Maureen's Story - The Final Chapter
This is the final chapter of 'Maureen's Story' that I began from choosing a random sentence (see: How to Construct a Story Using a One Sentence Prompt)
The first chapter was really only an example of how to use the sentence as a prompt to start a story or a poem. However positive comments suggested that I should finish the story so I continued in: Maureen's Story (Part Two): Life is Like a Buffet Supper
Then, at 9:00am on December 24th, Christmas Eve, Maureen was awoken by a knock on the door.
Maureen's Story - The Final Chapter
Maureen opened her eyes, unaware at first what had woken her. With the sleeping tablets the doctor had prescribed she often slept in until 10 or even 11 o'clock. There was another knock and Maureen sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes. "Who could it be this early in the morning?" she mumbled to herself as she reached for her dressing gown and pulled it on.
As Maureen opened the door she saw a man and a woman standing there. The fact that they were dressed in military uniform made her feel faint. He introduced himself and his companion.
"Mrs. McLaughlin?" the man questioned, and she nodded. "Is your husband home?"
Maureen was beginning to panic despite her anti-anxiety pills. "What's happened?" she shrieked, "Is Danny ok?'
"Please Mrs. McLaughlin," the female officer intervened, "We really need to talk to you and your husband together. Can you call him?"
Maureen made the required phone call and got Frank at work. Even though he had trouble understanding her he could tell it was urgent and rushed to the house.
The news that Danny had been killed in action left both his parents in shock. Past hurts were put aside momentarily as they sat hugging each other and sobbing as the military representatives apologised for the bad news, offered their condolences, and left.
Knowing his wife would be unable to cope with grieving alone, and shattered himself, Frank moved back home. In his sorrow he had lost his libido anyway. He slept in the spare room. Maureen's medications were increased and in her zombie-like state she had no objections.
After Danny's army funeral, life carried on. It was far removed from the good old days when Danny had lived at home and they were a happy family, but Frank and Maureen were back together and tried their best to support each other in their time of grief.
A year passed and Maureen gradually reduced her medication. Frank convinced her to begin holding her buffet dinners once again. "Life has to go on," he said, "I know it's hard but I want to see you happy again. Danny would want that too."
Maureen was hesitant at first, but finally agreed to host her first buffet in over three years. She spent a whole day contacting friends, many of whom she hadn't heard from since the funeral. Impressed by the number who gratefully accepted her invitation Maureen spent the next few weeks preparing for the event.The big day arrived, and although nervous, Maureen was surprised at how successful the dinner party went. It even allowed her to forget about Danny for a brief time.
After the initial success Maureen threw herself enthusiastically into hosting regular buffet suppers once more, and her life improved. Even her relationship was almost back to normal, and although she could never forget what Frank had done, she tried to forgive him. He in turn tried to make up for his indiscretion and was being a more attentive and caring husband.
Then on one stormy day in May 1975 Frank was driving to work, his vision impaired by torrential rain, when he had to swerve suddenly to avoid a truck than had braked abruptly in front of him. His Toyota Corolla ran off the road and slammed into a power pole. The lights went out in three suburbs and Frank was killed on impact.
At the still young age of 45, Maureen found herself alone once again, widowed and childless. Frank's life insurance was sufficient to pay for his funeral and what remained of the mortgage however now Maureen realised that she would need to find employment to support herself. She grieved for her husband but for a shorter time than following her beloved son's death.
A number of Maureen's friends suggested that she should turn her expertise in hosting buffet dinner parties into a profession. She didn't take much convincing that this was sound advice, after all it was something she loved.
Within two years "Maureen's Marvellous Buffets" was grossing in excess of $20,000 per year and was in demand across the country. She hired coordinators in every state but continued to host her own dinner parties for many years.
Now, as I interviewed one of Australia's most successful women at 74 years of age, she told me that she'd finally decided to hang up her salad tongs. "Oh, I'll still have the occasional buffet but only for my friends," she said, "The business can run itself and I need to spend some time on myself while I can."
"Can I ask a personal question?" I said politely, and she nodded.
"You were still quite young when Frank died. Did you ever considered marrying again?"
Maureen's crow's feet deepened as she smiled, "Oh, I've had my suitors. Men are partial to good food you know. The trouble is that most of them think life is like a buffet supper. they like to help themselves to different dishes." Although she was smiling I thought I sensed a slight look of sadness in her eyes. "So no, I never considered marrying again." Then she changed the subject, "Can I get you some apple pie or cake, Dan.., I mean Son?"
© 2015 John Hansen
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