Confessions logo

Along Came Jane

A Vacation Brings People Together

By C C FarleyPublished 5 months ago Updated 4 months ago 13 min read
4
Along Came Jane
Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

The following is a work of fiction. Hope you enjoy this. Please comment, or engage. I read all my comments.

“Hurry up, dear. The ship is going to leave without you. Get your big butt going.” The mature, blond-haired woman's words were partly cut off by a murder of noisy crows squawking in an unrelenting symphony, perhaps to get away from an always ravenous vulture. Her name on the passport was Mabel Steinberg, but she preferred to be called Mrs. Steinberg, even though her husband had died 5 years earlier. She was the kind of woman who still looked good in her late sixties, in a sophisticated Sophia Loren kind of way. She dressed herself in the latest couture and today was no different. Mabel rolled her silver suitcase down the ramp and expertly onto the cabin deck, flicking her chiffon pink scarf over her neck, perfectly complementing her designer cotton white jacket and matching capri pants.

Wearing my favorite 4 year-old faded Levi jeans and department store sneakers, I winced in pain due to a hiking injury one week earlier.

“Coming Mabel. I can’t walk that fast anymore.” I said, limping a little.

“Oh, don’t be a big baby,” Mabel said.

The cabin steward, a small Filipino man, opened the door to our shared cabin and we were both welcomed in with a big smile.

“Welcome aboard the Grand Kingdom,” he announced, grabbing Mabel’s luggage.

“Thank you, dear.” Mabel walked around the room and frowned.

“Gosh, gee. Jane. I thought you would have found us a nicer room.” She surveyed the room that fit two single beds, as well as a TV screen.

To me, it was a mighty miracle that I was on board at all. Mabel invited me last minute because her friend had bowed out due to a mild heart attack. She had called up all her friends down the list until she found me, who happened to be available.

I was ecstatic to go but a bit uncomfortable even though it had been more than 30 years since the event happened.

Mabel stole my husband, or ex husband. She denied it and always said I had given him up anyways, and he was up for grabs. You never treated him right. Look at how you dress! No wonder he left you. You don’t make enough money. Good thing he found me. And so on and so on. Even my remonstrations that we were on a trial separation didn't do anything for me. Didn’t matter. Mabel and my ex John Roberts married in a $50,000 Bahamas wedding 30 years ago, and raised 3 kids. After a few sessions with my psychiatrist, I had long since forgiven Mabel for this transgression, and life went on. I even remarried a man more compatible to my interests. Over the years, I couldn’t see myself taking Mabel’s number off my speed dial. She was afterall a childhood friend and we had both gone to the same Catholic school and parish.

As we unpacked our clothing, I couldn’t help but steal a glance at myself in the cabin mirror.

My brown eyes were small and I had more wrinkles under my eyes and cheeks. I wore my hair naturally gray, and cut short -easy care, I told myself. My shoes were sensible and I often liked to wear comfortable t-shirts and knee-long shorts. I was ok with the way I looked, but Mabel?

“Jane, plain Jane. I hope you brought something fancy to the evening dinners? We are going dancing, too and if you look so ugly, who wants to dance with you?”

She tossed her pink designer dress to me from her own side of the closet. It was strapless, with 2 pieces of fine lace around the neckline. It also had a V line that was perfect for a woman with a C36 cleavage. I thought I was as flat as a cucumber and akin to the smooth highway of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

“Mabel, I can’t wear that.” I said, picking up the dress and pressing it against my thin frame.

She called me an ungrateful fuddy duddy before she slammed the bathroom door in my face and turned the shower nozzle on high.

I had my own reason for going on the trip, and it wasn’t to see the Pyramid of Cheops, or wander around the ancient tombs of long dead kings and queens.

My questions were part of my soul now, and waiting to be unleashed like a torrent of water. Confronting your friend is a wise decision and part of my healing process, Liz, the certified pranic healer told me after paying her $200 for a 30 minute session. Have a chat with your friend and ask her. Questions popped into my mind: Why did you steal my hubby? This is such a low down dirty thing that you could have ever done to me. Why him of all people? Why not Tyler Dennis, the town prosecutor whom you were dating for 2 years? If you were a true friend, this would never have happened. Why didn’t you invite me to your stupid wedding? I sent you $500 for the wedding present and why didn't you acknowledge this? So many questions to ask and I was ready for this. So ready.

*****

On the morning I left, my husband Al poured me a dark roast and added some cream.

“Enjoy your trip. Bring me back a sun hat if you have a chance.”

“Sure. I will. Anything else?”I said, remembering all of Al’s 6 almost new summer hats hanging on the coat rack in the main bedroom.

“Don’t let chatty Mabel get her way all the time,” he added, pecking my left cheek with a kiss.

“She doesn’t.” I said, turning a page on the travel book.

“The trouble with you is that you don’t speak your mind,”Al said, before grabbing his coffee mug and heading out the door.

****

The opportune time came as the Grand Kingdom with 1000 passengers headed out into the open seas, enroute to Cairo. It would be a good opportunity because there were not many things to do, and Mabel and I could do some women talk, or so I thought.

On Day 2 of the trip, Mabel complained of a fever and a sore throat.

“Run out and get the ship doctor,” Mabel said, “Get me some honey and lemon juice as well.”

I mentioned room service, but she scoffed at that saying I’d be much faster than any room steward.

“Get off your fat butt and hurry,” she said, mopping her head with a scarf.

As I dialed the phone for a doctor, I also made a mental note to run to the gift shop and buy some medicine. I quickly purchased the tylenol and cold medicine, but by the time I had returned, Mabel threw a glass of water at me.

“Stupid old woman! I am dying and you took 10 minutes. Why did I take this stupid woman with me?” I looked down in embarrassment, and raised my face up just as I caught the male doctor smiling. He checked the thermometer and patted Mabel on the shoulder gently.

“You’ll be alright. Just take some rest.” When he closed the door behind him, Mabel lifted her head, and said to me, “Why didn’t you get the flu? You are such a lazy, ugly bugger and I am the one that gets ill.”

I slowly eased myself into a chair, feeling my head throbbing with pain, silently mouthing the words, “Shut up, bitch.”

*****

It took two days before Mabel felt better enough to open the curtains in the cabin. I didn’t do too much because she insisted that I wait upon her hand and feet until she got better. I fetched her meals from the lunch buffet, carefully picking out bits of bacon from the caesar salad, and even took her list of preferred souvenir items to buy at the gift shop. I will pay you back later, she insisted, as I doled out my credit card to pay for silver jewelry and rings for her nieces and nephews. On the 49th hour, Mabel sat up, wide-awake, and asked me to read out the itinerary on the next port of call.

“7 am. We arrive in port. Choose your method of transportation to get to the Karnak temple complex to explore a vast network of ancient temples, chapels and other buildings near Luxor, Egypt,” I said, handing her the itinerary.

“Read it, stupid. I don’t have my glasses now,” Mabel said, looking at her fingernails, painted a gleaming red.

She took out a hand mirror and began stroking the tips of her lashes with the mascara brush, adding, “I am so sorry I was a terrible pain. I really didn’t mean all those dastardly things I said about you. It was because I was sick and didn’t think. You don’t hurt much anyways, do you, Jane? You have thicker skin.”

“Yes, I don’t, Mabel,” I said, picking up her eye glasses that had fallen on the floor.

That got her going on a tangent. As she took a brush to her hair, she let me have it. Her words came out at me as fast as it took for her to open her mouth: Of course I have thick skin. I married Al, didn’t I? You needed to exercise anyway when I asked you to fetch a few things. No harm taken, or given, right? Who would have thought Al is still alive while my doctor husband passed away so soon without buying enough life insurance. It should have been the other way around, right? Just girl talk, don’t take it badly, Jane. I am, after all, still grieving. You have no idea how much the dastardly government took so much taxes after hubby passed on? Do you think I look good enough to get another husband? Do you think I should wear the yellow Gucci dress with the matching cape tonight for dinner?

She smiled at me while she talked because I nodded silently to everything she said, taking notes in my journal of the holiday we had so far. The Karnak temple should be an amazing place and I aimed to wear sturdy shoes.

********

“Hike, what are you saying? I am not wearing hiking shoes? What if I meet Mister Right?” Mabel said this to me as I handed her my well worn gore-tex hiking boots– after all we had the same sized feet.

“Come on, Mabel, It’s only for a few hours. There are lots to see, and I don’t want you to sprain yourself like me.” Mabel insisted on wearing something more showy and selected a pair of open-toe canvas blue and white wedge sandals.

“Honey, I will compromise. You keep those ugly things in the backpack in case I need it.” I agreed and selected my Reeboks for the excursion. As we closed the cabin door, I admired the blood red streak of the desert skyline. The cruise ship rocked gently, secured tightly on the dock.

**********

The disembarkation process was long as Mabel kept insisting we stop every 20 steps to take pictures of her in front of various pyramids from different angles. When we finally arrived at the gangplank, most of the other tourists had left and headed on large and small tour buses. Mabel opted for a personal experience, so we agreed to hire a local driver, Amal, to take us to see the sights. We drove down a few dusty roads, and arrived at the temple entrance an hour later.

The site was more than I imagined it would be. The pillars were as high as heaven and I marveled at the inscriptions on the ancient tablets. As the two of us walked down the path , Mabel was full of energy and back to her chatty old self.

How did I look this morning? Do you think there are any single doctors or other rich tourists on the ship? Why don’t you ask the steward to see if I can meet the captain? Do you think he’s single? I would have been a perfect Egyptian Queen wouldn’t I?”

“Sure, Mabel. You look wonderful.”

“Compared to you, of course. But what about other people?”

I noticed that we were getting further and further away from the entrance. When we arrived, the sun pelted down hard on the pillars, and all the ancient columns were shining brightly. It had been several hours since we walked, and my ankles were hurting. Each step we took, the pillars were looking grayer because the sun was dipping. I couldn’t help feeling my heart beating hard within my t-shirt.

“We should head back. Mabel. I don't think we should be here. See the yellow rope is over there.”

“Don’t be a fuddy duddy, Janey.” Mabel said. I could no longer see her but could only hear her footsteps. Her voice sounded distant, too, until suddenly I heard a scream.. It was the loudest, most plaintive sound that I had ever heard in my 69 years.

“Help me, dear. I am down here. Please. I am stuck!” I ran to where I could hear her voice and after 30 more steps, I found her sandals strewn on the ground –the straps broken. I looked down into a narrow crevice about 15 feet down and saw her looking up at me. Her Chanel hat had fallen off her blonde hair and her mascara stained her face.

“Stupid! I am down here.Get help, please.”

“Mabel, are you alright?"

“Of course, not! Find help, you stupid ox.”

I looked around me, and in the midday sun, now a shimmering cobalt red, I couldn’t see a single soul. Everyone had gone to the other section, the ones bordered by the yellow tape. This area we were in was under archaeological excavation.

I ran towards the entrance looking for Amal in his dusty brown Chevrolet 4-door. We had walked long that day, and perhaps he was in the southwest corner of the main entrance pillars. Actually, all the pillars looked the same. It was hard to make out where I was anymore. As I walked and headed towards the slowly disappearing sun, I could no longer make out Mabel’s voice. A pair of anorexic- looking gray vultures silently flapped above me, while a blast of wind and sand caused me to stumble a little. My backpack slapped hard against my back due to the increased wind. My stomach growled, prompting me to yell out that I wanted a table for one. And yes, I wanted my tenderloin broiled medium -rare, not well done. Oh, and I would like a carafe of Italian red cabernet.

The sand and dust stung my eyes, my hands trembled, and my body felt heavy when I realized that I wasn't in the ship's dining room. From the distance, I could see several dark clouds of gathering dust and sand stretching out over the landscape. I felt a wall of dust close in on me and I thought I heard a cry.

I wondered how long Mabel would wait for me.

We never did have that heart-to-heart.

Engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

Friendship
4

About the Creator

C C Farley

I loved reading at an early age. Writing is also a passion and I love writing, reading, and spending time with my pets.

I also love photography, independent film making, travel and writing.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Add your insights

Comments (2)

Sign in to comment
  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred5 months ago

    Excellent story and a great challenge entry

  • ThePenArtiste5 months ago

    This is good

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.