Authors: Colette L. Saucier
Southern Girl Press eBook Edition, December 16, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Colette L. Saucier
A portion of this narrative previously published as
All My Tomorrows
, Copyright © 2012 Colette L. Saucier
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To my muse.
It was raining when I awoke that Sunday morning.
I knew immediately because of the click-click of the drops hitting the awning
Daddy had put up that summer to shield my window from the sun’s burning rays.
It was autumn now, and when I looked outside, the brown, orange, and gold
leaves of the trees in our backyard were drenched and sleepily waving in the
We didn’t have carpeting, and the floorboards
were cold on my bare feet. After climbing down the stairs, I pretended to be a
tightrope walker, balancing myself on single floorboards all the way to the
kitchen. Daddy was sitting in “his chair” reading the paper and smoking his
pipe. I always loved the smell of his burning tobacco, but when Tad, my older
brother, would sneak a cigarette, its stink made me sick.
Tad was thirteen, and that wasn’t his real
name, which was George. He had read “Tad” in some book and liked it better than
being called Junior because he had been named after Daddy. But now my two front
teeth were missing, and when I said “Tad” it came out “Dad.” This could make
things confusing since sometimes no one knew who was talking to whom, but it
wasn’t all the Toothfairy’s fault. Tad’s voice sounded a lot like mine, due to
his age, and he called our father simply Dad. Mommy said she’d be glad when her
children could speak normally.
Mommy was wearing a pink Sunday dress and a
stained white apron as she peered into the oven. When she turned around and saw
me, her lips pursed up as if she had eaten a lemon. “Lexie, look at you,
walking around barefoot on this cold floor.” I looked down at my dirty little
feet and then back to my mother’s eyes. “You’re sick enough as it is. Now you
get back to bed.”
Then Daddy said without taking his eyes off his
paper, “Let her stay. Her room gets so cold, the warm oven will do her good.”
He hadn’t gone to church that morning. He had stayed home because of me, but he
tried to get out of going to church as much as Mommy would let him anyway.
Mommy felt my face for fever. I always loved
the way she smelled, no matter what. I liked it on special occasions when she
put Émeraude on her wrists and behind her ears, but today she smelled like
bread, and I knew she’d been baking. This was my favorite smell since I was the
one to get the heel off the loaf fresh from the oven. Mommy told me to sit down
and she’d fix me up some breakfast. Tad came in from outside. He was already
filthy from playing with the neighbors, and his oiled hair was messed up.
“What’d you do with your church clothes when
you changed?” Mommy asked without turning from the stove.
“I haven’t changed yet.”
Mommy looked at him, and her face turned red.
“George Andrew Hayward, Junior! You march up those stairs right now and take a
bath so hot that when you come down you’ll be steaming! And you’re not going
out again today!”
“Don’t you raise your voice to me, young man!
Now march!” She pointed her finger in the direction of the living room, and Tad
Mommy’s face was sweet even though she frowned.
Her face relaxed when the kitchen door closed behind Tad. She and Daddy met
eyes and then she turned back to my breakfast on the stove.
Mommy and Daddy had some sort of secret
communication system. They seemed to have an entire conversation with just one
glance. I asked Mommy about it one day. “You’ll know someday when you marry the
I sat in the chair next to my daddy’s with my
feet on the seat and rubbed my shins to warm them. Mommy placed a bowl of
steaming oatmeal before me and stirred in some sugar and milk, and I ate it. It
was a typical Sunday at our house, just like so many others.
Daddy had brought a TV home a couple of years
before. It was black and white and kind of dark. When we first got it, we
thought if you were watching a show and left for a while, when you came back
the show would still be on. Even Daddy was surprised when we found out the show
was over. Tad would always get a pillow from his bed and stretch out on the rug
in front of the TV. Daddy would yell at him because he’d keep squirming his
feet. Usually he fell asleep there on the floor, and I remember thinking how
big his rear end looked.
That night we watched Walt Disney. When Tad
fell asleep, Daddy carried him up the stairs. Daddy was a very strong, big man.
Mommy told me once that the reason she married him was because he was so much
like her father, and I wondered if I would marry a man like Daddy someday, too.
Grandpa had been like a private detective or
something. I once saw him on the front porch picking at a bullet hole in his
chest, cleaning it with a knife. Grandpa must have had quite a life. I heard
Mommy tell our neighbor Mrs. Mahaffey that he had been married to an Indian
woman called Jess a long time before he met my grandmother, and before that he
had been married to a woman named Sarah who died from taking too much aspirin.
He and the Indian woman had had a son named
Homer. Not much was known about him, but Mommy said she remembered when she was
little, a boy named Homer came to stay with them until he was caught stealing
and was sent away. Jess had been murdered, shot in the head. I heard Mommy say
that some people thought Grandpa had done it, but he wasn’t convicted. I don’t
think he did it.
When we were older, Tad told me that Grandpa
wasn’t Mommy’s real father. Gram had been married once before to a much older
man. He said when Gram was young, she turned up pregnant one day, and her
father – a coal miner –threw her out of the house. That didn’t make much sense
to me because, after Gram’s mother had died in some botched operation to keep
her from having another baby, Gram had been taking care of all her younger
brothers and sisters. Gram had been one of ten children, but Kate had been
stillborn, Victor died when he was six from a spider bite, and Ivan had been
killed by a train. I guess Gram’s father decided he’d rather take care of six
children himself than let Gram stay there with a baby.
After Gram left home and had my aunt, she met
my mother’s father. He had been in his fifties even then, but he married her in
spite of Aunt Eunice. Gram then had Aunt Sable and Mommy, but her husband was
older than her own father. When he got sick and was bedridden and couldn’t
work, they took in a boarder to help with the expenses. Tad said it was a
well-known fact that Gram and the boarder were having an affair, but I don’t
know how he’d know that. After her husband died of cancer, Gram married the
boarder, and that was my grandpa.
It was about midnight that Sunday when Tad came
into my room and shoved me until I woke up.
“What’s goin’ on?” I asked him sleepily.
“Come on,” he ordered. “The house is on fire.”
He was so calm, I didn’t half believe him. He took my hand and pulled me out of
I glanced at Mommy and Daddy’s room, but the
door had been swallowed by flames. I remember I started screaming then. The
smoke stung my eyes and made me cry, even before I started crying for real, and
the heat scorched my skin. I screamed even through my coughs, and Tad picked me
up and ran down the stairs. The mirror on the wall had turned black, and the
hardwood floors were changing colors.
Outside, Mrs. Mahaffey cried as she wrapped a
blanket around me. I stopped screaming and stared at the house as it was
engulfed in flames. I guess I was in shock. The thing I remember most about
standing out in the wet grass that night was the smell – a horrid, putrid smell
that made me ill. Little did I know it was the smell of burning flesh.
And my life would never be the same.
Reality interrupted fiction with a light rapping on
the door. Alice set her tuna salad sandwich on the neon green nylon baggie on
her desk and dropped her mother’s ragged paperback in the bottom drawer with
The door opened, and Eileen’s head popped in.
“Hey, Mrs. Jellyby is here. Peacock wants the cast and crew on the hospital in
“I wonder if this is it.” Alice rubbed her temple
in anticipation of the inevitable headache.
Eileen – in full make-up, scrubs, and white coat –
pushed in and closed the door. “That bad, huh?” To Alice’s non-answer, she sat
down. “What will you do?”
“Go back to New York, I guess. I don’t really see
myself collaborating with a bunch of Hollywood writers. You?”
“I think I’d like to try films, as a character
“Come on. I’m no Giselle. I don’t have ‘the look.’
I think I would find more satisfaction playing interesting characters than
always being the leading lady’s best friend.”
“What about stage? You could come to New York with
“And not have the option of a second take? Never!”
She laughed. “Plus, I like L.A. It grows on you.”
Alice took another bite of her sandwich before
tucking it away. “Yeah, like a fungus,” she said as she chewed.
“Well, I’m still going to try to talk you into
staying. I’ll miss you too much if you leave. Who will I have to split a bottle
of Malbec with me?”
“That’s what video chat is for, and then we each
get our own bottle.”
Alice and Eileen were the last to arrive at the
hospital set, and their appearance quieted the buzz of the others gathered. All
eyes turned to Mrs. Jellyby, and Alice immediately knew one thing by the slight
upturn at the corners of the producer’s mouth and her bright floral-print
dress: the soap had not been cancelled.
“Thank you for coming so quickly,” Mrs. Jellyby
began in a quivering falsetto that carried across the soundstage. “I have
important and exciting news. As I am sure you are all aware, this has been a
tough year for
All My Tomorrows
from a ratings and affiliate sponsor
point of view. After thirty-seven years, the very survival of the show has been
“Today the network demonstrated its unwavering
All My Tomorrows
with a new addition to the cast.”
In a split-second, Alice’s mind ran
over all the concurrent storylines and where a new character would fit in.
wonder if it’s too soon since her fiancé’s death for Sienna to have a new
“Peter Walsingham will be joining our family next
week!” Mrs. Jellyby grinned and clapped her hands.
Alice cursed her own heart for skipping a beat at
his name. What she would have scripted as a “collective gasp from the crowd”
led into applause by all but herself and Mr. Peacock, who met her eyes across
the set with a quick nod. An actor from film and primetime meant a leading
role. All the scripts would have to be rewritten.
“Giselle, I don’t think you will mind sharing love
scenes with Peter.”
To Mrs. Jellyby’s pronouncement, Giselle
smiled and blushed as the other’s laughed.
Even though Alice had a lot of long nights of
rewrites ahead of her, she knew the excitement of Peter Walsingham provided a
much-needed relief from the pall that had settled over the soap since sweeps.
“And perhaps, just perhaps, we can convince him
that he wants to stay on with us.” Mrs. Jellyby waded in with the others, and
from where Alice stood, she sounded like she was cooing.
“What do you think?” Mr. Peacock asked Alice after
making his way across stage to her side.
“I think Sienna has recovered quickly from
The director grinned. “Time is relative,
especially on soaps.”
“So how did you manage this coup?”
“I had nothing to do with it. You know Walsingham
was just killed off on
? That was at his request. Said the publicity
from his relationship with his co-star was disruptive on the set.”
Alice raised her eyebrows. “I’m surprised they
didn’t let Winnie Johnson go instead.”
“They didn’t want either one of them to go. Even
negative publicity is publicity, and they thought having off-camera lovers
brought in more viewers.”
Alice scoffed. “I’m sure his
relieved to hear it.”
“I think that’s one of the reasons he wanted out.
This has been a big drama itself. It was not an amicable break.”
“With the wife or the show?”
“Both, I think, but I meant the show.” Mr. Peacock
pulled out an electronic cigarette and sucked on it. “They killed him off so he
couldn’t come back, and the only way they agreed to let him out was if he
finished off his contract here.”
. “For how long? Mrs. Jellyby is
smoking crack if she thinks he will stay on. Will he be here for a full story arc?
We can’t have sweet and innocent Sienna having a fling. She can’t sleep with
anyone unless they are
violently in love
“He will be here until July when he has to go on
location for some movie, then he’ll be here for three months after the
Olympics, although Mrs. Jellyby thinks she can convince him to stay.”
Alice wished she smoked, if for no other reason
than to have something to do with her hands – and she did still think it looked
cool – but she figured it would be silly to start smoking with a fake
cigarette. “I still don’t like it. The viewers are not going to like her
hopping into bed with someone without falling in love with him first. Even
having a known adulterer cast in the role could tarnish her reputation in the
eyes of some viewers. When ‘Hollywood’s Bad Boy’ married ‘America’s
Sweetheart,’ they thought he had reformed.”
“Who knows? It might get us new viewers.”
“We’re talking backstory, character development,
romance, conflict. And where am I supposed to send him in July?”
He laughed and put his cigarette back in his
pocket. “You’ll think of something. I have faith.”
“I need a Xanax,” she said as he walked away.