Tag Archives: Word of the Day

What Is the Meaning of the Magnolia Tree?

I was honestly surprised by his sensitivity. How could he comprehend how meaningful the magnolia tree was to me?

Without looking at him I slowly began my story. “My mother’s parents lived on a plantation in Georgia. Magnolia trees would bloom each spring and every day while they were in bloom my grandmother would give my mom a single flower to remind her how beautiful she was.” I paused, choking on the pain the rest of the story raised in me.

Softly he finished for me, “And then she did the same for you, until she passed away.”

As uncontrollable sobs defeated my composure I could do nothing but nod. He pulled me into his arms and I was grateful for his strength. He held me tightly, resting his cheek on top of my head. We didn’t speak; there was no need.

Eventually he guided me to a bench that faced the tree. With his arm around me I rested my head on his shoulder, my gaze turned to the tree but emotions flourished within me. Thoughts of my parents, memories of the happy days when I was a child danced through my mind. An image of my mother sitting beside me on my bed as she handed me my first magnolia flower, her arm around me as she told me how beautiful I was both on the outside and the inside.

Then came the montage of events that led to the end, her cancer diagnosis, the years she spent fighting, suffering. I recalled the surgeries to replace her joints as the illness attacked her relentlessly, first her hip then her shoulder. I saw my dad pushing her in a wheelchair through the gardens she had loved, a magnolia tree holding a place of honor in the center. Then finally I felt the anguish we had shared when she passed, the healing when we planted a tree in her honor in the local park.

I had been an adult by the time she died, a woman, almost 30. She had battled cancer for half my life, yet even when she was at her weakest she would still send me a flower, sometimes an image in an email or a text after I had moved out on my own, but still it would come every day, reminding me she thought I was beautiful.

Her strength and her courage were inspirational, making her death even more unbearable. Even though she had been gone for nearly 7 years the pain could be crushing at times. Without her I felt adrift and uncertain. My father did his best, but there was no replacing the bond I had with her.

“You are just as beautiful as she told you,” he stated, reading my thoughts.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Sensitivity and is part of something longer I am working on.

This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after What Is So Upsetting About a Magnolia Tree?.

I Should Feel More Excited About Going to the Top of the Falls

Because of the long hike and other nearby waterfalls with less arduous access, this trail wasn’t popular with tourists and we were fortunate to have the area to ourselves. Mike and Ryan set down the packs, then looking at each other yelled at the top of their lungs, their screams echoing around us. In a fit of laughter they threw their shirts and shoes on the shore then ran into the water.

Lilly, Emily, Abby and Liz soon joined them in the water, stripping down to the bathing suits they’d worn under their clothes. Splashing and wrestling in the water, they looked like they were having a great time.

As I stepped away from Clay, intending to join them, I felt his arms tighten around my waist, holding me firmly against him. Just as he started nuzzling my neck Ryan called out, “Hey you two! Stop being antisocial and get in here!” At that moment Ryan’s legs were grabbed out from under him and he sank under the surface. Giggling Emily and Abby popped up, one on each side of where Ryan had stood, obviously pleased at having snuck up on him.

Both women gasped in surprise as moments later they were forced off balance and they too fell into the water.

I struggled against Clay’s embrace, eventually loosening it enough so I could turn to face him. “Come on, let’s go swim,” I urged, eager to join in the fun.

He tilted his head, gazing at me thoughtfully. He paused before he answered, “You go. I don’t feel like swimming right now. I think I’ll go for a walk and see if I can find the top of the falls.” He kissed the tip of my nose then released his hold.

I stood unmoving, torn between raucous frolicking in the water and discovering a spectacular view. I looked between Clay and my friends, unsure what to do.

Finally I decided, “Maybe we can swim when we get back.” I smiled, knowing he would be pleased I wanted to go with him. I reached for his hand, giving it a squeeze. His answering grin warmed my heart.

“We’re going to hike to the top of the falls first, but then Ryan and Mike better watch out!” I called as we walked away. Lilly waved absentmindedly in reply. The others didn’t even notice our departure as they continued their horseplay. Shaking off the feeling that I was now an outsider I resolved to make the most of my decision.

Swinging our arms between us I forced an excited smile on my face as we looked for the trail that would bring us to the top of the falls.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Anti and is part of something longer I am working on.

This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after What Is More Important Than Love? and before I Was As Angry As the Bubbles in the Hot Tub.

I Was As Angry As the Bubbles in the Hot Tub

After dinner, Clay suggested we relax in the hot tub, claiming his muscles ached from the hike. As fit as he was, I doubted the exercise had any affect on him, but a dip in the hot tub did sound like a good idea. The others declined joining us, declaring they were too tired to change into bathing suits. The glances they exchanged hinted at something more, but I ignored it, not in the mood to have the conversation that I knew I needed to have with them.

In the loft Clay grabbed my bikini off the top of the bureau, then playfully offered to help me change. He pulled me into his arms then in one swift movement he pulled my t-shirt over my head. My laughter at his antics rang hollow. I was still irritated with him but I didn’t want to fight with him either.

“I’ll do it,” I stated tersely. Hearing the frustration in my voice he kissed the top of my head and went into the bathroom to change.

Quickly I slipped into my suit and called to him, letting him know I’d meet him outside. I didn’t wait to hear his muffled reply as I headed down the stairs.

Because of the elevation the evening air was cooler than I was used to, making me shiver as I stepped into the fresh air. The hot tub was located at the back of the house, to the left of the small patio. I folded the cover that kept the heat from escaping, then climbed the two stairs to step into the water.

Leaning back in the moulded seat, the warm water enveloping me, the pulsing bubbles beating against my back, I closed my eyes and sighed. Bringing Clay might have been a mistake. This wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped. Maybe I just needed a few days alone when we got home. I had never spent so much time with one person and Clay could be intense to say the least. A little time to myself should help me figure things out.

With that settled I let the heat lull me, my mind clearing, my spirits lifting.

I didn’t open my eyes when I heard him come outside, or when I felt him lower next to me. “Please don’t be mad at me,” he said by way of apology, sounding contrite.

I didn’t want to be angry. I wanted to enjoy every minute of this trip, of our time together, but they were all behaving like children. Unwilling to completely forgive, yet not wanting to argue, I opened one eye, looked at him then closed it again without responding.

With an aggravated sigh he asked, “What do you want me to do? They clearly don’t want me here, and to be honest I’m just not interested in their insipid games. I know they’re your friends but they seem so immature. I don’t know what you see in them.”

Trying to keep my voice low so the others wouldn’t hear me, struggling to remain calm even though my blood was running as hot as the water we were in, I replied evenly, “If you don’t want to be here why don’t you leave?”

When he didn’t respond I turned my head to see why. Had I not been so furious with all of them, the heartbroken look on his face might have been enough to weaken my resolve. In that moment though I only felt divided, my loyalties split between people I’ve cared about for years and someone who was gaining importance every day. This group had been my friends for a long time, but I couldn’t deny that their behavior this weekend wasn’t what I’d hoped.

Frustrated I sat up, turned to him and rested my hand on his forearm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I was hoping this weekend would go better and I’m disappointed this hasn’t been easier. Once they get to know you like I do it will be fine. They’re just protective of me.”

I may have imagined the victorious smile that flitted across his lips as I leaned back in my seat, but annoyance once again bubbled inside me.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Insipid and is part of something longer I am working on.

This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after What Is More Important Than Love? and before .

What Is So Upsetting About a Magnolia Tree?

This time we rode with Liz and Abby, heading to the shops in the nearby village that appeared to be the town’s only purpose, the whole reason it existed. Unlike yesterday there seemed to be an invisible wall between Clay and me. I had no interest in bridging the distance and it appeared he didn’t either. As awkward silence filled the car, I was grateful our destination wasn’t more than 15 minutes away.

Pulling into the spot next to Mike’s SUV we all gathered. The group was a little more subdued than we had been, the tension evident. Lilly suggested we split up and then meet at a restaurant by the river at noon for lunch. I wanted to disagree, after all I had come on vacation to be with them, but realizing I was the only one who didn’t like this plan I didn’t voice my opinion. It was probably for the best to have a break from them anyway.

We walked without a word, passing storefronts but never pausing to look in the windows or enter them. Something had changed between us and I wasn’t sure how to fix it. Lost in thought, I kept my head down, shoulders slumped, hands in my pockets. In the past, Clay’s mood had improved when we were alone, but not that day.

Reaching the end of a block we stopped for a traffic signal. Lifting my gaze I saw an art gallery filled with unusual but interesting pieces. I knew Clay considered himself an aestete, a true aficionado, and I was about to suggest we go in when the light changed. The moment passed and we kept walking.

Looking around now I spotted a park. I put my hand on his arm to get his attention, then suggested we walk through the garden since neither of us were particularly interested in shopping. Our eyes met for the first time since we’d arrived. As I watched, I saw his internal storm clouds clear, his expression changing from one of hostility, or possibly anger, to a more affectionate one.

Relieved, I grasped his hand and led him up the steps to where flowers were blooming in abundance. We wandered slowly down the path and eventually he let go of my hand to wrap his arm around my shoulders. When we stopped to admire a blooming Magnolia tree I rested my head on his chest.

He kissed the top of my head and tears began to fall unbidden. Suddenly memories overwhelmed me, thoughts of my mother flashed through my mind, times before she passed away. The tree before us looked almost exactly like the one my father and I had planted in her memory. Clay ran his fingers through my hair, then rubbed my back soothingly.

He shushed tenderly me, like a parent comforting a child, like my mother consoled me when I was upset. It was like he knew, as if he understood without having to say a word.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Striving and is part of something longer I am working on.

This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after What Is More Important Than Love?.

What Can We See from His Hiding Spot?

“Can you show us what you found?” Caleb asks.

Just as the man is about to speak I interrupt, “Caleb, you’re hurt. We can do this later.” I’m worried about the wound on the side of his head. It needs to be cleaned, bandaged.

He looks directly into my eyes, his expression more serious than I’d ever seen it. “No, we need to go now.”

Striving to contain my growing panic I look away, the intensity of the moment too much to bear. He places his palm against my cheek, guiding my gaze back to his. “We’ll find him.” His assurance does little to calm me. A tear trickles down my cheek and he wipes it away with his thumb.

He crushes me against him in a protective embrace as he speaks over my head, asking the stranger to lead the way.

The path is narrow most of the way, requiring us to follow him in single file. Caleb walks behind me, his hand never leaving my hip in a gesture that feels almost as possessive as it does protective. I wish we’d met in ordinary circumstances. More than anything, I want life to become normal again, whatever “normal” ends up being after all this, although the idea of him leaving is heartbreaking.

I long to be free; I just don’t see how this game will ever end.

As we work our way down the path I realize we are heading in the direction of the cabin. My heart starts to pound in my chest as he takes the same turns I had taken just a short while before, retracing my steps. Where could he be going?

Breaking to the right he finally changes course. Walking in silence, we approach the edge of the woods. On the left side of the path, there’s a spot where the foliage has been trampled, low hanging branches broken and bent. He goes in this direction now then stops about 100 yards from the main trail.

He turns to us and points to an area behind a large rock. This is where he believes someone has been hiding. As he explains, I try to see what he sees but it doesn’t look any different to me. Caleb however seems to understand. He approaches the site cautiously, pausing every foot or two to bend down and examine the ground closely. When he’s satisfied, he stands and stretches.

Casually Caleb comments, “It does look like someone has been here. A hunter after deer off season maybe?” He shrugs dismissively then thanks the man for his time. As an afterthought he asks where he lives. After he indicates a house in the direction from which we’d come the men shake hands. Addressing me the stranger says, “Make sure he gets that cut washed out so it doesn’t get infected.” He nods once and is gone.

Caleb motions for me to join him where he’s standing, then points in the opposite direction the man had gone. Turning, my heart jumps in my throat as I plainly see our cabin on the other side of the boulder, just beyond the trees.

“He’s been watching us,” Caleb tells me calmly. I stare open mouthed as his meaning seeps in.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Striving and is part of something longer I am working on.

This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after Who Was the Man He Had Seen Lurking Above Us?.

What Is More Important Than Love?

Catching up to the group, we heard their mirth before we saw them. When they spotted us, their laughter faded, like the end of a movie dissolving to black. Had they been talking about us? About Clay? Frustration bubbled inside me but I stuffed it down. I was determined to make this a fun day. Somehow I needed to relieve the strain that was building.

I greeted them cheerfully, as if nothing were amiss. “Hey guys! What’d we miss?”

“Nothing,” Lilly replied, suppressing a giggle. “Just Mike being stupid,” she added with a roll of her eyes as she swatted his arm.

“Oh, okay,” I responded, not trying to hide the disappointment in my voice. Why couldn’t she see how badly I needed them to include Clay? Was it really so difficult to just get along? So he was different from them. That was one of the things I liked, his fresh perspective. He made me believe anything was possible.

“How much further to the waterfall?” I asked, changing the subject.

Emily pointed to a trail marker that showed another quarter mile to the falls. As we continued our walk Clay fell behind the others, not so far that he couldn’t hear the conversation, but far enough he wasn’t really part of the group. I sighed, then resolved to talk to him again later. Maybe he hadn’t understood what I’d said to him earlier after all.

Forcing a smile I talked animatedly to Liz about an animal crossing the trail when Clay and I had been on our own. The incident had been inconsequential but I embellished a little, playing up how startled I’d been and portraying Clay as the brave protector. I tried to draw him into the story but he remained quiet.

Disheartened by the cantankerous mood, I turned my attention to the beauty surrounding us. The noise of rushing water began to fill the silence that had descended on our little party. The continuous steady crash of the falls mingled with the softer sounds of scurrying animals and rustling leaves as we approached, gradually drowning them out, overpowering them until they vanished into nothingness, as if they had never been there.

Rounding a bend the waterfall appeared before us suddenly, beautiful, powerful, and a little dangerous as the water plummeted over 100 feet into the pool below. I stopped abruptly, awed by the majesty thinking, this, right here, is what matters. The petty bickering, the sullen pouting when people refused to relent or compromise, none of that was important compared to what nature offered.

I had been so caught up in what ultimately was meaningless, mundane details that become inconsequential in the larger picture.

Clay stepped behind me, circling my waist with his arms. I leaned into him, feeling his strength. I conceded to myself that maybe I had been wrong about the falls after all. The emotion that rose within me with his caring gesture eclipsed all else, just as the falls transcended nature.

In that moment, I believed love was paramount.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Mirth and is part of something longer I am working on.

This post is a part of the story about the ex and comes after Will He Be Mad if I Tell Him I Want to Be with My Friends?.