Our Secret

I’m retiring another story. This was declined by a magazine and I’ve decided to share it online. Please be kind but I do appreciate feedback.

OUR SECRET by Tracy J. Johnston

            I am sitting in the kitchen with a cup of oolong tea in front of me.  I gently touch the edge of the rim, sliding my finger around it. I stare hard through the window at my backyard. Out there, the magnolia tree is dead.  Its barren branches lean toward me, beckoning me from the comfort of my home. My brown thumb kills another one. I don’t know why I continue. Plant after plant, tree after tree, none bloom and most simply rot in front of me. My neighbors all have stately trees decorating their tiny yards and mine is empty except for one dead project after another. This one will have to be pulled out again. I think about leaving it there. I can keep it as a statue to truth in this short life of mine. Of course it wouldn’t take long before the home owner’s association left an official letter in my mailbox requesting that I remove it. In the meantime, it will stay. My husband will return from his latest business trip and ask if he should deal with it and I’ll shake my head no. Its bare branches have a beauty that can’t be understood by everyone.

            “Ma,” my eleven-year-old daughter beckons, “When’s Dad coming home?”

            “Thursday.” I look at the calendar. “Thursday night. His plane lands around 8.”

            “Ma,” I glare at her. She knows I hate being called Ma. Why can’t she call me Mom like normal kids? “ I kinda found something of Dad’s.”

            I look at her, head cocked and turned to the side. I can scold her. She is not supposed to be snooping around in her father’s things. He’s told her a million times not to. I know she looks through my stuff, but I don’t really care. Sam, my husband, is secretive where Cora is quizzical. Both are similar but opposite. They are good at secrets. I think my daughter will one day be a detective. She will spend her life searching for answers while the rest of us spend ours hiding them.

            She looks at me seriously. I can tell she’s found something important. Her face does not change, no smile protrudes, no expression of humor. Whatever she has found, it must be bad. I had hoped it would be years before she discovered her father wasn’t one of the good guys. Children are meant to adore their parents. As a mother, I hold my child in the palm of my hand. It is my duty and privilege to protect her from the sharpness of life. Then my child grows up and she will discover the jagged edges of the world. I just have to hope to have the Band-Aids to make the cuts and bruises better.

            “I found some files.” Cora begins. “I don’t think I should’ve looked.”

            She stops. Her face is sad. I wish she had found something innocuous like the secret pack of cigarettes he keeps in the hollowed out book in his nightstand or the pictures of him drinking at some high school party. Why can’t she find the secrets that make him human, the ones all parents hide? Why did she look until she found something she can’t forgive?

            I think about asking her not to tell me. It might be a secret that I know, or it might not. Our marriage is on thin ice right now. If I was a stronger person, I probably would take Cora and leave. If he wasn’t such a gentleman as he described it, he would probably leave her. Cora could spend weekends and certain times in the summer with him. It would be hard, but not impossible. I could leave before I began hating Sam and I could move on with my life. I could show my daughter that people can be happy. Maybe I could even find a nice man; one of those people out there with a heart, unlike Sam’s whose must be two sizes too small.

            Cora sits down at the table and puts her hands over mine. I want to pull away but I don’t. I look at out that dead magnolia tree. I can’t look my daughter in the eyes right now. Whatever she is about to say, I know it is going to hurt.

            “What does Daddy do when he’s away on business?” Cora asks me.

            “I don’t know exactly. I know he’s in New York a lot. You know that your father doesn’t like to talk about what he does.” I tell her.

            “He has all these newspaper clippings and magazine articles. They are all locked up in a safe that I found up in the attic. It was pretty well hidden. Daddy really didn’t want anyone to find it.”

            “Then why’d you go looking?”

            She smiles. Stupid question. She had to. It’s like telling a cat not to chase the bird right in front of them. It’s natural.

            “Cora, I know you don’t want to hear this, but do you really want me to know?” I ask.

            “No, but I think you have to. I think we need to know.” She says.

            I’m stunned. I expected she found something about the affairs. I look into her face and realize it is not about the other women in his life. She’s discovered something worse. What could be worse that finding out your daddy is cheating on your mommy. Sure, lots of people find out about these since there are so many people sleeping around now a days, but a child shouldn’t know about such things. My Cora probably already knew this. She is a smart girl and a snoop to boot. She probably is hiding it from me. We’re both holding the same secret. So what is this new revelation?

            Cora begins, “Daddy has a whole bunch of articles about people who died. People who were murdered. Why would Daddy lock up something like that? Why would he collect it?”

            I know the answer but I don’t say it. How can we all look the other way when bad things happen just under our noses? Daddy’s a bad man. I married a bad man. I just didn’t know how bad. He’s the type of person to have violence just under the surface. Sam had never hit me, not in fifteen years of marriage did he ever so much as raise his voice to me. But there is something to be said about an individual who is always so controlled that he almost lacks emotion. He is neither angry nor sad nor overjoyed with the tumultuous daily life. He had thin smiles, the ones where the lips barely turn up.

            I look up at the magnolia tree. Maybe there is a leaf on that thing after all. I stand up and face my daughter. I get on my knees and tell her everything is going to be fine. I’m not sure what to say next. She is only a baby.  There are tears in her eyes. Our world is crumbling. Maybe it’s time to give up on the stupid yard. Maybe a place without plants and trees adorning it is not so bad. There must be a reason why nothing grows here. My daughter tumbles down, leaning into herself, now curled up on the floor. I pat her head over and over. Neither of us needs to know any more.

            “Did you put those files away?” I ask.

            “Yes,” she says in between small sobs.

            “Is everything exactly where you found it?”

            “Yes.” She nods.

            “Are you absolutely certain?”

            She nods again. I smile and it surprises me.

            “I’m not happy here. Are you? Here with Daddy?” I ask.

            “No.”

            “I think it’s time Daddy and I try living separately. But you can’t tell anyone about what you found. No one, not your friends at school, not your teachers, not even Daddy.”

            She nods.

            “It’s our secret.” I say.

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Goodbye Summer

I am very sad to say my summer break is almost over. While I’ve still been working full-time, it was very nice to have the break from the classes. As I’m taking another accounting class beginning Tuesday, my juggling begins again. I really enjoyed getting to hide in my books, knit a few pillows and a sweater that came out completely wrong and a first draft of a novel that I’m down on now. Okay, so some of this summer’s projects failed miserably. However this summer I:

1. Completed two pillow patterns and began a third.

2. Finished a first draft of a novel.

3. Made my first homemade linguine.

4. Finished the entire Sookie Stackhouse novel series (yes 10 books!)

5. Read and listened to numerous more books.

6. Made chinese dumplings from scratch.

7. Made potato parathas.

8. Went to a wedding and got to visit the central timezone for the first time without realizing I was showing up to said wedding an hour early!

I’m sure I did more than that, but those were the things that I came up with. Summer is and always has been my favorite season. Things will get busier soon but I will try very hard to keep up the blogging and keep the patterns coming. I’m looking forward to the Florida Fiber In coming up. This year it will be taking place September 17-19 in Orlando. http://nomadicfiber.yolasite.com/ I look forward to learning how to use my spindle.

2010-07 Cabled Pillow #2

I love cables and decided to make a few little things with yarn I already have in stock. These pillows make great gifts and are a lovely simple adornment to any home. This is Pillow #2 of 3 original designs I am sharing.

I used Caron Simply Soft yarn and size 5 needles. The gauge is 5 stitches and 6 rows = 1 inch in stockinette stitch, creating a pillow that is about 8 x 10 inches in size stuffed.

Front:

Row 1: Knit

Row 2 Purl

Row 3: K2 P6 C4R T4L P4 P14 K14

Row 4: P14 K18 P3 K1 P4 K6 P2

Row 5: K2 P5 C4R P1 K1 T4L P17 K14

Row 6: P14 K17 P3 K1 P1 K1 P4 K5 P2

Row 7: K2 P4 C4R (P1 K1) twice T4L P16 K14

Row 8: P14 K16 P3 K1 (P1 K1) twice P4 K4 P2

Row 9: K2 P3 C4R (P1 K1) 3 times T4L P15 K14

Row 10: P14 K15 P3 K1 (P1 K1) 3 times P4 K3 P2

Row 11: K2 P2 C4R (P1 K1) 4 times T4L P14 K14

Row 12: P14 K14 P3 K1 (P1 K1) 4 times P4 K2 P2

Row 13: K2 P2 T4L (K1 P1) 4 times T4R P14 K14

Row 14: As 10th row

Row 15: K2 P3 T4L (K1 P1) 3 times T4R P15 K14

Row 16: As 8th row

Row 17: K2 P4 T4L (K1 P1) twice T4R P16 K14

Row 18: As 6th row

Row 19: K2 P5 T4L K1 P1 T4R P17 K14

Row 20: As 4th row

Row 21: K2 P6 T4L T4R P18 K14

Row 22: P14 K19 P6 K7 P2

Row 23: K2 P7 C6B P19 K14

Row 24: P14 K19 P6 K7 P2

Repeat Rows 3-24 twice then:

Knit 1 row

Purl 1 row

Bind off.

Back:

Cast on 48 stitches

K24, P24

Continue for 23 rows then

P24, K24

Continue for 23 rows

Bind off

With right sides together, sew together the edges of the pillow. Leave about a 2-3 inch opening. Turn pillow so that right sides are facing out, stuff with fiber fill of your choice and seam together 2-3 inch opening. Using Caron Simply Soft yarn and size five needles, this creates a 8×10 inch pillow.

C4R: Cable 4 Right Slip 1 stitch onto cable needle, hold at back of work. Knit 3 stitches from left needle. Knit stitch from cable needle.

T4L: Twist 4 Left Slip 3 stitches onto cable, hold at front of work. Purl next stitch from left needle. Knit 3 stitches from cable.

T4R: Twist 4 Right Slip 1 stitch onto cable, hold at back of work. Knit next 3 stitches from left needle. Purl 1 stitch from cable.

C6B: Cable 6 Back Slip 3 stitches onto cable needle, hold at back of work. Knit 3 stitches from left needle. Knit 3 stitches from cable needle.

2010-06 Cabled Pillow #1

I love cables and decided to make a few little things with yarn I already have in stock. These pillows make great gifts and are a lovely simple adornment to any home.

I used Caron Simply Soft yarn and size 5 needles. The gauge is 5 stitches and 6 rows = 1 inch in stockinette stitch, creating a pillow that is about 10 x 10 inches in size stuffed.

Front:

Cast on 48 stitches

Row 1 Knit

Row 2 Purl

Row 3 K2, P4 C4B (P4, C4B)twice P16 K6

Row 4 P6 K16 P4 (K4 P4) twice K4 P2

Row 5 K2 P3 T3B (T4F,T4B)twice T3F P15 K6

Row 6 P6 K15 P2 K3 P4 K4 P4 K3 P2 K2 P2

Row 7 K2 P2 T3B P3 C4F P4 C4F P3 T3F P14 K6

Row 8 P6 K14 P2 K4 (P4 K4) twice P2 K2 P2

Row 9 K2 P2 K2 P3 T3B T4F T4B T3F P3 K2 P14 K6

Row 10 P6 K14 (P2 K3) twice P4 (K3 P2) twice K2 P2

Row 11 K2 P2 (K2 P2) twice C4B (P3 K2) twice P14 K6

Row 12 as 10th row

Row 13 K2 P2 K2 P3 T3F T4B T4F T3B P3 K2 P14 K6

Row 14 as 8th row

Row 15 K2 P2 T3F P3 C4F P4 C4F P3 T3B P14 K6

Row 16 as 6th row

Row 17 K2 P3 T3F (T4B T4F) twice T3B P15 K6

Row 18 as 4th row

Repeat Row 3 – 18 two more times

Knit 1 row

Purl 1 row

Bind off

Back:

Cast on 48 stitches

Row 1-24: K24 P24

Row 25-48: P24 K24

Bind off

With right sides together, sew together the edges of the pillow. Leave about a 2-3 inch opening. Turn pillow so that right sides are facing out, stuff with fiber fill of your choice and seam together 2-3 inch opening. Using Caron Simply Soft yarn and size five needles, this creates a 10×10 inch pillow.

C4B : Cable 4 Back Slip 2 stitches onto cable needle, hold to back of work. Knit next 2 stitches from left needle. Knit 2 stitches from cable.

C4F: Cable 4 Forward Slip 2 stitches onto cable needle, hold to front of work. Knit 2 stitches from left needle, knit 2 stitches from cable needle.

T3B: Twist 3 Back Slip 1 stitch onto cable needle, hold to back of work. Knit 2 stitches from left needle, purl stitch from cable needle.

T3F: Twist 3 Forward Slip 2 stitch onto cable needle, hold to front of work. Purl 1 stitches from left needle, knit 2 stitches from cable needle.

T4F: Twist 4 Forward Slip 2 stitches onto cable needle, hold to front of work. Purl 2 stitches from left needle, knit 2 stitches from cable needle.

T4B: Twist 4 Back Slip 2 stitches onto cable needle, hold to back of work. Knit 2 stitches from left needle, purl 2 stitches from cable needle.

2010-05 Felted Striped Bag

I made my mother a felted blue bag about a year ago and loved it so much that I finally got around to making myself one. I have a lot of bags, but don’t have anything in brown. So, I picked out different shades of brown Galway yarn from Gabriella’s yarn shop in Naples.  For more about felting, please see my post: https://knitwerks.com/2010/02/20/felting/

2 skeins color A Galway Worsted (a little over 1 full skein)

1 skein color B Galway Worsted

1 skein color C Galway Worsted

1 size 9 circular needle

Base of Bag

With size 9 needles, cast on 54 stitches in color A

Row 1 Slip 1st Stitch, Knit

Row 2 Slip 1st Stitch, Purl

Complete 30 more rows

Bag itself:

Side 1 K54

Side 2 pick up 15 using slipped stitches

side 3 pick up 54

side 4 pick up15 using slipped stitches

K10 rows color A

K5 rows color B

K3 rows color C

K5 rows color B

Repeat above 3 times

K5 rows color A

Bind off

Handles:

Create 2 38 inch 6 stitch icords alternating between the 3 colors.

Cord: Create a 15 inch 3 stitch icord with color C.

Throw bag, handles and cord in a pillowcase. Tie or zipper it closed and felt in washing machine with hot water and a pair of jeans (see felting instructions page). Check often and pull out when at desired dementions. Mine took one agitation cycle. You may need more than one, but make sure you check before rinse cycle begins. Place over box to dry so that felt bag keeps that shape.

Fold sides in and poke holes in side of bag and make a knot in each handle on the inside edge of the bag. Poke holes in center of one side of bag and insert cord, tying ends together on the inside of the bag. Sew a large button to the other side of the bag and use cord loop to keep bag closed. See below pictures.

Wear and enjoy.