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Authors: Alle Wells

Leaving Serenity

BOOK: Leaving Serenity
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Leaving Serenity
Alle Wells
(2012)

Based on the life of Annette Bevels, “Leaving Serenity” takes the reader back to the quaint atmosphere of main street America in the 1960’s where everyone speaks the same language and success is measured by conformity. At sixteen, she falls in love with Jack Harris, a romantic hippie with an unsavory past. Leaving Serenity, Annette creates a new identity and becomes the master of her own destiny. Her journey to success is inspiring and empowering.

LEAVING SERENITY

 

By Alle Wells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by S. M. Ray

Cover by James Junior

 

Copyright 2012 by Alle Wells

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission from the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author‘s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademarks owners.

Chapter 1

 

1996

My heart quickens as the black
Mercedes-Benz
comes to a stop. The 1960s

ranch-style house looks shabbier than I remember, like Daddy’s old Lincoln sitting in the driveway. There’s an orange four-by-four pickup on monster wheels and a faded, black Volvo parked in the front yard.
I slide my car snugly behind the smashed bumper of a
blue Chrysle
r minivan parked on the street.

I flex
my tingling hands
and
listen to “Happy Days Are Here Again” introduce the morning stock report on NPR
and
p
ick up the phone
.
I scroll to my broker’s number.
“Hey, Bernie…Yeah, it’s a long way from
Nashville
, but I made it…Yeah, I heard. Buy all of it

I know you’ll take care of me
. You always do
. Bye.”

Deals worth millions of dollars don’t faze me. It’s just another day’s work. Sitting in front of this house that’s seen better days paralyzes me. After all this time, a stinging pain still lies deep in my heart. My anxiety level threatens to wipe out years of therapy. But I couldn’t get here fast enough, driving straight through the night after receiving Jeff’s call.

“How did you find me?” I’d asked.

“We do have satellite TV
down here. Anyway, I called to tell you that Daddy had a stroke. It looks real bad. They don’t expect him to make it. He asked for you. Mama
said that you should come home.”

“Oh, God! Well, I’ll have to rearrange a few things, but I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I hung up the phone, still reeling from hearing my brother’s voice after all these years
. The thought of my father lying helpless and calling for me brought tears to my eyes.

Headed eastbound on I-40, I called my assistant, my
producer
, and smooth-talked three major clients into rescheduling to visit a man I ha
rdly know
. I drove two hours to the state line, another hour through the
Blue Ridge Mountains
, and seven more hours to a dead town in the middle of nothing. Every hour, I asked myself
why I’m doing this
.
The answer rang back, lo
ud and clear.
They
want me,
t
he
y
finally want me
.

Now that I’m here, I can’t get out of the car. My mind races through dozens of possible scenarios that I may encounter inside.
Remembering
my
life in Serenity
makes me feel like I’m spiraling downward into
a bottomless pit
. I
tell
myself to get a grip and throw my latest Coach bag over my shoulder.

Two children playing in front of the glass door run inside as I approach the front door. A freckle-faced little boy yells, “Mom-ma! Some fancy lady is here.”

A heavy set woman
with a mound of
thick, dark hair steps around
the gaping
children. She reaches over them to open the front door. I haven’t seen my sister in over twenty years. Looking at her now, I wonder what happened to the young beauty queen I knew.

She swings the door open. “Annette? Is that really you?”

Her voice is sweet and recognizable underneath the years of added weight she carries.

“Hello, Beth.”

Beth wipes her hands on her red polyester pants and shoos the boys away. “Excuse my young’uns. Little Earl, you and Little Jeff go out back and play in the empty swimming pool.”

She motions to me. “Come on into the house.”

My sister’s careless dialect and the word, “howse,” remind me that I’m back in my hometown where everyone speaks the same language. Years of practice and expensive speech therapy have corrected my diction and inflection so that others can understand me.
I
remind
myself that
I
ha
ve invested too much
time and energy
to fall back now.

The children run through the foyer ahead of us. Family portraits cover the gold flocked wallpaper.
In one, Daddy
’s
athletic
shoulders hover over M
ama’s small frame
as she holds a strained smile.
Cloaked in
Carolina
blue and clenching a scroll to his chest, the corners of Adam’s lips turn up smugly. Jeff kneels on green turf, hugging a football. Curly, golden-brown locks frame his boyish face. Beth looks angelic, her face shadowed behind Mama’s rosette appliquéd wedding veil. Twelve-year-old, pimple-faced Annette stares straig
ht ahead a little bit cockeyed.

Beth holds an arm out and guides me past the formal living room that’s hardly ever been used. “Come on into the den. They’re all visiting Daddy in his room. Who would have thought that a strong man like Daddy would have a stroke? It just don’t seem possibl
e.”

She bustles around, fluffing flattened, needlepoint pillows before we sit on the velour wraparound couch. “I just know that Mama is dying to see you.”

My heart
jump
s with anticipation
.
M
y relationship with Mama has been a major part of my therapy and recovery.
My therapist said that I’m ready to see her.
I hope she’s right.


Is she, r
eally
?”

Beth hesitates, holding a pillow to her chest. “Well, it’s been such a long time since you were here. Sure, she’ll be happy to see you.”

I manage to nod and smile.

Beth examines my face closely. “My word! You have the whitest teeth I ever saw!”

Beth throws the pillow on a lumpy couch cushion and fidgets uncomfortably. “And that hair, well, you just look so different, is all. Why, Mama might not even recognize you.”

I nod
again bu
t
keep my mouth closed.

Beth calls down the hallway, “Mama! Annette is here!”

Mama peeks around the corner, cautiously. She’s smaller and grayer than the Mama I knew. Her skin looks wilted. Her blue eyes look rheumy and tired
. A wave
of compassion moistens my own eyes, so much like hers. I want to run and hug the woman who gave me life because she asked me to come.
My voice catches in my throat when I speak.

“Hello, Mama.”

Mama lifts her chin and gives me a long, hard look. She looks at Beth. “Annette? That’s not Annette.”

Beth wraps her arm around Mama’s shoulder. “Yes, ma’am. This is Annette. She’s just changed, is all.”

Mama points a crooked finger and turns back from
where
she came. “That woman is no child of mine.”

I follow her to the hallway entrance and call out, “Mama! I came to see Daddy. Jeff said
he asked for me.
I drove all night just to see him.”

Mama stands at the door of the bedroom that she and Daddy share. She looks back
at me with downturned lips. “I asked for Annette, not you, whoever you are. Now’s not a good time. Come back later.”

When she closes the bedroom door, her bitterness strikes me like a snake bite. Feeling hopeless, I whisper into the
air,
“Why did I come here?”

Beth touches my arm. “Oh, you know how stubborn she is. Don’t mind her. She’ll get over it.”

“Get over what?”

Beth jabs her fists into the front pockets of her calico smock. She rocks on her heels and talks to the gold shag carpet. “Well, we never hear from you, not even so much as a Christmas card. I guess she’s just a little hurt, is all.”

I rub the moisture from my burning eyes. “Look, I’m real tired. Why don’t I get my bags and lie down for a while?”

Beth looks relieved and follows two steps behind me. “That’s a fine idea. You’ve had a long drive.
I’ll help you with your things.”

I press the remote to open the trunk, grab the carry-on, and set the roll-about on the street.

Beth stands back and checks out the car. “My, this sure is a nice car. Is it yours?”

“Yeah,” I reply, closing the trunk. “I use it for business, mostly.”

Beth places the heel of her hand over her mouth to hold back a laugh. “It’s nicer than Adam’s
car,
and he’s
a lawyer.”

I smile at her. “Now, that’s the Beth I remember.”

Beth looks embarrassed and pulls the roll-about bag toward the front door.

“I can’t say much. I reckon I’ll be driving that old van ’til the cows come home. I guess we’ve all changed. I saw you on satellite TV over at Jeff’s place. He’s the one who recognized you on the
Nashville
station. I never would have known you on my own. Do you know how I figured out it was you? It was your hands. I said, “Jeff, those are Annette’s hands!”

I’m surprised and flattered that she watches my infomercials. “That’s funny. Well, you would know better than most. What do you do, Beth? I mean, do you work?”

“I play the piano and direct the choir at church
,” she says, with a smile that sinks into
the folds of her face.

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