My latest story clip

WIPTo say Alex wasn’t bothered by the return of her husband’s old girlfriend would be a lie.  To the world she appeared mature and capable of dealing with this, even bordering supernatural reactions.  But inside…inside, Alex was a mess. The reason is not hard to understand once familiar with her culture.

The northern tip of Minnesota was inhabited by traditional folks.  They were all white, all Scandinavian, all religious and all stubborn.  While the rest of the country moved forward in what is called progress, these people still emulated much of what was taught by their first generation ancestors who originally emigrated to the free shores of the USA.  In other places, stretching from sea to shining sea, young people were in the phase of experimentation.  They slept around with several people–of all nationalities, religions and sexes–to discover what suited them best before finally settling on a “life-partner,” which really only lasted an average of 8 years of that “life.”  Not so up in the backwoods of Minnesota.  Oh, teens still slept around, as Kenny and Lyn proved.  Human nature took over even stubborn Baptists, Catholics and Lutherans.  But ethics and morality ran so deep that those who danced too soon kept that knowledge hidden, refusing to flaunt it, and over ½ of the population still went to the altar as virgins.  To them, there was no need to experiment and “try it out” on others; when they were ready, by George, they were ready and knew it. 

Alex was one of those virgins.  She had saved herself for the man of her dreams.  To find out, years later, that he hadn’t seen the need to do the same, crushed her.  And if that wasn’t enough, this news of her husband’s sex life was public.  This wasn’t some sin that the local priest heard via the confession booth!  The minister’s wife knew.  The old gossips in the ladies’ aid knew.  The WWII veterans in the horse shoe club knew.  The business owners, the school kids, even the Swan Man and the UPS deliverer knew.  Her husband hadn’t just got too far once with his high school girlfriend, when hormones were raging and inexperience in charge.  Lyn’s return had brought with her Kenny’s unknown kid.  And if that wasn’t enough, this didn’t simply thrust Alex in as a step-mom in a dysfunctional family.  The discovery of dear little Sarah was a two-fold blow in that it revealed that the child’s saintly mother had become a  prostitute.   

The long-ago sins of her husband had returned, not only to bite him but to strip away Alex’s world as she knew it.  There would not be a public building for 30 miles in which she was not the center of discussion.  The hair salon, the library, the school cafeteria, the church basement…every time people met, it was her they would be discussing and her they were impatiently watching.  Everyone wanted to see her reaction.  They expected her to blow up, they expect tears, they expected a divorce. 

But they didn’t understand: her turmoil was inside her.  It was there that she yelled and cried and cursed.  She knew what she was facing.  Alex Erickson was a smart girl–she knew exactly what she was up against.  But she was just as Scandinavian as they and would not wear her heart on her sleeve for her vicious neighbors to see and peck at!

The Lutheran pastor had paid a house call.  Why didn’t someone remind him that Alex wasn’t Lutheran?  He had wanted to pray with her and told her that she was welcome at his church.  Said that he knew how difficult and confusing this time must be for her (did he really?) but the church could offer the guidance she was seeking.   Alex had remained polite the entire half-hour he stayed, even serving him cookies and asking about his wife, who was a very ill lady.  By the time he left, Alex felt as if she’d been the one actually ministering.  But, it was like her dear grandmother’s adage:  nothing brings about Christian solicitors like a tragedy. 

“But it’s not a tragedy!” Alex thundered out loud, stacking the reverend’s used dishes in the sink.  “No one has died.  We’ve been given a child, a new life.  This should be a celebration.” 

And it was.  For Sarah, who was getting a father and a stable family for the first time in her life.  For Kenny, who was granted this gift of a daughter and now able to try his hand at fatherhood.  

The tragedy belonged to Alex alone.

(C)  Emily Grace 8/6/09

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