, as Phillip galloped back down the rocks, feeling the flame dress wave around her body like a flag. Her hair lifted around her face until she felt like she might fly. The cameras clicked just as a mighty gust of wind blew in from the ocean and caught in the wide sleeves, filling them like sails. Bejay’s gold sandals scrabbled against the rock, but could find no purchase. She swung her arms and fluttered down to the rocks below.

March 14, 2014 307 words!
“Hold still,” Madge said, pulling out the black eyeliner and lining one of Bejay’s eyes. “Why is your brother named A.P.?”
“Initials for Albert Peter.”
Madge finished drawing a perfect line across Bejay’s upper eyelid that curved up at the outer edge. “Let me guess,” she said, swiping the thin brush across the cake of black liner. “Your grandfathers.”
Bejay almost nodded, but remembered to hold still as Madge began drawing an expert line on her other eye. “Yes. A.P. for short.”
“So why wasn’t your father drafted?”
“Because he’s a rancher, providing food for the troops and all that. Besides, he’s odd.”
Madge pulled back and inspected her work. “Odd in what way?”
“Well, he doesn’t get jokes.”
Madge glanced at her watch and sorted through her lipsticks. “Lots of people don’t get jokes. My sister heard a joke once, and two months later she started laughing because she’d finally gotten the punch line.”
Bejay was quiet for a moment. The she said, “He never gets them. Not then, not two months later, not ever. And he takes things at face value. If you say, ‘Have you got a screw loose?’ he thinks someone actually has a screw coming loose somewhere on their body, unless you explain to him that it’s just a figure of speech.”
“He’s not a lunatic?” Madge swiped the lipstick across Bejay’s lips.
As soon as she was done, Bejay answered, “No, he just doesn’t process information the way most people do. He’s very quiet and seems most comfortable around his horses.” Bejay leaned back and pulled off her headband. “Never mind all that. I purposely left my family out of my bio. That’s enough about me, and please don’t repeat anything I said.”

“Not me,” Madge said, darting another look at her watch. “Let’s go. We’ll do your hair on site.”

March 13, 2014 663 words!
Bejay hurried to the bathroom. After a shower, she felt like she was starting over and could face whatever the day threw at her. Without Madge and the freedom to cry her sorrows out, she wasn’t sure if she’d even have been able to walk out the door.
“Now, tell me what happened,” Madge said, pulling out a set of new makeup brushes.
“Oh, no, you’re not sneaking those in,” Bejay said, pulling out three old makeup brushes of various sizes that Terrilee had given her. She plopped them on the table. “But they’re so old,” Madge said, picking up the blusher brush and dangling it from her fingers.
“They still work, don’t they?” Bejay said.
“They are good quality,” Madge admitted, setting them on bejay’s hotel room table alongside the cosmetics. “I just don’t know why you like them so much.”
“They’re good luck,” Bejay said. “Terrilee’s mother was so careful about her skin, she looked fifteen years younger than she was. When Terrilee was born with a harelip, her mother took her to get it fixed as soon as possible. Then she kept Terrilee covered in the sun, and wouldn’t let her go outside if she had so much as a scratch on her face. She made up this cream that she used on Terrilee as well as herself, and the surgery scar faded to the point that you’d never know she had a harelip unless you noticed her slightly uneven lips. But you’d never see them now, because she always draws them in evenly with a lip pencil. So I’m hoping the luck carries over to me.” Bejay touched one of the brushes with a careful finger. “I need luck, after what I went through with Phillip last night.”
“What did happen with Phillip?” Madge asked. When Bejay told her, Madge said. “Oh, don’t worry about him. If he’s not willing to take you on your own terms, then he’s not worth having.”
“But I love him.”
“But you didn’t want to have free love with him.”
“It’s not that I didn’t want to,” Bejay answered, thinking of the longing she felt, “It’s that we should be married first.” She leaned forward when Madge stretched out the wide headband  so she could pull it over her head to hold the hair away from her face. “My mother told me to remember that I was precious to her and Dad, and that God was watching over me.”
“So your mother is a religious woman?” Madge dotted face cream over Bejay’s skin and rubbed it in.
“Now she is. She was kind of wild, and then her father died, which made her even more willing to stay out late to avoid her mother. She straightened up after her best friend was killed. The trouble is, her brother, Sean, called her a fallen woman, and my grandmother told her that she’d killed her father from worry.”
Madge’s eyebrows went up as applied an expert layer of foundation on Bree’s face. “Oh, dear.”
“Mom shut herself up in the house with Grandma Beatrice, trying to atone for all the wrongs she did by doing the cooking and cleaning and doing anything Grandma asked her to.”
Madge pulled out a compact of sunset colored blush. “Then how did you get made?”

“Mom was thirty when a friend of her brother’s, a horse man from Texas named Frank MacAvoy, came to see Sean. He was shorter than Mom, and balding, but he was quiet and mild. She didn’t know that Sean had already complained to Frank about her behavior, or she may have never come out to meet him. But they met and he was impressed by her forthright nature and conversation, because he wasn’t much of a talker. All he knew to communicate with were horses. Mom thought Dad’s quiet ways were refreshing after the wild crowd she’d run with. So they got married and had two babies during World War II. Me and A.P.”

March 12, 2014 550 words!
It was dark when Bejay heard a knock on her door. She gave a start and sat up, the inside of her mouth sticky, her eyelashes clumped together. “Who is it?” she croaked.
“It’s Madge. Are you ready to prepare to greet the dawn?”
Bejay climbed out of bed and opened the door to let in her makeup artist. Madge Quill walked in, her 47-year-old round figure covered with an unflattering pastel yellow dress that made her look bigger than she was. The narrow matching belt cinched at her ample waist didn’t help make her look thinner at all. In spite of the early hour, Madge had carefully drawn on her upside-down-smiles of eyebrows and her thick eyeliner. She still wore red lipstick, although it was falling out of style, yet the shade she chose complimented her cinnamon-red colored hair rather than clash with it.
Madge frowned up at Bejay. “What have you been doing?”
Bejay slumped back down on the bed. “It’s what I haven’t been doing. I didn’t get ready for bed properly last night.”
Madge put her hand on Bejay’s forehead.
“I’m not sick,” Bejay protested. “I just had an argument with Phillip.”
“There’s time to tell me about it while we get you ready,” Madge said.
 “Just a minute.” Bejay rummaged through her suitcase and brought out a peanut butter jar filled with white cream. “This will take care of what ails my face.”
“Ah, your magic potion,” Madge said, taking the jar. “It does work pretty well, but it works even better if you wash your makeup off every night, young lady.”
“I know. It won’t happen again. Even if I’m falling off a cliff, I’ll wash my makeup off before I hit bottom so you can make me up for my casket.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Bejay nodded.”
“Well, I’ll bet the friend who makes this cream has perpetual youth.”
Bejay pictured old Terrilee Tembler handing her the first jar of cream, and mailing her one faithfully every six months afterward. Terrilee had to be seventy years old, but her smooth cheeks were rosy and the wrinkles around her eyes were soft. Her eyelids drooped only slightly over warm brown eyes that were large and curious. “Not quite,” Bejay answered.
“Well, you just hop in the shower. The sunrise won’t wait, and this is your big day.”
  Bejay just sat on the bed until Madge plopped down beside her and put her arms around her in a comforting hug. “It’s going to be okay,” Madge said. Bejay burst into tears and turned her face in toward Madge’s shoulder. Madge didn’t even flinch, but pulled her into the circle of her soft arms. “You can tell me all about it as soon as you feel up to it. I’m here for you.”

Bejay only let herself cry for a couple of minutes. Then she pulled away, gave Madge a smile through the mascara that had streaked her cheeks and, to her horror, she saw that it had smeared on Madge’s yellow dress. Madge glanced at the black smudge. “I’ll wash this out while you’re in the shower. Go on now. I need a clean canvas to work my magic. Not that you need much, with those full lips and perfectly heart shaped face. Go on, now.”

March 11, 2014 1,519 words!
It was dark when Bejay heard a knock on her door. She gave a start and sat up, the inside of her mouth sticky, her eyelashes clumped together. “Who is it?” she croaked.
“Madge. Are you ready to prepare to greet the dawn?”
Bejay climbed out of bed and opened the door to let in her makeup artist. Madge Quill walked in, her 47-year-old round figure covered with an unflattering pastel yellow dress that made her look bigger than she was. The narrow matching belt cinched at her ample waist didn’t help make her look thinner at all. In spite of the early hour, Madge had carefully drawn on her upside-down-smiles of eyebrows and her thick eyeliner. She still wore red lipstick, although it was falling out of style, yet the shade she chose complimented her cinnamon-red colored hair rather than clash with it.
Madge frowned up at Bejay. “What have you been doing?”
Bejay slumped back down on the bed. “It’s what I haven’t been doing. I didn’t get ready for bed properly last night.”
Madge put her hand on Bejay’s forehead.
“I’m not sick,” Bejay protested. “I just had an argument with Phillip.”
“There’s time to tell me about it while we get you ready,” Madge said.
 “Just a minute.” Bejay rummaged through her suitcase and brought out a peanut butter jar filled with white cream. “This will take care of what ails my face.”
“Ah, your magic potion,” Madge said, taking the jar. “It does work pretty well, but it works even better if you wash your makeup off every night, young lady.”
“I know. It won’t happen again. Even if I’m falling off a cliff, I’ll wash my makeup off before I hit bottom so you can make me up for my casket.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Bejay nodded.”
“Well, I’ll bet the friend who makes this cream has perpetual youth.”
Bejay pictured old Terrilee Tembler handing her the first jar of cream, and mailing her one faithfully every six months afterward. Terrilee had to be seventy years old, but her smooth cheeks were rosy and the wrinkles around her eyes were soft. Her eyelids drooped only slightly over warm brown eyes that were large and curious. “Not quite,” Bejay answered.
“Well, you just hop in the shower. The sunrise won’t wait, and this is your big day.”
  Bejay just sat on the bed until Madge plopped down beside her and put her arms around her in a comforting hug. “It’s going to be okay,” Madge said. Bejay burst into tears and turned her face in toward Madge’s shoulder. Madge didn’t even flinch, but pulled her into the circle of her soft arms. “You can tell me all about it as soon as you feel up to it. I’m here for you.”
Bejay only let herself cry for a couple of minutes. Then she pulled away, gave Madge a smile through the mascara that had streaked her cheeks and, to her horror, she saw that it had smeared on Madge’s yellow dress. Madge glanced at the black smudge. “I’ll wash this out while you’re in the shower. Go on now. I need a clean canvas to work my magic. Not that you need much, with those full lips and perfectly heart shaped face. Go on, now.”
Bejay hurried to the bathroom. After a shower, she felt like she was starting over and could face whatever the day threw at her. Without Madge and the freedom to cry her sorrows out, she wasn’t sure if she’d even have been able to walk out the door.
“Now, tell me what happened,” Madge said, pulling out a set of new makeup brushes.
“Oh, no, you’re not sneaking those in,” Bejay said, pulling out three old makeup brushes of various sizes that Terrilee had given her. She plopped them on the table. “But they’re so old,” Madge said, picking up the blusher brush and dangling it from her fingers.
“They still work, don’t they?” Bejay said.
“They are good quality,” Madge admitted, setting them on bejay’s hotel room table alongside the cosmetics. “I just don’t know why you like them so much.”
“They’re good luck,” Bejay said. “Terrilee’s mother was so careful about her skin, she looked fifteen years younger than she was. When Terrilee was born with a harelip, her mother took her to get it fixed as soon as possible. Then she kept Terrilee covered in the sun, and wouldn’t let her go outside if she had so much as a scratch on her face. She made up this cream that she used on Terrilee as well as herself, and the surgery scar faded to the point that you’d never know she had a harelip unless you noticed her slightly uneven lips. But you’d never see them now, because she always draws them in evenly with a lip pencil. So I’m hoping the luck carries over to me.” Bejay touched one of the brushes with a careful finger. “I need luck, after what I went through with Phillip last night.”
“What did happen with Phillip?” Madge asked. When Bejay told her, Madge said. “Oh, don’t worry about him. If he’s not willing to take you on your own terms, then he’s not worth having.”
“But I love him.”
“But you didn’t want to have free love with him.”
“It’s not that I didn’t want to,” Bejay answered, thinking of the longing she felt, “It’s that we should be married first.” She leaned forward when Madge stretched out the wide headband  so she could pull it over her head to hold the hair away from her face. “My mother told me to remember that I was precious to her and Dad, and that God was watching over me.”
“So your mother is a religious woman?” Madge dotted face cream over Bejay’s skin and rubbed it in.
“Now she is. She was kind of wild, and then her father died, which made her even more willing to stay out late to avoid her mother. She straightened up after her best friend was killed. The trouble is, her brother, Sean, called her a fallen woman, and my grandmother told her that she’d killed her father from worry.”
Madge’s eyebrows went up as applied an expert layer of foundation on Bree’s face. “Oh, dear.”
“Mom shut herself up in the house with Grandma Beatrice, trying to atone for all the wrongs she did by doing the cooking and cleaning and doing anything Grandma asked her to.”
Madge pulled out a compact of sunset colored blush. “Then how did you get made?”
“Mom was thirty when a friend of her brother’s, a horse man from Texas named Frank MacAvoy, came to see Sean. He was shorter than Mom, and balding, but he was quiet and mild. She didn’t know that Sean had already complained to Frank about her behavior, or she may have never come out to meet him. But they met and he was impressed by her forthright nature and conversation, because he wasn’t much of a talker. All he knew to communicate with were horses. Mom thought Dad’s quiet ways were refreshing after the wild crowd she’d run with. So they got married and had two babies during World War II. Me and A.P.”
“Hold still,” Madge said, pulling out the black eyeliner and lining one of Bejay’s eyes. “Why is your brother named A.P.?”
“Initials for Albert Peter.”
Madge finished drawing a perfect line across Bejay’s upper eyelid that curved up at the outer edge. “Let me guess,” she said, swiping the thin brush across the cake of black liner. “Your grandfathers.”
Bejay almost nodded, but remembered to hold still as Madge began drawing an expert line on her other eye. “Yes. A.P. for short.”
“So why wasn’t your father drafted?”
“Because he’s a rancher, providing food for the troops and all that. Besides, he’s odd.”
Madge pulled back and inspected her work. “Odd in what way?”
“Well, he doesn’t get jokes.”
Madge glanced at her watch and sorted through her lipsticks. “Lots of people don’t get jokes. My sister heard a joke once, and two months later she started laughing because she’d finally gotten the punch line.”
Bejay was quiet for a moment. The she said, “He never gets them. Not then, not two months later, not ever. And he takes things at face value. If you say, ‘Have you got a screw loose?’ he thinks someone actually has a screw coming loose somewhere on their body, unless you explain to him that it’s just a figure of speech.”
“He’s not a lunatic?” Madge swiped the lipstick across Bejay’s lips.
As soon as she was done, Bejay answered, “No, he just doesn’t process information the way most people do. He’s very quiet and seems most comfortable around his horses.” Bejay leaned back and pulled off her headband. “Never mind all that. I purposely left my family out of my bio. That’s enough about me, and please don’t repeat anything I said.”
“Not me,” Madge said, darting another look at her watch. “Let’s go. We’ll do your hair on site.”

March 10, 2014 1,663 words!
Bejay pulled back. “Why?”
“Why? To show you the flame dress, of course.”
“It’s not in the costume trailer?”
Phillip kissed Bejay’s forehead. “Not tonight, it’s not.”
Bejay tucked her hand into Phillip’s and followed him willingly to the hotel where his room was just down the hall from her own. As soon as he unlocked his door and Bejay walked in, her eyes were drawn to a vivid red and orange dress spread out on one of the double beds, a bright yellow border framing the wide sleeves. This was unlike any other dress Bejay had modeled. There was no tightly fitted waist. Instead, the cut of the sleeves made them fall from the shoulders in long, wide sweeps of hot colored fabric. They reminded Bejay of kimono sleeves, only wider. As fascinated as she was, she also felt uncertain. “I’m supposed to wear this?”
“It’s cutting edge, darling. We’re not following a trend, we’re starting one. With your bright yellow hair, you’ll look as if you are coming out of the sunrise yourself.” He lifted the dress off the bed and held it up against Bejay. “I wish that sunrise would come at about noon tomorrow. If I had my way, we would only have a sunset shoot, but I don’t own the company.” Phillip’s brow cleared as he studied Bejay. “You look divine, my dear.” He looped the sleeve of the dress over Bejay’s shoulder, then slid his hand down to her finger, touching her ring. “Now for another surprise. This photo of you in the flame dress is going on the cover of Feminine Charm magazine.”
Warmth spread from the center of Bejay outward until she felt her face flush. Tingling with excitement, she said, “Really? Me? On the cover?”
“Of course you. You’re our rising star. You will be the biggest name in modeling by next month, mark my words.”
Bejay’s eyes filled with tears. If Phillip believed in her, that was proof that he loved her without measure.
“You look so beautiful just now,” Phillip whispered. He pulled the dress from Bejay slowly, the flowing fabric sliding down her bodice. Then he flung the dress onto the bed and led Bejay to the other bed that was smooth and taught from the maid’s hands earlier in the day. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her down beside him and kissed her. She slid her arms around him and kissed him back, hardly able to believe how happy she was. Everything in her life was going right. She was thoroughly loved. She had a marvelous career that was exciting and took her around the world. The $20,000.00 she brought in a year was twice as much as her father made. She could hardly believe her good fortune.
Phillip’s warm hands rubbed her back, calming and supporting her. He knew her so well. He would never be too busy for her. He would take care of her and listen to her and help her make decisions that would be best for her, that would be best for them both.
Phillip’s hand slid down over Bejay’s hip and gave her bottom a squeeze. She squirmed, liking his attention, but feeling an uncomfortable thread of concern run through her. Phillip pulled her in tighter and pushed his tongue in between her teeth. Bejay opened her mouth in surprise, and Phillip’s tongue thrust its way in, sliding across the roof of her mouth.
Bejay tried to squirm away, to ask Phillip what he was doing, but Phillip put both hands on Bejay’s bottom and pulled her in against him. Twisting, Bejay got her mouth free of Phillip’s and gasped, “What?”
“Darling,” Phillip groaned, eyes closed as he slid a hand around her hip and up her stomach.
In spite of the shivers of pleasure that coursed through her, Bejay pushed at his hand. “Don’t!” she said.
Phillip opened his eyes to narrow slits. “What?”
“I don’t know what you’re doing,” Bejay said, pushing her hands against Phillip’s chest.
“I’m making love to my promised wife,” Phillip said. “Don’t you like it?”
Bejay shivered. “It feels good,” she admitted, “but we aren’t married yet.”
Phillip sat up and slid his finger over Bejay’s hand. It was like he’d flipped a switch and she leaned in toward him, warm shivers of love sliding down her back. “Times are changing,” Phillip said. “Surely you’ve heard of the movement called ‘free love.’”
Bejay shook her head.
“It means that if it feels good, you can do it.” Phillip slid a gentle caress up Bejay’s arm. “Maybe I moved too fast for you. I’m sorry if I did. The thing is, I’ve been waiting for you to get old enough for me to marry ever since I met you.”
Bejay resolve melted. “That long?”
“Of course. You captured my heart from the first moment I saw you.”
“But what about Cozette in that shoot we did in France? And Ione in Greece?”
“It was torture to have to wait for you, darling. You were such an ingénue; I needed diversions to keep me from doing anything that might frighten you away. Don’t you see? You’re too precious for me to lose. I love you, and I thank you for doing me the favor of accepting my proposal. Now that we’re engaged and promised to be married, so this isn’t even free love. It cost me a thousand dollars.” He lifted Bejay’s hand so that the overhead light could catch in the diamond and fling itself around the room in brilliant sparkles. “It doesn’t matter that we aren’t married right now. We are in love, darling. I’ve waited so long, don’t make me wait any longer.” He slid his hands behind Bejay and took hold of the zipper on the back of her dress. As he slid it downward, Bejay shuddered with excitement. What Phillip said made sense. They were in love. Waiting until they were married wasn’t so important, was it?
The fabric loosened at her shoulders, and Phillip reached out and pulled the bodice of her dress down. As his eyes fastened on her brassiere, his breathing grew more rapid.
“Phillip?” Bejay watched him, wanting the reassurance of his loving eyes on hers.
“Oh, baby,” Phillip moaned, closing his eyes and reaching out with both hands toward her breasts.
Bejay jumped up off the bed as if she’d been pushed. Yanking her dress up over her breasts, she held it there with both hands. “I’m sorry,” she said when Phillip opened his eyes and looked up at her in frank surprise. “I can’t do this before we’re married. Please understand.”
Phillip dropped his head into his hands, his chest rising and falling with deep breaths. Bejay reached behind herself to pull the zipper up as far as she could.
“My mother had a rough childhood, Phillip. She was a rebellious teenager who snuck out with her best friend from the time she was fifteen to visit speakeasies during the Roaring Twenties. She danced, smoked, drank bootleg liquor and had relations with men. She began feeling uncomfortable with her lifestyle, but didn’t stop until her friend was shot dead at a party. Mom made it home in her blood-spattered dress and hid in her room for days. She’s told me over and over again not to take up that lifestyle, as it nearly destroyed her. She took me to church, Phillip, and I can’t ignore all of those teachings now. Please understand.”
Phillip dropped his hands and rose to his feet. When he looked at Bejay, his eyes were cold. “When you said you would marry me, I thought that meant you loved me. I didn’t even ask for free love. I bound myself to you with that ring before I asked you to prove your love by becoming one with me, and now you treat me as if I am as common as… as that little boy you helped on the street. Only you gave more to him, some filthy urchin you will never see again, than you give to me, the man you love.”
Unfamiliar indignation rose in Bejay’s chest. “You tried to buy my love?” She grasped the ring and pulled it from her finger. “Here.” She held it out to him. When he made no move to take it, she tossed it toward him. With a movement as quick as swatting a mosquito, Phillip grabbed the ring in the air. His face darkened, his brows drawn together as he looked at Bejay from beneath them. Then he whirled and stomped into the bathroom. When Bejay heard the toilet flush, her heart recoiled. Phillip hadn’t had time to go to the bathroom, so what was he flushing? Phillip appeared in the bathroom doorway, his eyes on Bejay, empty hands hanging straight at his sides.
“What did you do?” Bejay whispered.
“What do you care?” Phillip answered.
“You didn’t… you didn’t flush the ring down the toilet, did you?”
“My life is crap without you, so what does it matter?”

Tears gathered in Bejay’s eyes. “Oh, Phillip!” she cried, and ran from his room, grabbing her straw bag from where she’d dropped it by the door. She dashed down the hall, expecting Phillip to come out of his room at any moment, to call her back, to say he loved her, to say he was sorry, he could wait for her a little longer after waiting so long already, but the hallway remained silent. Bejay’s trembling fingers found her key, and she managed to fit it into the door and unlock it. Then she stumbled into her room, pulled off the powder blue dress, and let it fall into a heap on the floor. She’d never wear it again. For the first time since she could remember, she crawled in between the clean sheets without washing her face and brushing her teeth. She lay there, trembling, until blessed sleep finally calmed her turbulent thoughts.

March 9, 2014 - 2,520 UNEDITED words! 


“Oh!” she said, digging through her purse. “I just remembered I’ve got my perfume in here.” She pulled out a bottle of Houbigant Chantilly Paris perfume and untwisted the lid. When she knelt again, the boy tucked his hand under his arm. “It will help keep out infection,” Bejay said, tugging on his elbow. Then she stopped pulling, looked into his brown eyes, and asked, “Por favor?”
The boys eyes widened and he relaxed his arm. “Habla Espanol?”
Bejay reached out and pulled his hand free. “Pequena.” She poured some Chantilly beneath the bandage and the boy took in a sharp breath. “Stings?” Bejay asked, her forehead creasing. “Sorry. But it smells good, doesn’t it?” When she returned the perfume to her bag, she found a bent stick of Juicy Fruit gum in its bright silver wrapper. She handed it over. “Buenos Dias.”
“Gracias,” the boy said, and with a gap-toothed smile, he took the gum and shoved it in his mouth.

Bejay spotted Phillip waiting in the shade beneath a palapa, a grass roofed beach hut with a table and chairs in the center. He dipped his head, studying his watch, so Bejay looked at hers and discovered that she was late. Checking her scarf for proper positioning, her fingers found nothing but her bare neck. Maybe he wouldn’t remember that this dress came with a scarf. As the director of the modeling agency’s photo shoot, appearance meant a lot to Phillip. As much as he caused her heart to flutter with his cut short at the sides and long on top waved hair and gray eyes, his insistence on making a good appearance sometimes made her tense. Yet there was nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. There were a lot of people who never made an effort to look their best, and there was no excuse for that. Everyone Bejay knew had access to soap, water, and a comb. People could at least be clean and walk with their backs straight. No one had to shuffle, unless they were crippled.
Bejay’s thoughts flew back to the boy with the Chantilly-scented $25.00 scarf wrapped around his hand. She should have given him more money. Would he still be there after her dinner with Phillip?
“Hello, beautiful.” Phillip’s mellow voice pulled her thoughts away from crippled street children. She looked up into his gray eyes, and her knees felt weak. Although she’d worked with him off and on for nearly four years, he still seemed too handsome to believe at times, especially here in Mexico in his casual white shirt opened at the collar and his charcoal gray slacks.
“Hello,” Bejay answered, tipping her head up to receive his kiss.
Phillip pulled back and grasped both of her hands, his eyes sweeping her from head to foot. “I was beginning to worry. I didn’t know this was such a casual dining place, because it had such good…” his voice trailed off as his eyes caught the brown stain on Bejay’s skirt. “What is that?” He dropped her hand sp he could point at the brown spot.
Bejay looked down and pleated her skirt with her fingers in an effort to minimize the stain. “Oh. It’s just a little dirt.”
Phillip’s eyes narrowed. “Beatrice Jayne, haven’t you forgotten where you came from yet? That was the plan, remember? Wouldn’t you rather be a high fashion model than a Texas ranch girl?”
Bejay wished she’d never told Phillip that she was named after both of her grandmothers. But those were the only names she went by back when she first met him. He was the one who came up with the idea of combining her two names  and shortening her last name, MacAvoy, to create a name for success – Bejay Mac. He’d been right. Bejay was featured on the front inside page of McCall’s for their Christmas issue, her blonde hair teased into a smooth hill of hair on the back of her head, a red ribbon tied around behind her ears with a bow on top as if Bejay were the Christmas gift everyone wanted. Her lips were painted with new Sugar Cookie gloss, the best thing since gingerbread men. She knew there were several other magazines clamoring for her image, but she didn’t know what all of them were, since Phillip handled that part of her career.
“I’m sorry,” Bejay said. “I’ll go in the ladies’ room and wash it off.”
Phillip raised an eyebrow. “But how will you make it to the ladies’ room?”
Bejay bit her lips, then relaxed. She was fine with simply walking there, since anyone seeing her would be most likely to look at her face and not her hemline, but she knew that wouldn’t satisfy Phillip. Sliding her woven handbag off her shoulder, she clasped it in both hands so that it hung down in front of her dress. “All I need to do is take small steps and no one will know,” she said.
Instead of congratulating her for a good idea, Phillip said, “Make sure you get all of the stain out.”
When Bejay came out of the restroom some time later, her dress was as clean as she could make it. The waiter in a bright red shirt ushered her to the table where Phillip sat, his face a mask of repose. Bejay slid into her chair quickly and smiled at Phillip.
“I ordered for you,” Phillip said.
“Oh,” Bejay said, trying to hide the disappointment in her voice. “I was thinking of having the shrimp cocktail.”
“Oh, no, darling, think of your breath,” Phillip said. “I ordered a salad for you, plain, with bottled water.”
“Is that what you’re having?”
Phillip smiled. “I’m not wearing the flame dress for our sunrise photo shoot.”
“The flame dress?” Bejay tried to ignore the cool wet spot that sat over her knee. Acapulco was warm enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable, and she wouldn’t complain after the February modeling shoot in Alaska. Haute Coronet modeling agency was famous for its authentic location shoots. “It’s not really on fire, is it?” she asked.
Phillip gave a little laugh. “Would I do that to my fastest rising star? It’s red and orange and yellow pattern only makes it look like flames.”
“It’s that bright?” Bejay asked, wondering how she could carry off such vivid colors after working almost exclusively in pastel shades of clothing.
“You’ve got to keep up with the times in this business,” Phillip said. “Everything’s changing. The Beatles showed up on Ed Sullivan two months ago, and now they’re taking the country by storm. New music and new fashions are headed our way, and we are going to ride the wave, Bejay.” He stopped talking and frowned at her. “Where’s your scarf?”
Bejay’s hand flew to her throat. “Oh. Well, there was this little boy on the side of the road who had a cut on his hand, and it was all I had to use for a bandage.”
Phillip stilled, his eyes on Bejay’s face. “That was a $25.00 scarf.”
Bejay shrugged. “I didn’t know.” When Phillip stayed quiet, Bejay added, “I’ll buy you a new one.”
“That’s not the point…” Just then, their red-shirted waiter came bobbing and smiling toward them with two plates in hand. One had green salad piled on it with bits of red peppers and black olives. The other had a breaded piece of fried fish with chunks of steaming potato on the side. The only green Bejay could see was a sprig of parsley. She inhaled, hoping to gather sustenance from the smell alone.
When she glanced at Phillip, he was smiling at her, his eyes tender. “Tonight is going to be a special night no matter what, my rising star,” he said. “Just wait until you see what’s for dessert.”
Bejay leaned forward. “What is it?”
“You’ll see. And you’ll like it, too.” Phillip lifted his eyebrows, a small gesture that made Bejay so at ease that her salad tasted divine. She ate in small bites as she’d been taught since she’d joining the world of modeling.     
Phillip ate with elegance, in spite of sitting under a thatched roof only a few yards away from the ocean waves restlessly rolling in and out, entertaining people who splashed in the surf under the glow of a breathtaking orange sunset. “I hope we have one like that for tomorrow’s shoot.”
“If not, we’ll have one even more beautiful,” Bejay said.
Phillip’s eyes softened as he turned toward Bejay. “You are so refreshing,” he said. “I’ve thought so ever since I first saw you.”
Bejay dropped her eyes. “I was a cowgirl hick,” she said.
“Only by your surroundings. Inside, you were a classy fashion model, or else you wouldn’t have been sitting there in the audience, worshipping each of the fashion models with your eyes.”
Bejay’s head tipped up and her gaze went wide. “I wasn’t worshipping! It’s just that I’d never seen such beautiful clothes.”
“In Dallas, Texas?”
“I’ve told you, I didn’t live in Dallas. I lived on my parents’ ranch.”
Phillip held up his fork. “Only an hour away.”
“By car. I could hardly walk there and back every day. I wasn’t raised a city girl, Phillip.”
“And it is our good luck you weren’t,” Phillip said. “You’re still so unspoiled, so beautiful.” He reached out and traced his finger down Bejay’s jawline. She shivered. “Cold?”
Bejay pushed her plate away. “No. I’m ready for dessert.”
Phillip pushed his own plate away. “Good.” He signaled the waiter, his gesture so subtle, yet with such a commanding presence that the waiter came right over with two bowls of colorful fruit cut into bite-sized pieces. Phillip’s had some kind of glistening sauce poured over it, while Bejay’s was plain, simple fruit. Frankly, she had expected more, but it did look refreshing. “Remember to eat slowly my dear,” Phillip said. “Remember, small bites.”
Bejay cocked her head at Phillip. “Isn’t that what I’ve been doing?”
“Of course. You are no longer that hick country girl shoveling three-inch thick steaks into your mouth.”
Bejay picked up her spoon and dipped into the fruit bowl, pulling up a soft piece of mango that was ripe and delicious. She continued taking one piece at a time, conscious of Phillip watching her closely. She shifted in her seat. Was she doing something wrong? She kept her bites small enough to chew slightly, instead of taking big, chomping mouthfuls. She raised questioning eyes up to Phillip just as he slid his eyes back to his own dish of dessert. “Isn’t this delicious?” Phillip asked, scooping up a slice of kiwi.
“Yes, it’s wonderful.” Just then, Bejay’s spoon clinked against something hard. She shifted her spoon, wondering if there was a flaw in the dish. Looking more closely, she saw a plastic bubble at the bottom of her bowl with something metallic in it. “Who told you this was a good restaurant?” she asked, lifting the object with her spoon, spilling a strawberry onto the table in the process.
“What is that?” Phillip asked, his voice unexpectedly cheerful. Bejay stared at him in surprise. She’d thought that he would be incensed at a foreign object in her food, and call the waiter over for a severe lecture on propriety and cleanliness and health codes.
“It’s something made of metal,” Bejay said.
“Well, let’s see what it is.” Phillip held out his napkin and Bejay deposited the plastic bubble into it. It looked like the kind of container that came out of gum machines with cheap plastic toys in them.
Using his napkin, Phillip pulled the bubble apart, then reached in and pulled out a ring. He held it out toward Bejay, who gasped when she saw a large diamond in the center of a swirl of smaller diamonds. It looked like a comet had been captured in the ring. This hadn’t come out of any gumball dispenser. When she tore her eyes away from the ring, she found Phillip sliding off his chair and kneeling on the sand. Bejay could scarcely believe her eyes. She never thought she’d see Phillip intentionally kneel in the dirt. “Bejay, would you be the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night?” Phillip said. Bejay felt her jaw drop, but was powerless to bring it back up. Phillip reached out and used one finger to push Bejay’s jaw back up. “It’s all right to open your mouth if you’re going to say ‘yes’,” he said.
“You…you want to marry me?”
Phillip nodded. “In so many words, yes.”
“Oh, well, I…” Bejay’s eyes flicked to the ring and back to Phillip’s handsome face. It was like a fairy tale, with the prince ten years older than she was, cultured, debonair, world wise, and here she was in the middle of it, on the brink of adventure that would last the rest of her life. She broke into a smile. “Yes, oh, yes!”
“My darling.” Phillip lifted Bejay’s hand and slid the ring onto her finger. “Two ‘yes’s’ is more than I’d hoped for.” Then he stood and leaned in to press his lips against Bejay’s in a passionate kiss. She slid her hands around his neck and returned it.
When they pulled away, Phillip took Bejay’s hand and lifted her to her feet. “Come with me.”
“I need to call my mother.”
“Darling, it’s too late in Texas to call her now.” He pulled her away from the table, and she followed willingly, but tripped on something in the sand. When she stopped to look down, she saw a towel on the sand just where Phillip had been kneeling. “Don’t worry about that,” Phillip said, “the waiter will pick it up.”
“But you don’t know my mother,” Bejay said. “She’s up at all hours helping anyone who needs it.”
Phillip stopped and pulled Bejay into his arms. “Everyone except her own daughter?”

Bejay’s arms slid around Phillip’s waist, and she buried her face in his shirt. She felt him tense, so she turned her head as she pulled one hand free to put between her face and his shirt to protect it from her makeup. He reached up and stroked her hair. “But look at where you are now, my dear. Don’t let your old life drag you back, not tonight. You’ve come so far, you’re so accomplished, admired by the world. Now, darling, let’s go to my room.”

March 8, 2014 - 596 words (I admit I reworked this a bit from its  first draft status.)

The day before she fell off a cliff, Bejay Mac strode through Acapulco with her shoulders back, arms hanging loosely at her sides, feet touching down one in front of the other in an elegant straight line. As unconscious as she was of her model’s walk, which showed off her powder blue cotton dress and narrow green belt, full skirt, and silk scarf at her neck to perfection, she was equally unaware of the double takes she drew from people on the street. In fact, it would have struck her as odd if no one turned to look her way, because people had been staring at her since she reached her full height of 5 feet, 11 inches in junior high school. At first the looks were ones of astonishment, pity, or gleeful malice, but when she grew some womanly curves by the age of sixteen, the glances were usually full of envy or admiration.
Pulling her long blonde hair forward over one shoulder with a graceful flip of her hand, Bejay wished she’d taken time to twist it into a cooler chignon style before she’d gone out to look for souvenirs. At least she should be glad it was only April of 1964 instead of August. Still, she looked forward to getting something cool to eat as soon as she met Phillip at Ismerna del Mar. Perhaps she'd have a shrimp cocktail.
All thoughts of food and cooling off vanished when Bejay spied the boy sitting on the sidewalk with one withered leg curled underneath him. She felt a flash of pity until he looked up at her with round eyes as deep and brown as her brother’s and lifted a tin cup toward her with a bandaged hand, asking, “Dinero?” Then she was hit with a longing so deep that she was on her knees in the dirt, reaching for the boy's hand before she realized what she was doing. “Oh, let me see it,” she said. “Did you wash it with soap and water?” The boy pulled back, but when Bejay smiled at him and pulled a dollar from her small basket weave purse, he eagerly thrust is cup toward her and let her take his hand. Unwrapping the dirty bandage, Bejay found a cut on the child’s palm that looked as if he’d gotten it from grabbing a knife by the blade. Raising her startled blue eyes to his solemn brown ones, she asked, “How in the world did you get this?” She watched him studying her without saying a word. “Well, it’s not festering,” she went on. “That’s good, because I don’t have anything to put on it anyway.”
The boy glanced down the street at a knot of tourists making their way toward him. He tugged on his hand, trying to pull it free. “Just a minute,” Bejay said, moving to pick up the bandage. Then she stopped. She didn’t want to wrap up the healing cut with the dirty bandage and risk introducing infection. Suddenly she tugged off her blue and green scarf with white accents and wrapped it around the boy’s hand. He turned his eyes from the approaching tourists to stare at the silk scarf in wonder. “Does that feel better?” Bejay asked.
The boy tucked his cup in the crook of his good knee and touched the scarf with his uninjured hand. “Gracias, senorita,” he mumbled.
“You’re most welcome, I’m sure,” Bejay replied. She stood and pulled her bag up over her shoulder, not noticing the dirt ground into her pale blue skirt just at knee level. 
   

No comments:

When Jelly Beans Go Rotten...

 To celebrate Brian's birthday, here is a chronicle of his brave event. It went down like this: he bought a bunch of "dare you ...