This is an original adventure story that will leave you feeling challenged and inspired!
Chapter 1 The time is now!
“You need to get her to sign these, or none of this is legally binding.”
“I know, but she’s stubborn right now.”
They were trying to keep their voices quiet, but it was still enough to make Marge open her eyes and distract from her daydream. She tilted her head in an attempt to hear them better.
“I can’t convince the doctors that she’s no longer in her right mind.” It was the voice of her son, Adam, and he was growing agitated. “I mean, she had a stroke. What more do I need?”
A minor stroke, Marge thought with a sigh. It must be regarding the signing over of her estate to Adam. He had been pressuring her to turn in these papers for weeks now, but her own attorney was on an extended vacation. She just wasn’t ready to sign a document that she didn’t fully understand, even if it was to her own flesh and blood.
“This really needs to be taken care of,” the attorney said in a clipped tone. “If she doesn’t sign the estate over to you, then you get nothing. That’s it. No inheritance.”
“I’m aware of that,” Adam replied, his jaw clenched.
Marge never did care for that attorney. He had small, shifty eyes that darted back and forth, and his suits always seemed a little too tight for his plump frame. She remained seated as they concluded their business, ending with a firm handshake, and Adam returned to Marge’s side. Now it was all smiles and soothing tones.
“Ready to head out?” he asked, his tone light, almost as though she was the child and he the parent.
She nodded, still silent. She was more than ready to be out of this place. All the tests and physical therapy made her feel like a piece of fruit at a grocery store, constantly poked and prodded to make sure she was still alive. Every day, she endured exercises and stretches to help her gain back what strength she could, though nothing would ever really be the same.
She looked down at her hands. Gone were the youthful, slender fingers that once held the most delicate paintbrush with ease. I never thought these hands would let me down, she thought sadly. But now they’re just gnarled relics of my past.
She could picture her most detailed paintings, remembering the hours of work and love that was poured into them. The deliberate choice of every brushstroke.
Now she could barely hold a glass of water without spilling it on herself.
She followed Adam out to the main lobby, thanking the nurses and front desk staff as she went. Warm smiles and a few hugs were exchanged, then she was out the door, holding Adam’s arm for support as they made their way to the car. She didn’t want a fuss, kind as the staff had been to her. Speaking was still tedious. The words were all there in her head, but they didn’t always come out the right way.
An awkward silence fell in the car as Adam drove, only the occasional comment filling the void. She gazed at him more than once as they traveled. The sides of his face were chiseled and worn, his profile the exact same as his father’s. In a flash, the memory of his newborn cheeks filled her mind, his bright eyes looking into hers with nothing but love. They were full of life back then. Filled with wonder about the world, and his smile could light up a room.
Only now he no longer seemed to see the beauty of life that he once did.
She faced forward once again. When had his joy been stolen from him? When did his smile become replaced with a scowl?
I’ll find a way to give it back to him, she thought, pressing her lips in determination.
“I’m only asking about the paperwork because I’m concerned about you,” Adam said, breaking the silence. He glanced at her. “It would put both of us at ease to just have it done with.”
“I know,” she replied softly, unwilling to look back at him again.
“You don’t even act as though you care.” There it was. The hint of anger that he couldn’t hide anymore. “It’s just a failsafe, nothing more. I don’t understand why you can’t see that.”
She didn’t respond. Thankfully, they pulled into her driveway a moment later, releasing her from the uncomfortable confines of the car. Adam still didn’t say anything as he grabbed her bag from the back seat and helped her down the path that led to her house.
“Well, it’s about time!” A bright voice called out from the front porch.
Marge smiled at her longtime neighbor and friend, Irene, whose kind eyes and the infectious smile never ceased to bring a sense of joy. They met at the porch, and Irene pulled her into a long embrace.
“It’s…good to be home,” Marge said, as they stepped back.
“It’s good to have you home!” Irene replied, tears brimming in her eyes despite her wide grin. “You gave us all quite a scare, you know.”
“Sorry to be so inconsiderate,” Marge said slowly, and Irene burst out in a laugh.
They made their way inside the house, and Irene chattered on about the state of Marge’s plants and outside garden. Marge glanced around the farmhouse-styled home she had lived in for the last several decades. It was both familiar and foreign all at once. Her watercolors still adorned the walls and mantle, but there was something different about it. Unfinished. Undiscovered.
“Your mail is on the table, though I expect it’s mostly junk. Usually is these days.” Irene waved her hand in the direction of the dining room table. “I miss the days of old-fashioned letters, but I suppose that’s just the sentimental side of me. Shall I make us some tea?”
“Please.” Marge smiled again, easing herself into her favorite chair.
“Look, I hate to run off, but I really should be going.” Adam’s voice had returned to its overly-cheery tone. “Are you certain you’re ready to stay the night here by yourself?”
Marge nodded. “I will be…fine.”
“I’ll be available anytime, day or night,” Irene said cheerfully, placing a full kettle on the stove. “And I'll be back here first thing in the morning to make breakfast.”
“Fine. I’ll leave this paperwork on the table for you to look at,” Adam said, placing it next to the mail. He looked pointedly at Marge. “Please consider it.”
Irene stayed the next two hours, and Marge was thankful that the only tea that was spilled was in regards to the neighborhood gossip. For the first time in weeks, something felt…normal. Irene spoke to her as though nothing had changed, and it lifted her spirits.
When she finally said her goodbyes to her friend, Marge slowly made her way to the master bedroom. She had expected to feel relief at the sight of her familiar belongings. But the restlessness that had started during her rehabilitation still engulfed her, and it gave a sense of resolve to her decision.
Sleep didn’t come easily to her during the night, and her dreams were filled with a mixture of memories from the past and fears of the future. She finally gave in to her restlessness before the sun had even risen. She dressed for the day, noting that her hands didn’t tremble quite as badly this morning. A sign of progress, perhaps.
She made her way to the kitchen and looked out her back window. The faint outline of Anker Butte was just visible in the early moments of dawn. It had graced her skyline for nearly thirty years, and always gave her a sense of peace. Grabbing her coat, she made her way to the back patio, as the sounds of birds chirping filled the trees around her. Irene had taken good care of her garden while she was gone. The familiar flowers and trees comforted her as she walked the path towards the edge of the fenced yard. From behind her, the sunlight peaked, shining like a beacon towards the clouds that dotted the sky. It crested the top of the butte and began skimming across the rolling hills densely covered in ponderosa pines.
These are the moments that make life worth living, she thought, soaking in the brilliance of the sunrise. It dawned on her. The time was now. She looked at her craggled hands and suddenly saw 63 years of strength and vitality. The boldness of the mountains filled her chest with power, and her mind began to fill with expectation.
"My life will wrinkle and break down when I'M done with it,” she said out loud. She pointed to her chest. “You’ll put up with what I tell you to, body. Not the other way around."
She turned and strode back into the house. The stroke might have impacted her walking, but it would not define her, and it definitely wouldn’t stop her. She grabbed her backpack and began repacking her belongings, feeling a sense of determination.
She started out the door, then paused. She glanced back towards the kitchen, knowing that Irene would be there in just a couple of short hours. Marge couldn’t worry her beautiful friend like that, not after the incredible kindness she had shown. She grabbed one of the notepads that she always kept by her phone and scribbled a quick message, wrinkling her nose at how much different her handwriting looked now.
She placed the note on the table, hoping it would be enough. Then she walked out the front door and got in her car, ready to head for the hills.