Harmony Norton had never led anything other than an average, ordinary life. She was born into an average, ordinary family, with average, ordinary parents. She lived in an average, ordinary town, and had average, ordinary friends with whom she played average, ordinary games. She was an average, ordinary child and grew to be an average, ordinary teenager. She was even average and ordinary when she fell in love and married Jared Norton, a seemingly average, ordinary person himself.
Little did she know that this average, ordinary pairing with Jared would be the spark that set her life ablaze, eventually torching her average, ordinary life beyond recognition so that for nearly three decades she lay trapped in the ruins of it and left behind, to be so alone, so miserable and seemingly abandoned by nearly everyone she loved.
No one saw it coming, least of all Harmony. She had been happy for a while in her unremarkable life, but had she had the foresight to ask anyone their honest, unfiltered opinion of Jared Norton prior to her marrying him, they most likely would have told her that he was a bit of a jerk and that it would have been better if she walked away from him. Of course, that would not have changed her own opinion of him, although it might have served as a warning bell.
It was a pity that Harmony was too much in love, because, as we all know, love is blind so she couldn’t see what was so obvious to others.
As it turned out, after a few years of an average, ordinary marriage and with the addition of two average, ordinary kids, Harmony saw a distinct change come over in her once beloved Jared. There was indifference, surliness, even cruelty, and then came spending all his free time with his barfly friends-- never paying attention to his wife and small children. Excessive drinking followed, and, the granddaddy of them all, blatant infidelity.
When confronted, Jared dismissed her concerns, saying he was just having fun, that she shouldn’t believe every bit of gossip she heard, and that she needed to get off his back or else. So she did. She tried her best to make the most of a bad situation, but her best was sorely lacking.
You see, the reason Jared became less than loving toward his wife was due to her sudden, erratic, wild and unpredictable mood swings which started shortly after giving birth to Violet. He assumed she was simply crazy jealous like all women tend to be. Okay, so he flirted with anything in a tight, little skirt, but it didn’t mean anything, nothing to get all crazed and loony about anyway. If he actually did anything even slightly wrong—sleeping around with anything within reach is slightly wrong, right?-- it was because Harmony was such a witch with a capital B.
Of course, it was a bit more than that…a vast deal more in fact, but, selfish as he was, Jared never cared enough to discover the real reason for his wife's bizarre behavior. Had he cared and had he tried to find out if there was anything he could do to help her—perhaps seeking professional help-- things might have gone differently…. but he didn’t.
Harmony tried to dismiss it all, and at first she succeeded…for a little while. Things got harder after the kids grew older, however, and with less and less help from Jared, it only got worse for her…and for the poor children. There were times when she would function perfectly fine, whole days would go by, but she would have no recollection of them. Her mind went completely blank. Gone was all recollection of what she did in that time, where she went and with whom she interacted. She could see she had made dinner, fed the kids, did the grocery shopping, hung clothes out on the line and cleaned the house, but she simply didn’t know how it happened. She didn’t remember any of it.
More frightening, if you can imagine, were the pouts of unaccountable joy and exhilaration where she knew she could do anything in the world and she would set off to do it, but a few hours or days later—after half the house was painted a shocking pink and the other half vivid green-- she’d inevitably find herself swiftly crashing into the jagged rocks of misery and despondency for no apparent reason.
Something was seriously wrong with Harmony.... and she was no longer average or ordinary.
At first she could control it--at least she told herself she could—but soon the kids didn’t know, couldn’t even guess, which mommy would be there when they awakened each morning. Would it be sunshine and rainbows Mommy all happy and carefree—letting them stay home from school so they could visit a museum, have a picnic in the park or just finger paint all over the kitchen counter? Or was it sit in the corner, rocking and staring off into space Mommy, not hearing anything, not speaking a single word for hours on end nor noticing she had people around her--not even her own children who grew hungry waiting for supper? Or would it be raging and screaming Mommy, where nothing you did was good enough and she’d threaten to beat you within an inch of your life if you so much as looked at her funny? They could never tell and by an early age little Violet and Freddy tip-toed around their mother and hoped to get themselves off to school without disturbing her.
Then one day, after too many days like this, of a mother they no longer recognized and too many nights of their parents hurling both tchotchkes and horrible words at each other, the children came home from school to discover their mother was gone.
For nearly thirty years Harmony was locked away in a mental institution and no one could figure out what was wrong with her. Granted, the doctors and nurses gave up on her after only a few years, but with one phone call to the top neurologist on the east coast, a risky surgical procedure and some time to recuperate her strength, Harmony was now free of her prison and supremely happy about it. She couldn’t stop smiling and she continued to hold Violet’s hand like a life line, not willing to release it, but lucky for her, her precious daughter didn’t seem to mind. In truth, Violet felt the same.
Harmony chatted and rambled on and on, because now she could speak. For far too long she couldn’t tell anyone what was going on in her active mind, couldn’t explain that she was trapped in her non-functioning, non-responsive body. What torture it had been to not have been able to speak all those years! Now she could talk to her loving daughter, her wonderful son, her adorable grandchildren and, well…everyone! She could NOT get enough of them all.
“Violet, how lovely that your mother can join us just in time for Christmas,” Marty said interrupting their conversation. “Now if you’ll only introduce us we might begin a beautiful friendship.”
“Oh, Marty, I am so happy to introduce you to my mother, Harmony,” Violet said, her eyes over bright with happy tears. “Mom, this is…”
“Martina Kramer, of course,” Harmony said smiling up at the older woman. “Yes, I was hoping to meet you. You’ve been such a good friend to my daughter. I’ve heard you found your first love and childhood sweetheart. How utterly romantic! It's so wonderful that you’re now married to Morris Kramer. So happy to hear he's not alone! How is that dear old man?”
Violet gaped. “How in the world do you know…”
“Well, dear Morris is sometimes and old he will be forever,” Marty said, sitting down next to Harmony. “He’s around somewhere. You'll see him in a bit. He's most likely giving an extravagant gift to one of my grandsons whom he is trying his best to usurp and he may succeed the way he's spending their inheritance.”
Harmony laughed. “He was always like that with us kids,” Harmony said. “Never did thank him for that puppy he gave me when I was about five. I was too excited, you see. Wonder if he’ll remember me.”
“Hmm, well, being he can’t recall what he did ten minutes ago yet he can tell you the exact score of the third inning of a Mets game back in the 1969, it’s anybody’s guess!” Marty said. “But anyway, food is ready. Shall we go in to eat?”
Harmony smiled. “I would like that, Marty,” she said. "I hear you are a marvelous cook."
"Well, you'll soon be the judge of that!" Marty said, standing and shooing the kids into the dining room.
"Well, you'll soon be the judge of that!" Marty said, standing and shooing the kids into the dining room.
“Yay! I’m hungry,” Jimmy said, zooming ahead of them all.
Violet stood and helped her mother to her feet.
Harmony slipped her arms around her daughter's waist and hugged her again. “I am so happy to be back among the living,” she whispered.
Violet smiled. “Me too, Mom,” she said. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, so very much,” Harmony said, sighing happily as they made their way to the noisy and crowded dining room .
Simon’s stomach had just growled something fierce as he thought of his grandmother’s Christmas Brunch-fest and how everyone must be stuffing their faces by now and here he was waiting for Cassandra, starving to death! He couldn’t help thinking it was in vain. Would she really be able to get away without anyone noticing? Highly unlikely, he thought, with so many people around.
Just as he looked at his watch for the tenth time shaking his head, he heard hurried footsteps and looked up. His jaw dropped. “Holy shit! What is she thinking?” he mumbled and he jumped out of his car.
He ran to Cassandra who was clearly out of breath from lugging behind her a huge suitcase with a large tote bag over her slumping shoulder and her over-stuffed pocketbook flung over the other one. As he grabbed the heavy tote, she turned into his arms, exhausted and on the verge of collapse.
“Cassandra, what is going on?” he said. “Why…?”
“Please, just hold me for a minute,” she said, burrowing into his chest, trying to catch her breath.
“All right,” he said, wrapping his arms around her, his curiosity taking a back seat to her needs. Not that he minded holding her this close, not one bit, but he wondered how long it would take until her family noticed she was gone and what would her Army ranger brother do to them when they were caught like this? He didn't want to think about it!
“Maybe we should go. It’s cold and we should leave before…” he said, as she pulled back from him and looked up. His heart wrenched. “You’ve been crying!”
“I must look awful,” she said, remembering too late she should have washed her face, put on some makeup and run a comb over her unruly curls.
“No, you don’t,” he said, and he meant it. “I just hate seeing you upset. Can you tell me what happened?”
She shrugged. “Only that my whole life is one big, fat lie,” she said, angrily. "Nothing...nothing I thought I knew is real."
“How so?” he asked, tossing her tote into the back seat, helping her inside and wondering if her suitcase would even fit in his trunk. He managed to stuff it in with a little struggle. He hopped into the driver seat and turned on the heat full blast for her.
“Everything I thought I knew about…about everything is completely wrong,” she said. “I’ve been lied to my entire life!”
“Okay,” Simon said, waiting for more. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Truthfully, no,” Cassandra said, resting her emotionally exhausted head on the extremely comfortable seat and closing her eyes, the warmth from the heated seats kicking in, making her toasty warm and suddenly feeling drowsy. “I’m just so…tired and…”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “When you’re ready you can tell me or maybe you’ll feel more comfortable talking with Sophie?”
Cassandra leaned up again and reached out a hand to him. “Simon, I’m so grateful to you…that you…” she said, tears welling in her eyes again.
“Hey, don’t do that,” he said, leaning over and dropping a tiny kiss on her lips. “Let’s forget everything for now, okay? It’s Christmas. We’re supposed to be happy, so… would you like to go to my dad’s house for a nice Christmas Brunch? It may help you forget your troubles for a little while. Everyone will be there, my brothers and sister, of course, my Grandmother and Grandfather, Freddy and his ever-expanding family and Violet and Sophie and her brother and his wife…plus the occasional guest that shows up unannounced but always welcomed.”
“Are you sure it would be okay for me to just show up uninvited?” she asked.
“Definitely okay,” Simon said with a grin. "Because you were invited, remember?"
“I don’t think I could eat,” she said, rubbing her tummy. “My stomach’s in knots and my head aches something fierce.”
“Then we’ll sit quietly and unwrap presents,” he said, putting the car in gear. “There are several under the Christmas tree with your name on them.”
Cassandra’s overwrought senses wouldn’t allow another word of descent. Forgetting was exactly what she wanted and needed. She closed her eyes, leaned back and let fate take her where it may.
©2017 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved