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Authors: Michele Kimbrough

Wildflower

BOOK: Wildflower
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Wildflower
Michele Kimbrough

This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Kimbrough

All rights reserved.

Cover designed by: Michele Kimbrough / Danette Davis / Galan Graphix

Editor:  Lori Draft

Wildflower
© Michele KimbroughAll Rights Reserved, except where otherwise noted

1

for Vida

your colorful spirit is truly missed

2
Acknowledgements

I don’t know how I came to be blessed with so many great friends but I am truly grateful to each and every one.  I want to thank my friends and family who have supported me in each of my endeavors.

At the publishing of this book, two major things happened.  My friend, Vida Halsey, lost her battle with esophageal cancer.  Her passing was such a shock to me because she was such a fighter — and I was in denial about how sick she really was. Her colorful spirit ascended with her loved ones by her side. I am grateful to have known her. She was such a bright light in my life and a cherished supporter of my endeavors. I dedicate this book to her memory.

The second occurrence was the passing of the great Dr. Maya Angelou. A renaissance woman, poet, activist, and a personal inspiration — reading her words and listening to the uplifting and powerful messages about her life have given me something I can carry with me throughout my life. While her life had never touched mine personally, her words have — her writings have.

Maya Angelou said: “
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I will never forget how beautifully magnificent Vida made me feel, and I will always remember how my friends and family have supported and uplifted me.  Thank you.

1
Part One


The water flows on but the river remains.
” – Japanese Proverb

1

It wasn’t anything a little red dress couldn’t remedy. A little red dress and a pair of Louboutin shoes. Oh, and a fresh mani-pedi. Shopping always seemed to do the trick when Iris Meadows felt lonely, scared, or angry. And, in particular, it helped her deal with her feelings about Peter. But she couldn’t do that anymore — buy designer clothes and shoes.
Sigh.

She dug through her purse and pulled from the very bottom a Ziploc bag containing one marijuana cigarette that she’d forgotten she confiscated from a student who claimed it was medicinal.  She had substituted for an American history class at one of the high schools before the alimony began, and some of the students thought she’d be a pushover. They were mistaken.

After dumping nearly all of the contents of her purse on the passenger seat as she sat at the red light, she gave up on smoking the weed since she couldn’t find her lighter or matches or two sticks to rub together.  There was always the lighter in her car, but it hadn’t worked since the accident six months ago. She’d have to save the bud for a more appropriate time.

She picked up her phone, noticing the time.  She had a new sponsor, which meant a new meeting location, but she couldn’t remember where.  She knew she’d saved the number in her phone but she couldn’t find it.  Her phone buzzed.  Sara Birch’s photo illuminated the screen.

“Hey, Iris,” Sara said cheerfully, although it came across stilted.  “What’s shaking?”

“Nada. About to head to this meeting. I finally found a new sponsor, so I’m sort of looking forward to going.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“So why’d you call?”

“Just — no reason. Hoping you’re well, that’s all,” she said, still sounding stilted.

“We need to get together. I haven’t seen you since I finished rehab five months ago.”

“Yeah, we’re overdue for a visit but now isn’t a good time. We’ll get together soon. Maybe in a couple of months. You know how busy they have me at the firm.”

“I do. Hey, did you and that guy… What’s his name?”

“Bill.”

“Yeah, Bill… Did you two ever hit it off?”

“Let’s talk about it when I see you. I have to go now.”

“Okay. Love you, Sara.”

“Ditto, my friend.”

Iris scrolled through her contact list again, trying to find her sponsor’s number, this time landing on Peter’s name.  She promised herself months ago that she’d delete his number once and for all, yet she hadn’t. She clicked on his name as it illuminated her screen – Peter Mayweather – and hovered her thumb over the “delete” button. It was as if by deleting his number, she would delete everything he once meant to her – all the memories, all the good times, all of the possibilities that still lingered in her heart.  Even the picture she associated with his contact information made her heart flutter.  She knew she wasn’t ready to completely erase him from her life, but it was time.

Just as she was about to press ‘delete’, her phone buzzed again. Not checking the caller ID, she immediately answered, somehow hoping it’d be him — Peter. But it wasn’t. It was her sponsor asking where she was. She was running late for her AA meeting, and traffic wasn’t being kind to her.  She maneuvered around the evening rush hour traffic, turning down side streets and manipulating her way through a few residential communities. Proud of her driving savvy, Iris whipped her car into the small parking space in front of the cleaners. She grabbed her clothes out of the back seat and rushed into the building.

“Iris.”

“Mee.”

“The usual?”

“Yep. Monday?”

“Uh huh.”

She dropped the bundle of clothes on the counter, grabbed her ticket, and pushed through the glass door. The hot breeze hit her in the face, blowing loose a few strands of her messy ponytail. She ran to the car and noticed her suit that she wore for interviews laying on the seat.
Ugh!
She grabbed it and began her trek back into the cleaners when she saw him. She did an about-face on her heels to head back to her car, hoping he wouldn’t see her — not like this.  Fate would have it that she’d run into Peter when she looked her worst.

“Iris?”

She stopped in her tracks, straightened her posture, and turned to face him. She feigned a big smile, her eyebrows raised nearly to her hairline.

“Peter! Wow,” she said, trying not to make eye contact.

He spread his arms out and wide, but Iris was hesitant. She didn’t want to walk into his embrace. It had been a long six months trying to get over him. But before she could extend her hand instead, he scooped her up into a hug.  She hoped Peter wouldn’t see through her nonchalant façade as time stretched between them. His voice was still soothing to her ears. His touch, still warm and gentle. When he kissed her forehead, his full lips were as soft as she remembered.

“It’s so good to see you. You’re looking good,” he said, flashing his killer smile. She tried not to notice how good he smelled or his brown eyes gazing down at her. But she did.

“I’m just dropping off my clothes…”

“Oh, I see you still use Mee. He’s great, isn’t he?”

“Yeah.”  Her eyes roved his body from head to toe during the uncomfortable silence. He was dressed impeccably, as always.  He wore the suit she’d bought him when he made the pitch for a new corporate acquisition. He won. He was a winner anyway — a beast in the board room. The suit was only frosting, making his arrogant intelligence more palatable for a group of people who believed he thought too much of himself. And he did. His father wanted him to get commissioned in the military, the Air Force specifically, but his strategic mind was designed for business.

She took a deep breath and continued, “Well, I should get this to Mee,” lifting her arm that the suit was draped over.

“It’s good to see you, Iris.”

She nodded, and before she could stop the words from rolling off of her tongue, she said, “It’s good to see you, too.”

She backed away then walked towards the door. Peter ran to open it for her. He watched her walk in, admiring the snug fit of her cutoff shorts around her tight behind — courtesy of her spinning class. He waved at Mee, who returned the gesture. When Iris looked back at Peter, he waved at her, too.

Was that a ring on his finger?
 Was he still wearing his wedding ring?  She smiled at the thought of it. Maybe he wasn’t over her after all. Maybe he was as miserable as she.
Maybe?

When the door closed, he walked away after taking a moment to look back at Iris, who was staring in astonishment.

She rushed through the door, but he was already out of sight. Was it truly over between them? After all, what divorced man still wore his wedding ring?

She looked at her watch. She was going to be late if she didn’t get going now. She hopped in her car, maneuvered her way out of the tight parking space, and whizzed down the street, rounding the corner at the light.

She saw Peter leaning against his car. She slowed, putting on her hazard lights so other drivers would go around her. She let down the window to call out his name, but before she could get “Peter” out of her mouth, he bounced his body from the car and approached a very pregnant woman who was leaving the market with two full shopping bags. He smiled at the woman as she approached him, took the bags from her, and kissed her cheek.

Sara
?

Her friend? Pregnant? At first she was happy that her friend was pregnant. She’d finally have the child she wanted. Then, in a nanosecond, the happiness was replaced by logic. Surely Peter was just being kind and giving Sara a ride — even though she had a car, a Toyota. Maybe it was in the shop.
Yeah, that’s it.
  But Iris’ intellect kept intruding saying, “Your friend is pregnant by your husband… ex-husband.”  Then she gasped at the realization that the wedding ring he wore was not the one she’d given him, but one that Sara had given him.

Iris drove by before they could see her. She pulled into the loading space half a block ahead and put the car in park, watching them through her side-view mirror. Peter helped Sara into his car, tossing the bags of groceries onto the back seat.  As they drove by, Iris was tempted to follow.

What did it matter, anyway? It was over between them. Why should she care that he got remarried only six months after their divorce? Was she so replaceable? How could he be remarried already? When did this happen? Why hadn’t either of them told her?

She looked at her watch once again. No need to hurry now, the AA meeting had already started. So, she followed them. She couldn’t help herself.  It was an involuntary action, sort of like a heart beating or eyes blinking.  It just happened without any thought to it.

She followed them to Houston’s posh River Oaks neighborhood where she sat in her car staring at a house in the middle of the cul de sac, which her car was positioned perfectly to watch from a distance. She could see the entire landscape from her vantage point, but doubted anyone could see her.

This was it — her dream house, the house on Lazy Lane. She’d wanted Peter to buy it, but he said it wasn’t practical. Iris dreamed of the day she and Peter would move into that house and have two or three kids. She knew the day would come, so she remained patient, much to her chagrin. Little did she know he had traded her in for the thinner, prettier, more malleable Sara — someone Iris had called a friend.

She hoped and dreamed and prayed and…

Instead, he sold the house, drained the shared accounts, then filed for divorce. Never mind the sacrifices she had made for him — working two jobs to support him through graduate school, helping him set up the business, being his secretary and event planner at his beck and call, and putting her goals and dreams on hold for him.

When it was her turn to go back to school, when it was his turn to support her, he convinced her to ‘be patient’ while he launched his own consulting firm. Once it was turning a profit, then, and only then, could she pursue her goals. He promised her he’d prop her up and use his influence to support her career when the time came.

Damn him
.

She reclined her seat slightly when she saw Peter step out of the car.  His limp was slight and, unless you were watching closely, you wouldn’t even notice it. Today, it seemed more pronounced as he limped around to the passenger side where he assisted Sara out of the car.  
How could this be
?

Once they were inside and the garage had closed, Iris could barely see through her heavy tears.  So many thoughts ran through her mind and so many emotions filled her heart.  She wanted to drive away — go back to her apartment where she slept on a sofa, stored her clothes in a bureau, and shared one bathroom with two gay men.  And there Peter was, living in her dream house with her so-called friend.

She fumbled around the storage compartment between the passenger and driver seats and found her emergency pack of cigarettes.  
Emergency
meant she couldn’t cope.  Then she remembered she didn’t have a lighter or matches.  She threw the cigarette into the pile on the passenger’s seat and started the car.

What the…?

Peter emerged from the garage.  Iris turned off the ignition and watched as he turned his attention toward the house where Sara stood in the doorway.  Iris’ resentment resurfaced. She’d convinced herself that Peter and Sara weren’t worth her anger, that they were two selfish people who belonged together. But seeing Sara standing in the doorway rubbing her pregnant belly, wearing a full-length maternity negligee, made her livid. Whenever Iris brought up starting a family, Peter would cut her off saying ‘Not yet, baby. Let me get established first.’

The negligee barely covered Sara’s enlarged breasts, no-doubt due to pregnancy — or maybe he had asked her to have breast augmentation, too. He’d wanted Iris to have her breasts enlarged, but she refused. She was a ‘take me as I am’ kind of gal, and he seemed to resent it. He needed her to be what
he
wanted her to be. He needed her to be his trophy, his reward for all of his hard work, and not a reminder of where he came from.

Peter limped across the flagstone walkway, met Sara at the door, and scooped her into his arms and kissed her.  Just like he used to do with Iris.

“The worst kind of enemy,” Iris thought aloud. “The one you call a friend.”

Peter returned to his Benz and backed out of the driveway.

Iris sat there another thirty minutes, spending the bulk of that time talking herself out of doing something stupid. She’d considered knocking on the door and confronting Sara. After all, Sara’s pregnancy was far enough along to know, without a doubt, that she’d been fooling around with Peter before their divorce.  Iris considered violence, but who would have sympathy for a woman who’d beat up a pregnant woman? She decided it wasn’t worth it.

So, in little over an hour’s time, Iris learned Peter had married her so-called friend, Sara, who he’d apparently had an affair with while married to Iris. Now they lived in the house Iris had always dreamed of having, and pregnant with a baby Iris wasn’t allowed to conceive. And in the end, Sara was benefitting from all of Iris’ hard work. Iris resented it.

Then it hit her. Sara had represented her in the divorce.  That was only six months ago. Sara was pregnant then.  She had to have been. Did she know she was pregnant?
Gasp.
Had Sara sabotaged the divorce, deliberately leaving Iris with the short end of the stick?

She returned her seat to an upright position and started the car—again…

Sara backed out of the garage. That was
not
her Toyota she was driving. That was a Jaguar.

Wait a minute
.

It was Iris’ Jaguar, her dream car, the one she searched high and low to find. She had Peter bid on it at the estate sale of a late attorney who had no heirs.  Iris had always wanted an older Jag, convertible, red, XJ Sports Coupe.  That was
her
dream. So why was Sara driving it? No, it wasn’t a Jaguar
like
Iris’. It
was
Iris’ — the car that Peter won in the divorce simply because the car was in his name, leaving Iris to borrow money from her controlling brother so she could buy a used car that was now banged up in the front.

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