To Feel, A Modern Tale (04.08.11)

CHAPTER ONE <Click here for all of CHAPTER ONE.>

CHAPTER TWO <Click here for all of CHAPTER TWO.>

CHAPTER THREE <Click here for all of CHAPTER THREE.>

CHAPTER FOUR <Click here for all of CHAPTER FOUR.>

CHAPTER FIVE

Chloe and Ecker walked through the village. They trailed behind the others who searched for a local museum or historical archive of some kind. This town, CarthMoore, was an archive itself and looked like something out of the American Western films of the 1950s that the two had watched before as part of their homework to prepare for the field trip. But this was not like the other places they had visited. It was so much more quiet, peaceful and friendly. They watched the people peek their heads out of their store entrances to stay hello to neighbors walking down the street. Or even to strangers – like them.

“Hello there!” a lanky, smiling man exclaimed as they walked past a general store. The sign read “Mr. Evans Evrything Shoppe.” Chloe smiled shyly and waved. Everyone was so carefree and content, Chloe thought to herself, content enough to forget apostrophes and misspell words and not fret about it. She caught up to the leader of here group Niman and pointed out the sign, who rolled her eyes and did not appear amused.

“Well, clearly they have different priorities than grammar and spelling,” the group leader declared as they passed the store. Disheartened that her group leader wasn’t impressed by her astute observation, Chloe slowed down so her friend Ecker could catch up. He finally reached her only after running to reach the rest of the group. “You walk too fast,” he said. “Why do you go so fast? You know we’ve got to save our energy for the trip home.”

Chloe and Ecker continued walking with their group through the village and saw five or six people walk into the village tavern together, laughing and talking, arms around each other’s shoulders as they entered. The curious twosome stopped in front of it, just long enough to watch the doors swing open and gazed inside. It looked like the whole town had gathered there, they thought. This must be the place they were looking for. Ecker got the attention of his leader. “Niman, I think I found it,” he said and pointed to the tavern.

The group leader turned back and returned to the tavern entrance, inspecting the building with what appeared to be a tinge of skepticism as she walked across the deck to peer inside. “All of you, wait here. I don’t think they’ll let me bring you inside,” Niman said. And with that, she quickly tagged along with a group just entering the loud, busy establishment and the study group watched their leader get swallowed up by the tavern doors.

Now what’ll we do, Chloe wondered. But before she could even ponder this question further, her friend had already disappeared as she watched him entering another shop across the street. She quietly slinked away from the group to follow him.

Ecker was hiding behind a row of bookshelves. He looked back and saw his friend, signaled for her to be quiet and motioned her over to him. He spoke in a hush tone as she crept up behind him. “They’re talking about being mothers and their families,” he whispered to his friend and nodded toward a table near the back of the bookstore.

Chloe saw a chalkboard at the front of the shop with the words “Mommy Circle” etched on it and pointed it out to him. “How long are you going to stay here? We have to get back to our group,” she said and peered through the front window nervously.

“Chloe, this is our chance to see it for ourselves,” he said and looked seriously at his friend now. She stopped looking out of the window and turned back to her friend. “I know, I know. It’s why we came. I just don’t want us to be late getting home,” Chloe said, forgetting to lower her voice.

A woman stood up from the table and came over to investigate the two voices she heard behind the book shelves. “Hello? Can I help you?” she said in a friendly, welcoming voice.

Chloe gently shoved Eeker forward and he meekly stepped out from behind a display of the latest installment of the popular Robbie Reynolds children’s book series. “Hi,” he said sheepishly and pointed to the display. “Is this good?”

The woman laughed. “Well, a few million fans of all ages across the world seem to think so, but I guess you’d have to read it for yourself to decide about that,” she said and went behind the nearby check-out desk to grab a sweater off the stool and put it over her shoulders. “If I can help you with anything, just let me know, okay? I’m right back there with my group.” She turned to walk back to the back of the store.

Chloe stepped out of the shadows behind Ecker. “What group is that?” she asked. The woman stopped in her tracks and turned around. “Well, where did you come from?” she said with a slight chuckle. “That’s my book club back there. The Mommy Circle,” and pointed toward the back table. She stepped a little closer to the two children. “Don’t tell anybody but sometimes we run out of time to talk about the books and just talk about being a mommy the whole time,” and with that she smiled and spun around, returning to her group. The two kids looked at each other wide-eyed and knew that this was their chance to learn everything they could about motherhood and families, and how proud their group leader Niman would be when they told her about their big find.

“Lucy, you missed a good one,” another woman exclaimed from the table. “Liz said that Powers woman knelt down next her when she was pregnant with Reese and put her ear up to Liz’s belly. Isn’t that bizarre?” Another woman chimed in, “I don’t know how Hal puts up with her. He’s such a nice, friendly man, and she’s so…so…so sad all the time.”

The bookseller took her seat again among the ladies as they continued sharing their funniest moments while pregnant. This time, Chloe broke away from Ecker, as she inched closer to a bookshelf in the back to listen. Ecker looked back at the door now and saw his group had moved further up the road. “Psst! Chloe, they’ve gone ahead. We should probably get back,” he said. She waved off his suggestion and motioned to the women at the round table at the back of the store who continued laughing as they shared stories.

Lucy joined in the conversation. “I think perhaps the funniest thing about becoming a mother is that all of those things that we think we will become better at doing once we become a mom, none of that happens at all – but the beauty of it is, you learn that it doesn’t really matter, because all that really matters is right there in front of you, looking up at you and counting on you to make everything right,” she said with a slight sputter punctuated at the end as she choked up.

All of the women nodded and chimed in with their agreement, and Chloe even noticed a few wiping tears away from their faces. One woman doing this spoke up, “And you don’t even have to be good at it, as long as you show love and do what you can to make things right. They’ll love you no matter what. It’s so beautifully perfect,” she began tearing up again.

Another woman chimed in, “Maybe we’ll feel differently when they’re teenagers.” And with that the group broke out into laughter.

Lucy took reigns of the conversation again. “And even if we do feel differently then, so be it. Motherhood changes you, and some of us resist it at first, but until a person learns how to feel, really feel what it’s like to have someone truly depend on you, everything else we were doing before in our lives just seems unimportant.” The group of ladies shared their agreement again with smiles, laughs and more confirming chatter among each other at the table.

Chloe was enthralled. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. These women looked at motherhood as the root of everything, everything they did, everything they had become, everything they are right now. Chloe was stunned. She had never known a mother or a father, so she wondered if she would never know that bond between a child and parent that these women spoke of. She had always come to depend on her group, her friend and her leader. What a strange different world she and Ecker had found here in CarthMoore. She turned back to her friend to ask what he thought, but he was gone. Ecker had left her but how long ago, she wondered.

Chloe quietly slipped out of the front door of the bookshop. She flew down the stairs, looking to the right and then to the left. Her group was not in sight. Where could they have gone, she thought to herself.

“Chloe!” She looked back to her left. It was Ecker calling out for her, but where was he? She started walking down the road following his voice. “Chloe, over here! Up on the hill!” Ecker sounded closer this time but still far away. And then she saw him. He and the group had already begun the long climb up the hill toward the trees overlooking the village. She ran toward her friend and saw members of the group far ahead of him.

As Chloe ran through the village, she looked at the shops and the people at the town that would be soon behind her and wondered if she and her group would ever visit it again. She liked the people she had met. She thought how nice it  must be to live here where everybody seems to like each other and how lucky the children were who lived with their parents, a life she had never known. She sped up as she saw the group moving swiftly up the hill that lay ahead.

“Ecker, I’m coming!” she shouted as she continued to race up the hill. She had almost reached the top when she noticed the rocks that along the gravel road shaking beside her. Oh no, they’re already leaving, she thought. She looked around for Ecker and lunged forward to reach the edge. “Please wait for me, Ecker!”

As Chloe gingerly stepped through a patch of  tree stumps near the top of the hill and made her way over to Ecker, she watched him look ahead to the group in front of him and then back again at his friend extending his left hand. Chloe reached out to feel Ecker’s fingertips and found herself face down on the dirt. She slowly lifted up her head. Ecker was gone.

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