I love writing these short vignettes. Even though they aren’t long drawn-out stories about the characters that surround Polly and her family, they are wonderful glimpses into the moments of people who are just living their lives in Bellingwood.
Vignettes are published in the newsletters which arrive in your email inbox on the 25th of every month, but I spend way too much time in Bellingwood to not write a few more while we wait for the next book to be published.
Speaking of the next book – Book 18, Just Around the Bend – will be published on June 25th.
Our pre-publication Trivia party will be on Friday, June 16th from 6-11 pm (CDT) on the Facebook Bellingwood page. There are always great prizes and you’ll have fun while remembering silly bits and pieces about the early books. Don’t miss it.
This vignette is just a quick look at Eliseo’s sister, Elva, and her four children as the kids get ready for school. I had fun reading your ideas on the FB page about who should get a vignette. Some ideas, though awesome, will have to wait for a book. Just because you haven’t learned all about the characters that you want to know doesn’t mean that it won’t show up. Hah. And even though I’m publishing the 18th book in this series, it feels like we’ve only just begun getting to know these people. There is so much more to come, so be patient. It will all come out, I promise.
However, if you expressed an interest in Elva and her little family as a comment to the FB post, I’ll be in contact with you. And there is more to come! Thank you all for participating!
Back to Normal
“Polly’s going to take you up to the ball fields after school today,” Elva said. She put a bowl of cereal in front of her oldest son, Sammy. “Show me your numbers.”
He held the meter out so she could read it.
“Good job,” Elva said. She bent over and kissed his forehead. “I’m proud of you.”
Sammy worked hard to stay ahead of his diabetes. It wasn’t easy – he wanted to do what every other boy in his class did, but of all her children, he was the one who took responsibility for himself. On the other hand, Ana hated managing her asthma. It infuriated her when she had to slow down because she had trouble breathing. But they managed.
Her three oldest played soccer after school. She and Polly traded moving them around. Noah played soccer with Sammy, and Elijah played baseball. Luckily the practices and games were all held in the same location.
Little Matty wasn’t interested in either soccer or baseball. He couldn’t get enough of the horses at his Uncle Eliseo’s barn. When the kids discovered that there were going to be horse barns going up out here, Matty was the most excited. Gabby and Ana thought it would be fun – especially if they could bring their friends out. Sammy thought it was cool, but Matty wanted a horse all his own. He was a boy after Elva’s passion.
She did her best not to spend much time with the big Percherons at Sycamore House. She didn’t want to fall in love with them. They weren’t hers. Besides, Eliseo had them so well trained, they didn’t need anything she had to offer.
At this point, Elva wasn’t even sure that she remembered what it took to spend time with problem horses. Those days on her father’s farm were in the past. Far in the past. So much had happened in her life between the day she left home and today.
“Can I have some more cereal for my milk?” Gabby asked, interrupting Elva’s train of thought.
“We aren’t starting that this morning.”
“Then I’ll have to do this.” Gabby brought the bowl up to her lips, daring her mother to scold her.
“Do it,” Ana whispered. She patted the table. “Do it. Do it.”
The boys picked up the chant. “Do it. Do it.”
Elva crossed her arms and looked down at Gabby. Her daughter lifted her eyebrows to look up, lowered them and put the bowl back down on the table.
“Chicken,” Ana said.
Elva put a firm hand on Ana’s shoulder. “You shouldn’t encourage bad behavior in anyone, especially when I’m standing right here. You know what that means, don’t you?”
Ana slumped in her seat. “Fine.” She picked up the dirty dishes from the table and scuffed her feet across the floor as she carried them to the dishwasher. “Hey. You didn’t put these away. There are still clean dishes in here.”
“Hmm,” Elva said. “Guess that’s what happens when you are in trouble.”
Sammy giggled until Elva put her hand on his shoulder. “Since you and your brother were part of the problem, you can help your sister clean out the dishwasher. Now go.”
“Aw. Come on. We didn’t start it,” Sammy whined.
Elva just stood there, saying nothing. The kids were pretty good most of the time. She didn’t have any complaints. She’d raised them by herself – their father had rarely been at home, much less taken time to interact with them. At least now, with Eliseo in the house, there was another adult around who bothered to pay attention to them. They loved their uncle. She couldn’t believe how easily they’d accepted him, scars and all. None of them were afraid to touch him or give him a quick kiss on his cheek.
The boys picked up their bowls and walked across the room to help their sister. Then, Gabby giggled. She opened her mouth to say something, took one look at her mother and closed her mouth just as quickly.
“Good girl,” Elva said. “But since you tried to get away with something you know I don’t like right in front of me, I think you should help, too. Go on.”
The kids all had plenty of chores to do around the house, both inside and out. Elva was glad to take on responsibility for the kitchen. She was teaching all four how to cook. None of her kids would go out into the world without knowing their way around spices and flavors. With Sammy’s diabetes, they’d all learned more about healthy eating. The younger three paid more attention to what was safe for him than he did some days.
While they ran around the kitchen putting things away, Elva rinsed out a dishrag and cleaned the counter and then the kitchen table. She couldn’t wait to get them off to school today. As nervous as she was about training horses again, she couldn’t wait. Every day she didn’t have to wait tables at the Alehouse downtown, she cleared more brush off the land where they were planning to build the barns.
Eliseo and his friend, Ralph Bedford, had brought two of the Percherons out to pull trees down. Then she and Eliseo had spent several days with chainsaws cutting them into pieces. He’d brought the bobcat out from Sycamore House and taught her how to use it. The logs that could be cut into firewood went in one section of the property and the rest she dumped out back. Things had been so wet lately they hadn’t burned the pile, but Eliseo promised the kids it would happen soon.
Every day that Elva traversed the land with that bobcat or walked through it picking up stray branches and sticks, she felt herself relax. Sometimes it felt like a calm before the storm because of the excitement building inside her. At night she slept better than she had in years. Her kids were happy and she was preparing to do something that she never dreamed she’d be able to do.
“Get your backpacks,” she said. “Gabby, put your shoes on, please. I’ll meet you at the back door in …” Elva pointed at the clock above the kitchen cabinets. “…eight minutes. The last one there sits on the hump in the back seat.”
They had worked out a plan for who got to ride shotgun to school. Each kid had their own day of the week and on Fridays, the one with the most checkmarks beside their chores list got the honor. There was a lot of catch-up cleaning and work on Thursday nights before bedtime which was just fine with Elva. She worked the evening shift on Fridays and Saturdays and appreciated having all of the work done so Eliseo didn’t have to manage the kids.
“Can I go see the horses after school?” Matty was at the kitchen door, backpack hanging down beside him. It was his standard question every morning.
“That’s up to Polly,” Elva said. If his sisters and brother didn’t have ball practice, they all walked down to the barn. Those were his favorite afternoons. “You really are my boy, aren’t you.”
Matty gave her a confused look. “Of course I am. Who else would be my mommy?”
“No one. No one at all. It’s just that you love those horses so much, just like your mother.”
“I like Tom and Huck, too. They’re short like me.”
She chuckled. “We might have to get a donkey or two out here when the barns are built.”
“But I want a horse.”
“Oh you’ll have a horse, sweet boy. I promise. You might have to share it with your sisters until we can afford more than one, but you will have your own.”
“Will you have one, too?”
She nodded as she thought back to the horses she’d loved. She never fell in love with the easily tamed, passive horses. Her favorites were always the ones who fought and fought for control. It was almost as if they wanted to make sure that she earned their trust – they weren’t giving it up easily. But once they’d broken through together, those horses were hers.
A tear fell from one eye as she wondered what had happened to those animals after her parents died. Elva had taken off as soon as she could, tired of being under her parents control. She wanted to make her own life, to live the way she wanted to live.
She was as bad as some of those rebellious horses, but no one had ever spent time trying to gain her trust. She married her husband, Larry, because she’d gotten pregnant. He was a nice enough man, but he was too much like those easily tamed horses that she never respected. When he had an affair and let her and the kids go, it hurt, but not as much as some might think. The only thing she had to come to grips with was that she’d given up her whole self to that fake life she’d lived with him.
It was Eliseo … her brother … who had finally given her the time she needed to trust again. They fought a lot in those first few weeks she’d been in Bellingwood, but he never pushed her harder than she could handle. People in town thought he was a quiet, nice person. They didn’t know the steel that was inside that man. She was so proud of him and now she wanted to make him proud of her. She’d work hard for that.
Today was Matty’s day to be in the front seat, so she sent him on out to the car. Elva put her hand on the back door handle when she heard the other three come running through the house. First Ana, then Sammy and then Gabriela.
“Matty’s already in the car,” Elva said, pushing the door open. “Go on.”
“Do I have to?” Gabby asked, whining.
“You had eight minutes to get here. After an entire year of this, I don’t know why you’re whining now.”
“Because I hate that bump.”
“You’ll live.” Elva pulled the main door shut behind her and let the screen door close on its own. “You all have everything you need?”