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Week 2:

Writing Prompt #2 - write a short story revolving around one fall family tradition.

Mari slammed the door and starting tearing at her thick gloves. "I cannot believe those people! They cut in front of me twice - for the cider and in line to pay. It's like they didn't have any manners at all."

"Watch the 'tude, kid," replied Great Aunt Lois as she waddled into the kitchen. "Aren't you gonna bring those cider crates in? Can't make hot wassail without cider."

Mari nodded toward the door. "They're in the car. The boy's will bring them in once they finish raking."

"Good." Great Aunt Lois picked up a basket full of apples and plopped it down on the kitchen table. "Now, these apples ain't gonna peel themselves." And she clapped her hands. "Let's hop to it, shall we?"

Sighing, Mari took off her coat and scarf and hung them on her personalized rack in the mudroom wall. She paused long enough to dust off the chipped paint that spelled out her name - Marigold - along the side of her hook. Then her gaze drifted to the hook next to it, the one with the equally faded paint spelling the name Bryony. Mari huffed and marched into the kitchen.

As she sank into the hand-made seat with its flower printed cushion, Mari let out a long sigh.

Aunt Lois was busy rolling out the five pie crusts. But once glance at Mari's sour face and she turned to put a hand on her hip and stare down her great-niece.

Mari stayed silent, looking at the floor. Aunt Lois kept staring. Mari picked up the paring knife and an apple. Aunt Lois was still staring.

"I don't know why we bother making our own pies anyway. They're, like, five bucks at the store."

Aunt Lois nodded and slowly turned back to the crusts.

Mari lowered her head and mumbled, "Or better yet, they could bring their own. Come all the way out here to sleep for one night, eat all our food and make us do all the work."

"Aha!" Aunt Lois spun back around and pointed a wrinkled, floury finger at Mari. "I knew it. Sour faces all week long - picking the apples, you wouldn't smile, not for making the tablecloth, not for putting up the tree." She pointed into the dining room where a perfect plastic evergreen sat on top of the upright piano wrapped in white lights and fall leaves. "You remember the day you two girls dragged me to the store and made me put my good money down on that big piece of plastic fire hazard? Wanted to have a "fall tree", you said. Made a big deal about it, too. And now you're so upset you can't even enjoy it."

"Why shouldn't I be upset?" shouted Mari. "She's the one who's making us do all this crap anyway. She gets to demand the traditions and I'm the one getting carpal tunnel from these stupid apples." Mari threw the apple and the knife back into the basket and slouched down into her chair with folded arms.

Silence filled the little kitchen as Mari toyed with a broken strand of basket. Her mood was shifting fast, and she didn't like it. At least angry she felt like she could still storm out of a room. But sad...there wasn't much she could do about sad.

Aunt Lois sat down beside Mari and sighed. She reached over and put a withering hand on Mari's smooth one. Somehow they were softer than anyone else's. Mari could feel what was left of her anger melting away at the cool, comforting touch.

"Bry never meant to abandon you, you know," Aunt Lois said. Her voice was suddenly soft. It rarely got that soft. Mari could feel the tears coming. She sniffed in and bit her lip. "Just like my older sister, your great aunt Esther, didn't mean to abandon me."

Mari looked up, her brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"

"We were close, too, and even closer in age - only 16 months apart, actually. We went everywhere together, did everything together, fell to pieces over the same singers." Aunt Lois chuckled, her eyes lighting up as the wrinkles about her eyes and cheeks deepened. "I'll never forget the time we clawed at each other just to catch a glimpse of Elvis Presley when Papa took us to Hollywood one year. Back when we were living in California. And it wasn't even a star at all. Just some mailman."

She shook her head and continued. "I was just about your age when Esther's first fella came to call. Course, back then people tended to marry a little earlier. As soon as he came, I knew something was different. She started finding other friends besides me, started going out with different boyfriends. Had her first steady. He turned into her husband. She up and left home at seventeen with him. They were married fifty-two years, her and Guy.

"Point is, when I wasn't the center of her universe anymore, I got mad. Then I got envious when she started getting boyfriends. Then when she finally got married, I thought she had up and left me for some man and I just couldn't forgive her. It was like she never even looked back to tell me she was sorry for leaving or that she had enjoyed the years we had spent together being best friends."

Mari swallowed hard. Could her great aunt read minds?

Aunt Lois tapped on her hand. "And I missed out on a lot of fun and joy and love in my family and my friends for three years moping over losing her. I never stopped to think maybe I was being unfair to Esther. Never stopped to ask myself what I would have done if the man of my dreams had come waltzing into my life and asked me to marry him. Of course I would have said yes. Any sane girl would. At least Bry had the sense to date her beau six months before saying yes, give the family a little warning."

That was true. At least she hadn't just up and left.

"And now you have a choice - the same choice I had and chose wrong. You can spend the rest of your teenage years moping and fussing and looking sour at everyone and making everybody else and yourself miserable. OR, you can choose to understand your sister's point of view, forgive her for accidentally hurting your feelings, and help me make these pies that have been our family's All Hallow's Eve tradition since before your mother was born." She snorted and stood to her feet. "Store bought pies, indeed. As if those apples are anything to Great Grandpa Willis's." With that, the old woman went back to her pie crusts.

Mari sat for a long moment, contemplating her great aunt's words. Maybe she should take a minute to ask that question. What would she have done? I would have at least asked Bry first, she thought. But I'm younger. And she's older. And she did ask Mom and Dad a lot. Sighing again, Mari picked up the apple and knife and began peeling. Aunt Lois had moved on and found someone special of her own, and now was happy as peaches. Maybe Mari just needed to be patient. Maybe some day she'd understand.

But next time, Bry is the one staying home making the pies and I'm the one traveling the world with my guy. Mari smiled. Maybe it was going to be a good All Hallow's Eve party after all.

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