• Lisa Alex Gray

The Serendipitous Life of Ruby Slippers (Chapter Four - Romantic Comedy Novel)

It’s Sunday evening which means roast chicken, canned corn, rolls, and salad for dinner. The same meal I’ve had every Sunday since I was a child. The only difference is now I make the dinner instead of my mother. Well, and for the first time, we’re eating something out of my garden.

I started the garden as part of a Mother’s Day present. My mother occasionally talked about her family having a garden when she was little and I thought it might bring back nice memories.

So, I got up early on Mother’s Day and worked for hours creating a small garden in the backyard. I was so excited to present it to her — unfortunately, it didn’t go over very well. When she saw the garden she said, “We look like some poverty-stricken immigrants who can’t afford to buy tomatoes”.

I ended up planting a wall of shrubs along the southern end of the garden to hide it from the neighborhood and my mother’s scrutiny. I guess I should have just replaced the grass and been done with it, but it felt so good creating the garden, I couldn’t bear to destroy it. Besides, my mother never went in the backyard, so she eventually forgot about it.

But, now I have green beans to show for my efforts. Maybe 10 are a bit short of a harvest, but it’s something, and I can’t help but imagine my mother being impressed.

I think about her reaction as I excitedly run the can opener along the edge of a can of corn. Maybe she’ll be so happy she’ll want me to grow corn next.

Suddenly my right knuckle catches the lid of the can creating a cut. I pause to examine the damage and see my knuckle bleeding, so I set the can down and head to the pantry for a band-aid.

The phone in the kitchen starts ringing causing me to abandon my search and head back to answer it. “The phone’s ringing Ruby! Hurry, they’re going to hang up.” my mother screams from the living room. I grab the receiver just as her words finish and utter a hurried hello.

“Hello, “ a male voice responds. “Yes, how can I help you?” I say briskly quite certain I’m talking to a telemarketer. The caller clears his throat then says, “May I. Yes, is Ms. Ruby Slippers home?”

Wow, they’re asking for me for once. “This is Ruby Slippers,” I say now curious. The caller clears his throat again. “Yes, this is Stanley Foster, my mother gave me your number. She said you would be expecting my call to set up lunch…the caller stammers…I mean to go to lunch”.

“What?” I respond slightly disoriented. Did he say go to lunch? My heartbeat begins to quicken. Okay, this is a wrong number. I thinking about hanging up. But he said my name?

“I’m sorry, who are you?” I hear breathing on the other end of the line, then, “Yes, my mother is friends with your mother and she told me to call your lunch…he clears his throat…I mean to ask you to go to lunch.”

I can hear a woman’s voice in the background yelling, “Tell her we met at the Yarn Barn”.

“The Yarn Barn? I didn’t meet anybody at the Yarn Barn?”, I whisper to myself then look up and see my mother heading my way, with an angry look on her face. “Ruby you’re going to ruin everything.” She snaps at me under her breath, “What are you doing? Just say yes and hang up”.

I stare back at her dumbfounded. She glares, then grabs the phone from me and puts it to her ear. “Hello Stanley, this is Ruby’s mother, Mrs. Slippers. How are you today?…pause…Well, that’s nice. Listen, Ruby had to step away from the phone for a minute. She’s in the middle of cooking dinner. She’s a wonderful cook”…another pause…Tell your mother I said hi and I look forward to our lunch on Wednesday. Oh, Here’s Ruby.”

My mother puts her hand over the receiver then whispers, “Now take the phone, say yes and hang up before you screw this up anymore.” then she shoves the phone in my hand.

I raise the receiver to my ear, hand shaking. “Hello?” I whisper barely audible. “Hello, Ruby? The male voice responds, then weakly adds, “So, would you like to go to lunch this

Saturday?” I glance at my mother who now has steam coming out of her ears. “Yes,” I utter nervously. “Oh, okay, so I’ll meet you at the Bread Basket at noon” He responds sounding a bit surprised. “Goodbye then” he replies and quickly hangs up. “Bye,” I say to the dial tone. Then hang up the receiver.

“What on god’s green earth was that?” My mother says furious, “You almost blew it”! I stare back at her unable to speak. “‘Do you know what Florence and I had to go through to bring this about? Honestly, do you even want to have something good happen in your life?”

Then my mother’s voice suddenly lightens and she smiles, “So, when is he taking you out?” Her words shake me from my fog, ”Taking me out?” “Yes, Ruby, when are you going out with him?” My mother snaps back. “I, uh, The Bread Basket. I’m meeting him there this Saturday for lunch,” I say in disbelief.

“The Bread Basket? Well, I guess that’s okay for a start” she replies, then smiles and turns heading back to the living room humming a song under her breath.

I wander from the kitchen, head-spinning slightly, moving in the direction of the staircase, then grab the banister and slowly make my way upstairs, knees wobbling the whole way. As I reach the landing I hear my mother’s voice shout from below, “Ruby, what about dinner? I’m getting hungry. I haven’t eaten since lunch you know.”

“I’ll be right back”, I respond as I make my way to the bathroom and slowly shut the door. Then I lean my hands on the bathroom counter and stare at myself in the mirror. What just happened? My hands are shaking so bad I clasp them together in front of me to try and stop the shaking. Looking down at them I notice the small cut on my right knuckle no longer bleeding. I reach for the faucet and turn it on then fill my hands with water and splash my face.

Then I sit down on the toilet seat and attempt to replay the phone conversation in my head, but I can’t remember anything other than — the Bread Basket, this Saturday at noon. The thought causes my heartbeat to speed up and my breathing to quicken until I start to feel light-headed again.

I’ve got to get out of this. I don’t know what to do on a lunch with a strange man. Scenes from various romance movies wiz through my mind… Lizzy Bennet talking to Mr. Darcy about playing the piano poorly…them dancing and talking about the number of partners. Okay, this isn’t helping. The Bread Basket doesn’t have a dance floor and I don’t play the piano.

My mother’s voice rises up the stairs causing me to jump, “Ruby, I’m starving, where’s my dinner?”

Maybe I can get some ideas by watching a bunch of romance movies on DVD before Saturday. And I can talk to Evvey. She’ll know what to do. This thought creates a flicker of calm causing my breathing to slow, so I attempt to stand up, knowing I have about 30 seconds before another demand rises up the stairs.

As I head out of the bathroom and toward the staircase, an unexpected thought begins to form in my mind. Reaching the landing, I move past my mother in the living room and hear her mumble something as I pass, but I don’t take it in. I’m transfixed by this expanding thought.

I make my way into the kitchen and over to the can of corn and begin cranking the lid with the can opener, picking up where I left off a short while ago, as though nothing has changed.

But, something has changed, something big — and the thought of it causes a small smile to appear on my face and a warm tingling sensation to spread from my head down to my toes.

Click here to go to Chapter Five