Saturday, September 2, 2017

Serial Saturday: "The Suggestion Box, Vol. 4: A to Z Challenge" Letter M

The List:
-Mid-morning, minute, month
-Mesa, Minnesota, Malibu, Mangrove Row, Mimi's Cafe
-mile, makeup, mocha, matcha, muffin, manicure, meal, maverick, money

The Result:

"Musings in Mesa"

Meredith shifted her posture as the low murmur of the car engine coaxed her to wakefulness.

“Morning, sunshine!” Chirped a gentle voice from the driver’s seat.

Meredith peeked over at her traveling companion, Phoebe Russell. A merry twinkle glinted in the older woman’s eyes.
“Ugh!” Meredith moaned, “Are we there yet?”

“Not hardly! It's only mid-morning; you've been asleep since we crossed the border into Arizona a few hours ago, Mer,” Phoebe chuckled. “We still have six more to go till we reach L.A.”

“Six hours!”

“That puts us on Rodeo Drive in time for an early dinner, just as George prefers.”

“Murder me,” Meredith muttered, raising the seatback to try and coax herself to wakefulness. “Can we at least stop for some coffee and a muffin?”

Phoebe shrugged, switching lanes, and tapping on the navigation screen in the Chevrolet Malibu. Her extensive acrylic manicure made it difficult to interact with the digital display. “Hang on, we might be able to stop for breakfast if it’s not too much out of our way—“

Meredith waved her hand aside. “Here, you drive; let me be navigator.” She pulled up choices of the closest diners in Mesa, Arizona. “How about Mimi’s CafĂ©? It’s only a few miles off the freeway.”

Phoebe glanced at the screen, narrowly missing a lane-changing driver just ahead of her in the process. “Good enough for me!” she announced, and promptly changed lanes while flashing her blinker briefly at the same time.

Meredith’s hand flew to the handle of the door. They’d been on the road since the previous evening, and yet she couldn’t manage to overcome her nervousness at Phoebe’s haphazard driving style.

Minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot of Mimi’s and took an outdoor table. Meredith ordered a mocha, while Phoebe primly schooled the unprepared waitress on the minutiae of a perfectly-crafted matcha macchiato.
While they waited for their meals, the two women sipped their beverages in relaxed silence.
“So,” Phoebe mused, “are you excited to finally be back with your family?”

Meredith snorted and swiped a dollop of whipped cream off her coffee with her finger. She glanced narrowly at her friend and longtime mentor. “Oh yeah, I am just beside myself with jitters at the prospect of once again occupying close proximity to my father who is obsessed with his own image, and my sister who is intent on controlling absolutely everything and everyone around her.”

Phoebe sniffed. “Well, you don’t have to be so mean about it,” she chided. “I’m sure they’ll be excited to see you again. Besides,” She raised a narrow-penciled eyebrow, “I wasn’t aware that you were altogether enjoying your time back in Beaumont, either.”

Beaumont… Mangrove Row… the Estate with the Crofts… listening to Cassandra complain and fret about Lily, with the threat of Fred “stopping by” hanging over her head from Sofia’s sociable suggestions… “I’m just—what do you call it—in transition, I guess,” Meredith mumbled. She huffed and tapped the table with her fingertips. “I don’t know; just nowhere feels like home anymore.”

Phoebe smiled. “Nowhere except that miserable little flat in Houston, you mean?”

Meredith rolled her eyes. “Now you sound like my sister; it was plain, but it was cozy, and most of all—it was mine. Ever since I had to move back to the estate, well…” she shrugged. “You know how it’s been.”

Phoebe gave a warm chuckle. “Oh Meredith! Every day you sound more and more like your mother.”

Meredith blinked. “I do?”

Phoebe nodded. “Sarah could never quite fit into the same social circles the Elliots traveled in. She was a bit of a maverick, the outsider from Minnesota that no one could quite pin down.” Phoebe sighed, relishing the delight shining in the young woman’s eyes. “She wasn’t about to indulge in that movie-star life like everyone expected her to. George could be adamant about a lot of things, but the one person who managed to throw it back in his face every time was the woman he married. No one could figure out how they could stand each other, much less adore one another as much as they did.”

Meredith’s expression softened from the jaded sneer to a rampant curiosity. “Dad doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who likes to be ignored a whole lot.”

“Oh, trust me, it wasn’t easy for him.” Phoebe laughed lightly.

The waitress meandered over with their plates, and they paused to take a few bites before Phoebe continued. “Many’s the time poor George called me in an effort to make me convince Sarah that she shouldn’t do whatever she pleased. Of course, I had only recently married Tobey, myself, so I wasn’t quite the relationship maven I am now.” She paused to pluck a piece of lint off her sleeve. “As if anyone could make Sarah do something when she didn’t want to!”

Meredith felt the calm washing over her as she thought about her mom. No one else talked about the Elliot matron, and the lack of photo albums that weren’t family heritage records or collections of newspaper clippings from every time the family name made it into the headlines of the Beaumont Enterprise made hearing these stories from Phoebe that much more thrilling.

“Phoebe,” Meredith asked as she carefully quartered her chocolate-chip muffin with a fork, “what was the craziest thing mom ever did?”

Phoebe looked up from inspecting her makeup in the silver compact. “By whose standard?” she asked. “Mine or your father’s?”

Meredith grinned impishly. “Oh, do dad’s!”

Phoebe laughed. “Troublemaker,” she muttered. “Well, according to how long they argued, and how much he refused to let it go—it would have to be the day your mother went out and used a whole month’s allowance to buy herself a zippy little cherry-red truck.”

Meredith clapped a hand over her mouth and giggled. “A truck?” she gasped, just imagining the horror on her dad’s face at seeing the vehicle parked next to his luxury sedans in the carport. “What did she need a truck for?”

Phoebe shrugged, peeking over the check brought by the waitress and smoothly handing over her card. “She didn’t need it, and that was the whole point. She wanted it, and she put the money down to get it, and nothing could induce her to rescind her purchase.”

“Dad didn’t get mad at her because it was expensive at all, was it?”

“Oh, lord, no! It was the simplest, plainest thing you ever saw!” Phoebe wagged her head, glancing out the window as if she could see the grill of her dear friend’s truck pulling in, even then. “I think the thing that irked George the most was the fact that Sarah offset the cost of the truck by refusing to buy new clothes for two months.”

Meredith chuckled. “Yep, that would do it.”

The two women stood and Meredith even stretched her arms a bit.
“Ready to go?” Phoebe asked.
She nodded. “California, here we come!”

This scene is meant to be a part of "Merely Meredith: A Modern Persuasion", an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel "Persuasion." Follow the hyperlinked title above to read more excerpts from that project!

Also in the A-to-Z Challenge Series:
-Letter A       
-Letter B      
-Letter C     
-Letter D     
-Letter K
-Letter L