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Love Unrealized - a fiction short story
Portland to Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Helen waited impatiently in the car at the airport, smoking a cigarette and hotly blowing smoke out the window. She checked her watch - 3:15 p.m. She had better things to be doing right now. She tapped her watch - no the hands weren't going to move any faster.
She looked up as she heard a low flying plane coming in for a landing. As she glanced down, there in the distance Helen noticed Julie quickly walking to the car loaded down with luggage.
My God, thought Helen. How long is she planning to stay? From the look of that luggage longer than just a long weekend that was for sure. Helen popped the trunk open and waited for Julie to arrive at the car.
"Hi, Ma!" Julie shouted when she arrived and she proceeded to put her luggage in the trunk. It wouldn't all fit in the small trunk, so she threw some bags in the back seat and then got in the passenger's side in the front.
"Hi, Ma," she said again smiling as Helen puffed on her cigarette.
"How long are you staying this time?" asked Helen as she started the car.
"I'm home," said Julie firmly.
"Home?" asked Helen as she pulled up to the pay window of the garage.
"Oh, here, Ma, I got it," said Julie as she opened her wallet.
"No way," said Helen primly, I have it right here," she said as she handed the woman the money.
"Home?" repeated Helen as she pulled out of the parking garage. "You don't know what or where home is. You're a gypsy running around all over the country. Haven't seen you much in ten years. What do you mean you're home?" Helen asked in a gravely voice.
"I'm home," said Julie, "home to stay, period," she said brightly trying to sound cheerful and happy.
"What happened? Run out of money?" asked Helen sarcastically,
"No, Ma, I have plenty of money with me," laughed Julie. "I'm not here to mooch of of you," she giggled.
"Hmm, broken heart, then?" Helen asked.
"No, Ma - no broken heart, I know how to handle men," said Julie. Helen continued looking straight ahead as she drove. Julie looked out the side window. They drove from Portland to Boothbay, an hour's drive, with Julie chattering brightly and Helen remaining silent puffing away on her cigarettes.
Helen thought about the past as Julie chattered. Julie had gotten out of Maine as fast as she could after graduating from Bowdoin College with a degree in marine biology. Helen had hardly seen her since, but it wasn't so bad. Helen had her job at the lobster co-op that kept her busy and she lived with her cat, Tiger.
Helen remembered Julie, her only child, had been a difficult child to raise. Julie and her father had been so close and had such a special bond that Helen felt like an outsider sometimes. Ben, her husband and Julie's father, had died when Julie was ten. Julie had been inconsolable when he died from an accident while out lobster fishing. Helen, new at being a single mother, got a job in the lobster industry and tried to raise Julie as best she could, but they always seemed to be at odds. Julie had been closer to her father and had such a long, hard time getting over his death.
By the age of twelve, Julie had become right out rebellious - acting out and causing trouble at school and in the Boothbay community, and Sheriff Johnson had almost become a fixture at their home - Julie causing trouble or running away and Sheriff Johnson bringing her back home. It began to be quite a cycle.
The emotional and psychological distance between Helen and Julie grew larger and Helen was more than happy to send her off to college when the time came. At least Julie was intelligent, and won a full academic scholarship to Bowdoin, and that fact and the part-time lobster job Sheriff Johnson had got her during her high school years saved her from going off the deep end.
When she graduated from college - at the top of her class, no less - thought Helen wryly - she was gone from Maine. First, Julie landed in North Carolina, then Florida, and finally as far away as she could get - California.
Helen pulled into the gravel driveway and parked the car in the car space to the side of the house. It was a small two-bedroom Cape Cod that Helen and Julie had moved into after Ben's death. It was just enough space for the two of them at the time. Now it was just enough space for Helen and Tiger, the cat.
Helen put out her cigarette in the side door ashtray, got out, slammed the door shut, and walked to the house. She unlocked and opened the door and went inside. Julie struggled with the luggage banging her way through the front door.
"Still looks the same," she said nostalgically as she stood at the door looking over the front room, kitchen and dinette. The furniture was the same and even the old stereo remained, outdated years ago. She ran to the sliding glass doors at the rear of the dinette and house.
"Hey, Ma, when did you put in a deck?" asked Julie enthusiastically.
"You'd know when I did that if you had come around some," said Helen bluntly.
"Mmm, what do I smell cooking?" asked Julie
"Just some oyster soup," said Helen, "nothing special."
"I remember your oyster soup, Ma! The best!," exclaimed Julie
"Get your things out of the doorway and put them in the bedroom," said Helen sharply. "This is my house and it will remain neat and tidy - now move." said Helen.
"Sure, Ma," said Julie dragging her luggage to the back bedroom.
"Hey, Ma," she shouted, "I see you changed my bedroom. Not at all how I remember it," said Julie.
"Hurry up, Julie, - the soup's ready," said Helen
They both sat down at the dinette table. Helen ate her soup in silence. Julie again chattered all the way through the meal about her jobs, the various places she had lived, and her friends and boyfriends. Helen said nothing. When they were finished eating, Helen cleared the dishes and poured two cups of coffee.
She lit a cigarette, looked at Julie and said, "Okay, why are you really here? Why have you suddenly moved home and where to you plan to live?" asked Helen sharply.
"Geeze, Ma," said Julie, "let me catch my breath and get re-acclaimated.
"No, we're going to discuss this right now," said Helen, "I want to know what's really going on here - you're not back because of any great love or even like here between us, so why now? why here?" asked Helen.
"Boy, Ma, you really know how to get to the point," said Julie sadly. "I thought we could spend tonight getting re-acquainted," said Julie
"There's no point in beating around the bush, Julie, why are you here?" demanded Helen.
There was never a way to put her off, either thought Julie. She had been like this since Julie was a child. Just get to the point! Julie took a deep breath and said, "I've come back to lobster fish," said Julie looking straight into Helen's eyes. "I've spend the last ten years being a marine biologist and all the politics that go with it and I want a change. I want to be near you and I want to go back to my roots - lobster fishing - they way Dad and I did it when I was a child," explained Julie.
"What?" asked Helen. I should have known your father was the reason for this," said Helen bitterly. "I don't need you here. I can take care of myself," said Helen primly
"I know that, Ma. I just have missed you, this place, and Maine. That's all there is too it," said Julie, her eyes flashing.
"You mean, you've missed your father," said Helen, her eyes flashing back at Julie. "And, how do you plan to finance this 'change'?" asked Helen.
"I've saved up enough money over the years and I'm going to buy a lobster boat and fish," said Julie evenly.
"You think the lobster co-op is just going to let you in?" asked Helen sarcastically.
"Sure, Ma," said Julie quietly. "I am Ben Conrad's daughter," she said. "And, yours," she finished quietly.
"You'll have to prove yourself. It's not easy breaking into the lobster co-op after all this time. Things have changed," said Helen puffing on her cigarette. "The lobster business has changed since you've lived here," her gravely voice said.
"Well, I've change, too, over the years," said Julie. "And, I've changed for the better."
"What happened to your fancy marine job in California - fired?" asked Helen.
"No," said Julie firmly. "I resigned. I wanted to come home. Maine is home to me, Ma. I plan to spend the rest of my life here - lobster fishing," said Julie quietly. "It means a lot to me."
"Well, after your father died, you didn't want anything to do with it. The only reason you worked at it during high school was because it was either that or jail," said Helen. "Sheriff Johnson made sure of that," said Helen.
"Ma, I know I wasn't easy to raise," said Julie, "but, I've grown up - I've matured - I know now that home, Maine, is important to me and you are too," said Julie reaching across the table to take Helen's hand. Helen drew back her hand and placed it on her lap.
"Where do you plan to live?" asked Helen, picking up Tiger, her cat, and stroking him. "Tiger and I like it here as just the two of us," said Helen sharply.
"Well, Ma, can I stay here until I find a place?" asked Julie.
"Yes, as long as its temporary," said Helen. "But, you can't stay here permanently!"
"I understand, Ma," said Julie sadly. "I thought we could perhaps repair our relationship," said Julie. "Can we?":
"Whatever," said Helen. "Tiger and I are going to bed," she said as she abruptly stood up and walked back to the bedroom. "Rinse out the coffee cups," said Helen from the hallway.
"Sure, Ma," said Julie. "I forgot how early it gets dark here . . ." was all Helen heard as she shut her bedroom door.
Lobster fishing in Maine
Six months later
Six months later Julie had achieved most of her goals. She had bought the fishing boat, applied for fishing rights and status and was good-naturally and patiently working her way into the lobster fishing business. She knew how stubborn and hard these Mainers were. Helen had been right. Things had changed in lobster fishing. There were less fishermen working today and it was more difficult to find a place open to fish. Julie had to wait two months before she even was able to start fishing after buying her boat.
Three months ago she had moved into a comfy log cabin a few miles away from Helen. She loved the cabin nestled among the natural trees and plants on the edge of a Maine pine forest. She was designing, digging and planting her own landscaping on her time off from fishing.
But, her main goal of becoming close to Helen still had not been reached. Helen, what was she going to do about her mother? She was so stubbornly independent and she refused to allow Julie to live with her and nearly threw Julie out the door when Julie suggested she live with her in the log cabin.
"I'm not old and past my prime," said Helen Indignantly. "I'm staying here and you are moving to the cabin," said Helen, coughing hysterically while grabbing for her packet of cigarettes. Julie wished Helen would stop smoking or at least smoke less, but that was not about to happen. Every time Julie broached the subject of quitting smoking, Helen either spoke to her sharply to 'shut-up' or abruptly would get up and walk away.
Julie was concerned about Helen's coughing. She noticed it more and more on Sundays when she visited Helen. Julie believed the coughing was the result of a lifetime of smoking by Helen. And her gravely voice was getting worse as time went on.
Helen insisted Julie come every Sunday for a homemade fish dinner and then didn't care to hear from Julie the rest of the week. Julie had tried calling during the week to talk to her mother, but Helen was sharp and to the point and got off the phone quickly. Usually, Julie was left with the phone at her ear as her mother hung up. "CLICK" had become the normal way their phone calls ended. Helen was the stubbornest and hardest of the local Mainers, thought Julie.
Helen had been stubborn and hard as long as Julie could remember of her. As a child, Julie had naturally bonded with her father because he was kind, funny and loving. She often wondered why he and Helen had even married as they were so different. She had loved helping him on the lobster boat as she grew up and when he died she had felt lost. Helen just wasn't there for Julie during her bereavement. Julie knew Helen had tried to help her, but Helen had been so busy working trying to provide for them that Julie fell by the wayside.
She had acted out for attention, but it had been for negative attention and the wrong kind of attention. If it hadn't been for Sheriff Johnson, Julie might never have gotten her life together. He was kind like her father and realized what she had needed at the time. She had never meant to be trouble for Helen, but Julie knew her mother held all that against her. And, Helen could be so unforgiving.
Julie had stopped in to see Sheriff Johnson after her return to Boothbay Harbor. They had a great conversation and Julie had thanked him for all he had done for her at that terrible time in her life. They would always be dear friends.
Julie chugged her lobster boat into Covet Cove and pulled into a public spot. She emptied her lobster traps - not many lobsters as she was still working for a better place to fish. She hosed down the boat,and waved to Mack Laren as he cruised around the cove on one of his boat tours of the Boothbay area. When finished, she returned the hose to the dock. She started up the boat and started chugging back home.
There was a little islet open near her cabin and she was able to purchase a spot next to the dock for a good price. Julie docked and tied down the boat. She climbed into her truck and phoned Helen on her cell phone.
Julie had tried to phone Helen three times that day, but there was no answer each time. Again, no answer at her mother's. That's strange, thought Julie, all day and no answer? I'll just swing by, thought Julie, she's probably outside, and I want to know if she wants me to bring some fresh lobster on Sunday.
As Julie pulled in at the house, she saw Helen's car. She must be here, thought Julie. She's always 'the driver' as she never permits anyone to drive her anywhere. Julie rang the door bell - no answer. She knocked and then banged loudly on the front door. Still no answer.
"Ma! 'Ma!" shouted Julie. Helen wouldn't allow Julie to have a key to the house, so she couldn't let herself in. Julie didn't hear anything - just no noise at all.
"This is strange," muttered Julie to herself. She jumped down off the stoop into the yard and walked around the house to the back. She ran up the stairs to the deck and looked in the glass doors.
"Ma!" screamed Julie as she saw Helen lying on the floor between the dinette table and the credenza. Tiger was lying next to her. The small TV on top of the credenza was blaring.
"Ma! Ma!" Julie continued to scream. She jiggled the door - locked. With her keys she tried to jimmy the lock. She pulled her credit card from her pocket and tried to jimmy open the lock that way. Between her keys and the credit card, she finally was able to pop the lock and get in.
Julie grabbed Helen in her arms and when she lifted her, saw the imprint of Helen's body on the carpet and the bloodstain on the credenza and Helen's head where it had hit the credenza. Helen had a huge gash on her left side of her head. Dried, caked blood was everywhere.
Julie checked Helen's vital signs. No pulse anywhere and she wasn't breathing. Julie listened for her heartbeat. Nothing. Julie notice her coloring was gray and her lips were blue. Helen was gone.
"Ma! My God, Ma!" cried Julie as she cradled her mother in her arms. Julie rocked back and forth hugging her mother tightly to her. This was the first hug Julie was able to give her mother since she had returned to Maine.
"Oh Ma! Ma!" Julie cried. "I love you Ma! I love you! I always loved you! Always!
With tears streaming down her face, Julie pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed 911.