Friday 14 December 2018

A Story Inspired By A Song by Annie Whitehead

guess the song
clue...mine, not yours?
He’s talking, but he doesn’t know what he’s saying. I hear him, but I can’t answer. It’s like this most nights nowadays; he turns in his sleep, calls her name, mumbles a few other - indistinct - words, then turns again. I daren’t wake him, and I daren’t ask. But I know that name, and I wonder why he says it over and over, as if it’s important to him...

* * *
Life has not been unkind to Mike. He’s lived all his life in the small town where he was born. He’s the local go-to man, the builder who can turn his hand to just about anything. He often gets his morning coffee from the diner on Deadman Street, and all the regulars know him there. When Mr Stemple’s till got wedged, with five-dollar bills sticking out of the drawer like stuffing from an old couch, Mike went behind the counter and mended it. When Mrs Hendry’s car got a flat tire, Mike ran across the street and changed the wheel for her. He pumped up the spare until it was as round and plump as Mrs Hendry, and she offered to pay him for his time. He refused. Mike enjoys feeling useful.

His mom is always grateful for his help around the home. Mike only hazily recalls the day his dad boarded the Amtrak heading west to Oklahoma. Mike thought his mom was crying because she’d miss him while he was gone. He didn’t realize that Dad was never coming back. As he got older, Mike helped out in any way he could - fixing the stair rail, mending the dripping faucet, installing the new bathroom.

He spent most evenings in Harry’s Bar and Andie would keep him company. He’d known Andie from school. Heck, he knew everybody from school. When what seemed like the whole town turned out for Mom’s wedding to Stan, Andie was there, right beside him, her own wedding ring still shining new, six months after Mike had put it on her finger.

Mike likes to fix things. He’s still known as Sally Piper’s boy, even though his mom is now Sally Greaves, and he’s grateful for the work that comes his way. Everett Palmer’s garage extension kept him going over the winter, and he walked Everett’s dog for him on his lunch breaks too.

Mike can’t fix Andie though, and it’s breaking his heart. Andie hasn’t been the same since the twins came along. At first, she thrived. She worked out a system of feeding them together, and he liked to fetch her drinks and snacks, and they’d listen to the babies’ little snuffling noises as they lay in Andie’s arms. But it was tiring for Andie. Some days she’d struggle to get out of bed, and Mike didn’t know what to do.

Mike has a contract to fit new staff restrooms at the bank. Every morning the redhead who works as a teller greets him with a coffee. She has a big smile. She reminds him of Andie, how she used to be before she got sick. The redhead puts extra lipstick on just before the bank closes and Mike knows that she’s heading straight out to Harry’s Bar after work. Sometimes she looks at Mike, and gives a little shake of her head, as if she’s asking him to go with her. How the town would talk! Sometimes though, as Mike finishes for the day and puts his tools in the back of his truck, he imagines how it would be, sitting in a booth with her, not worrying about the time, not thinking about feeds, or having to remember to stop by the store for more diapers. How she would greet him with a smile, instead of turning a tear-stained face when he walks through the door, an apology instead of dinner…

* * *
He said her name again last night. I know there’s nothing going on, because Stella Atkins would trip over her own feet in her rush to get here and tell me the news. Imagine them all in the grocery store, their mouths twisting in a mix of pleasure and disgust, then freezing in a knowing pout as I walked by.

Even so, I know I’m losing him. The babies made us a unit, squared off our lives. Now those corners feel rigid and I feel that if I jump out of the square, I’ll break, but if I stay, I’ll suffocate. So I do nothing, watching him slip away from me.

Today though, I’m brave. Mike has gone into Nashville for supplies and I have an appointment at the doctor’s office. Sally has the babies for the morning, and I’m heading to Dr McRory’s. If I admit that I need help, maybe he can fix me. Mike can’t, and I know it’s killing him.

On my way, I have to walk past the bank. I stare at the words Wells Fargo and I make fists, not in anger but to wipe the sweat from my palms. My knees feel spongy, and I know that if I try to talk, my top lip will stick to my teeth. I scratch around in my purse, but there’s no water bottle, just a few soothers, kleenex, and some rattles. So I swallow hard, and I walk in. Please don’t let there be a line. If there’s a line, I will lose my courage. No line, no line…

There’s no one at the glass. No one between me and her. I see the red hair, spilling over the counter as she looks over at the check that’s just been paid in. She must sense movement, for she looks up and I see those green eyes, glinting like emeralds. Her face is smooth and cold-looking, like ivory.  My heart’s hammering and it hurts my chest. Adrenaline whooshes down my limbs, weakening them. I swallow again and take a deep breath. I hear myself saying, “Please leave him alone. Look at you, you are beautiful. You could have any man you wanted. I’m a mess, I know. But I’ve loved him since we were kids and I just don’t think I could ever find another man like him. Please?”

Jolene looks at me. I wait for her answer.

© Annie Whitehead

song: Jolene by Dolly Parton

About Annie:
Annie Whitehead
Annie Whitehead is a history graduate and prize-winning author. Her novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, who came to be known as the Lady of the Mercians. Her second book, Alvar the Kingmaker, tells the story of Aelfhere of Mercia, a nobleman in the time of King Edgar, who sacrifices personal happiness in order to keep the monarchy strong when successive kings die at a young age.  Both books have been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion. 
She has completed a third novel, also set in Mercia, and scheduled for publication in 2017.
Annie has twice been a prizewinner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing competition, she won first prize for non-fiction in the new Writing Magazine Poetry and Prose competition, and she has had articles published in various magazines, on a wide range of topics.
She is also an editor for the EHFA (English Historical fictions Authors) blog. She lives in the English Lake District with her husband and has three grown-up 'children’.

Annie is Discovering Diamonds' Head Editor

read our review HERE
Website   Facebook   Twitter  @ALWhitehead63 

Note: There is copyright legislation for song lyrics but no copyright in names, titles or ideas
images via Pixabay accreditation not required

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The Full List of Authors

1st        Philip K. Allan     
 2nd      J J Toner         
 3rd       Catherine Kullman    
 4th       Helen Hollick              
 5th       Richard Tearle    
 6th       Barbara Gaskell Denvil
 7th       Nicky Galliers
 8th       Angela Macrae Shanks          
 9th       Katherine Pym  
10th      J G Harlond    
11th       Anna Belfrage
12th      Richard Dee
13th      Inge H. Borg
14th      Annie Whitehead
15th      Louise Adam
16th      Charlene Newcomb
17th      Alison Morton                         
18th      Kathryn Gauci
19th      Helen Hollick 
20th     M.J. Logue
21st       Helen Hollick 
22nd     Cryssa Bazos               
23rd      Jennifer Wilson                       
24th      Elizabeth St John  writing as Julia Darke                         
26th      Helen Hollick
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  1. Annie! You are as cruel as Jolene to stop where you did. I really sat at the edge of my seat to find out if Jolene stopped as well; now I must imagine all sorts of endings. I know, you planned all this.
    And another new song for me (at least, I knew of Dolly P.) Well done.

  2. Yet another fabulous story, another great song and another earworm! The little details in this are terrific and the change of POV brilliant! I guarantee that whenever I hear this song again, I will have a mental picture of this story, like a short film.

    1. Me too Richard - personally, I think Annie wrote this story years ago and Dolly based the song on it....

    2. Thanks so much Richard and Helen - this was fun for me to do and a real challenge, being light years away from where I usually set my stories!

  3. Wow, what a great take on a song that has always made me want to scratch Jolene's eyes out. I love how you've described the communication break-down between M & A - so well done! Being a romantic, I am hoping Mike understands that what A needs is for him to give her time so that they can ride off into the sunset together. But I don't know, do I?

    1. Thanks Anna - this was a bit of a departure for me but such fun to do. I'd like to think that they worked it out...

  4. Fantastic! I hope Andie's courage takes her on to the doctor's office and that she gets the help she needs.

    1. Thanks Catherine - I'd like to think that there's a happy ending for them. It all depends on how Jolene answered ...

  5. A powerful story. I do like the strength that Andie has inside her, a strength everyone else has forgotten. She'll be fine whatever Mike ends up doing.

    1. Thanks! Yes, it's easy to 'disappear' when you have babies. I think Andie will remember who she was/still is :-)

  6. Oh, what a terrific cliffhanger!
    A perfect short story that melds straight into that song. And not a Saxon in sight ;-)

    1. Thank you!! Yes, I was a little out of my comfort zone with this one!! :-)

  7. Well, I'm with Team Andie. And of course humming along with Dolly now. Super premise and story, Annie!

  8. Smashing story. Love the ending!

  9. I figured out the song at the very end. Perfect story, Annie. I hope the doc can help Andie!

    1. Thanks Char - I've a feeling this will end happily...

  10. There should be a sequel to this, Annie. Did Jolene really taker her man?
    Great story and love that toe-tapping music mucic.

    1. Thanks Kathryn!I thought I'd leave it hanging just like Dolly did in the song, but who knows - there may just be another episode...

  11. Great back story to this iconic song, Annie. Totally enthralling. . Did Dolly go on to write the sequel in Another woman's man?
    You're another woman's man
    And that's why we must stop before we start
    Another woman's man
    You're another woman's man
    And I won't be the one to break her heart

    1. Oh yes I like that idea... the result of Andie going into the bank...

    2. I don't know that song, Marie - but you've got me thinking now...!

  12. I loved this song years ago - and now I love the story that will always go with it for me

  13. Great story Annie and an intriguing departure from Mercia. What a cliffhanger. I want to know what happens next.

    1. Thanks Cryssa - it certainly took me out of my comfort zone!!


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