Tomorrow, I’ll Claim the Good Life
Tomorrow, I’ll Claim the Good Life
This contemporary, mainstream women’s fiction follows the exploits of Heather, a journalism student having just completed her junior year. She begins summer break living with her brash new boyfriend, while taking on a writing assignment at an exclusive yet mysterious retirement community. The unexplained disappearance of one of the elders and a strange morning ritual piques Heather’s curiosity. This summer of first love and insightful interviews teaches Heather what it takes to claim the good life.
“And now to the reason I decided to do this project,” Cecelia began. “We all have gone through an experience together that we’re having trouble dealing with because of such painful recall and overwhelming feelings. And I wanted to do something to help us get beyond this agony.
“We need to accept Leslie leaving us. And I believe we need to present a short message to Leslie telling her what she meant to each one of us. Put in writing what you’d say to her if she were standing in front of you right now. And add one of her delightful capers.”
“Oh no,” a lady cried out. “I don’t think I can do that.”
Looking around, Heather noticed a change in the demeanor of the retirees sitting at the table. Most had tears in their eyes. One of the men had a handkerchief, wiping his nose. Such sadness was displayed; this scene depicted pure wretchedness in all of these seniors. What could have caused such a debilitating reaction? Who was Leslie?
Other Books by Louise Wright
The Boarders at Hawk’s Nest
In a small Virginia town following World War II, a young girl learns some hard life lessons and rules to live by from her mother and the boarders taken in at Hawk’s Nest.
The Other Side of Tragedy
Have you ever wondered how people survive real tragedies—the death of a child, the guilt from a suicide, cancer, losing one’s home in a natural disaster? This mother describes the help that comes through from the other side when one becomes overwhelmed by tragic circumstances.
This Can’t Be Happening
Bizarre things start occurring in twenty-three-year-old Kimberly’s life after receiving a cloud device that becomes her confidant and adviser. BRAINS/WIT, with activate words MR. SMART, helps out with her boyfriend problems, work-related difficulties, Mom worries, and even everyday household issues. But is this entity going too far when it begins sending text messages and emails on her behalf?
Teach me how to trust
my heart, my mind, my
intuition, my inner knowing,
the senses of my body,
the blessings of my spirit.
Teach me to trust these
things so that I may
enter my sacred space and
love beyond my fear
and thus walk in balance
with the passing of each glorious sun.
Heather, Journalism Student
Heather wrestled with her thoughts: there was no justifiable reason for one individual to intentionally hurt another, other than during war or while trying to stop a criminal. A person doesn’t need to retaliate every perceived offense. And one doesn’t have the right to say mean things to someone just because he’s having a bad day, thereby passing on his bad vibes to that person. This was what she wished she had expressed to Ben this morning after he told her, “You’re so naïve your brain must consist of tiny bubbles dancing the Macarena. Not everyone has Mommy and Daddy paying their bills, you know. Can you even perceive how some of us have to make our own way without help?” Heather knew the lightweight turtleneck did not completely conceal the hickey on her neck, and now the applied makeup was being rubbed off by her head movements against the light blue material. It was as if she didn’t have enough to worry about today. In her experience, being summoned to the head of the journalism department’s office was never a good thing. This was the last day of her junior year, and she knew she had not impressed her professors with her writing skills. This career had been her dream ever since she saw the movie Superman for the first time and pictured herself as reporter Lois Lane. She noticed the door was open as she approached his office. Dr. Lamb was nice enough, but he kept pushing her to put more substance into her copy. He had recently said she was good at covering the six inquisitions, but there was more to writing articles than answering those who, what, why, where, when, and how questions. Dr. Lamb looked up as she stood in the doorway. This professor always appeared the gentleman—the way he dressed in pressed, white, open-collar, long-sleeved shirts, his neat haircut, his soft voice, his friendly dark eyes, and yet his distant manner. “Come in Heather and have a seat.” He waited for her to comply. “I have a job proposal to offer this summer. This exclusive retirement community wants a journalism student to write up summaries of each of their colleagues in Residence One. Would you be interested?” “Yes, I planned to look for work this summer. This sounds a lot better than waiting on tables.” “And interacting with older people?” Dr. Lamb’s raised eyebrows insinuated this was a question. “I had a grandmother I adored,” Heather replied, “and she had her peculiarities.” “For example,” he queried. “Repeating her favorite life stories, forgetting why she had called me to come over, trying to give me her expensive possessions, restating her dislike for my father and how he didn’t deserve my mother. Need I continue?” “No, I’ve got the picture.” Dr. Lamb smiled, before adding, “But you cherished her, right?” “Yes! She listened to me. And she cared about what was important to me. I miss not having her around as a sounding board these days.” “You’ve convinced me you qualify for this assignment. You’ll deal with Cecelia Hamilton. She’ll explain the project and set up your interview times with the residents.” Dr. Lamb held up a piece of paper. “So, you think this might help with the lack of depth in my news stories?” She couldn’t believe she actually said this to the head of her department. Dr. Lamb grinned as he returned, “Youth, my dear, is your only shortcoming. You have a good command of the language, but you haven’t experienced enough of the downsides of life to give your writings substance.” “I’m not sure I want to actually be personally involved with some of the things we write up on assignment. But I do thank you for considering me for this summer job.” “There’s one drawback. The payment is three thousand dollars when the assignment is completed; I assume it’s their way of making sure you stay around to finish it. Our school print shop will be doing the final booklet.” “Wow! Didn’t expect that much,” Heather responded with a raised voice. “My mom is giving me just enough to cover my expenses this summer, so I guess I can handle things until I’m done.” “Good. I’m looking forward to reading these senior synopses.” As she left the chairman’s office, she scrutinized the sheet of paper. It read: The Crossings Haven 3335 Timberlake Lane Cecelia Hamilton 804-121-4041 She recalled seeing a sign on a side roadway leading back into a retirement community not far from the University of Richmond. Heather was grateful for the summer job. Her mother had offered to give her two hundred dollars per week for groceries and necessities while she stayed over in Richmond, but expected her to pick up a job for any extra spending money or entertainment. A lot of local businesses hired college students during summer break.
She had to be out of the dorm by the end of this warm May afternoon of 2019. Her dad had rented an apartment for her during this recess in a large complex about two miles from the campus. Her boyfriend, Ben, had promised to help her put the heavier boxes in her car to transport to the furnished apartment.
When she returned to her dorm room, she said goodbyes to several friends as they were leaving to return to their hometowns. Usually she went home to Williamsburg during breaks, but this summer she wanted to stay in Richmond to be with her new steady. She was surprised when her parents willingly agreed to help out with her request. She wondered what this vacation period held for her—living in an apartment, getting to know her handsome beau, and now a writing project at a retirement community. After two long semesters of studying and writing assignments, life was finally getting exciting. Heather’s favorite dorm buddy, Sandy, stuck her head in the doorway. Sandy was the fun one, the “let your hair down and forget about the way you look” friend, the “life was good if you stay away from all serious thoughts” girl. Sandy looked like a movie star with large brown eyes, shoulder-length wavy brown hair, a perfect complexion, and a pouty mouth. Although their classmates remarked they looked like twins, in Heather’s opinion, Sandy was the better-looking one. Plus Sandy had the slim figure, while she was constantly battling the extra pounds. They hadn’t seen much of each other lately—actually, not at all since Sandy had referred to Ben as “that frat boy idiot.” Heather questioned, “So, you heading back to Charlottesville?” “All packed and ready to hit the road. You have my number if you need me for anything, Heather.” “Maybe when we return in August, you’ll take another look at Ben. He really is a great guy.” “We’ll see then. I’ve missed your laughter.” “And I miss your silly jokes that bring on the laughs.” They gave each other a lingering hug. Heather was reminded of the closeness they had shared since freshman year. A rift of melancholy touched her as she watched Sandy trot down the hallway. Ben was Heather’s incurable attraction. Her friends didn’t approve because he acted rough and controlling. Yet, she wanted to be with him forever. He made her feel so alive, sexy, and even breathless at times. He was THE Superman to her Lois Lane, Sir Lancelot to her Guinevere, and Romeo to her Juliet—all rolled up into one magnificent lover. She had spent her academic years yearning for something beyond the limited parameters of her life, wondering what she was missing. Her sexual knowledge came from high school pajama parties where a few girlfriends would inform the rest by whispering their lovemaking experiences. She hadn’t been able to go beyond this invisible line she had drawn, her closest encounters never venturing beyond heavy petting, leaving both parties frustrated. Ben’s expertise let her finally express the chaos of emotions she was feeling—awakening the intense pleasure and satisfaction of that moment, the euphoria of sex. She felt like she was now able to not just venture out on the diving board, but actually make the dives into the water. Heather’s dorm bed held ten packed and taped boxes. She had one more container to finish, packing up the makeup and grooming essentials she had used this morning. She was taking less than half of the contents in her closet—just the summer tops and pants left on hangers to put on the car clothes rod across the back seat. Her computer was disconnected and ready to be relocated to another desk. Hearing a strange rolling sound in the hallway, she looked out the doorway. Ben was moving toward her room pushing a tall metal dolly. He pointed a finger at her and donned a smirk. She stared at his awesome face—sun-kissed skin with deep aqua blue eyes and a head of thick, longer-than-acceptable blonde hair. His looks alone caused her to crave his attention. All she wanted was to be as fascinating to him as he was to her. “This should make our move easier,” Ben stated as he stopped in front of her. “It’s just what we need.” “One of the guys at the frat house lent it to me. I’ve already packed my car.” “What! You’re moving in with me?” This was news to her. She had last heard he planned to stay over in the fraternity house while taking two summer classes. “Yeah. I decided I also need a vacation. Why should you have all the fun?” “Cool. This should make summer break even more interesting!” She had never lived with a man before, other than her father, of course. Ben had slept over a few times in her dorm room, but early the next morning he was gone. She wondered how she would fare with this sudden change in living arrangements. Ben had a way of surprising her. Using the hand dolly, it took only three trips before she could lock up her dorm room and get on the road. She followed Ben’s old Fiesta in her Camry as he merged with the light traffic on River Road. She had received the key to this apartment in the mail yesterday—just in time to vacate the dorm. This was so like her father. He barely made any deadline involving her, since he was always busy with other things. Then, he had the audacity to blame all unfinished business on her mother. They pulled into a large parking area facing three two-story buildings. She didn’t know if her apartment number three in building two was upstairs or down on the first floor. She saw an enclosed stairwell on both sides of each building. It looked as if each structure contained four apartments. Getting out of their cars, Heather walked over, looking for a front entrance to enter building two. The front doors on the ground level had numbers one and two on them. This meant her apartment was on the second level and the only way up was a steep walkway. “Guess good old Dad couldn’t afford a downstairs flat,” Ben stated with a sneer. “Dollies don’t climb stairs well.” “I doubt Father knew what level the apartment was on. He probably used an agency to get any furnished rental in a good section of town and available for just the summer.” “So, let’s call Dad and get him to drive up from Williamsburg and help us take boxes up this curved staircase.” “Let’s go up and see,” Heather suggested, as she marched toward the stairwell with a number three at the top. “At least take something up with you,” Ben demanded. “I don’t want to spend the next hour lugging cartons up.” Heather didn’t care to walk back to her car. She hurried over and began sprinting up the stairs. She wanted to see what her living quarters were going to be like for the next three months. “You’re one spoiled brat,” Ben complained, as he followed. “Guess you’re going to expect me to do all the work around here.” The door opened into a long entrance hall with closets lining the left side and a sizable entryway into the kitchen on the right. It led into a large living area with windows facing the front of the building and double sliding glass doors on the back wall leading out onto a small balcony. The furnishings were mixed—a plain modern table with six straight-backed chairs next to the kitchen area, a navy leather couch with club chairs in a geometric pattern all centered in the middle of the room, and the far side wall displayed a dark walnut entertainment center with a large-screen TV in the middle section and empty book shelves on each side. As she walked in, she spotted a desk with computer hookups in the left corner. The entire room was carpeted in a rough hemp material. “Not bad for a summer place.” Heather was impressed. “I’ve seen better,” Ben stated, looking around, but then added, “I’ve also seen worse. OK digs for now.” “Let’s see the bedrooms,” Heather suggested, as she walked down another hallway. There were two bedrooms and two baths. Going into the master bedroom, she noted the queen-size bed, a side table, two tall chests, and an outsized walk-in closet. “We can have some fun in here,” Ben said, stepping over to her and gently pulling her to him. “One thing first,” Heather responded, leaning into him. “No more hickeys, Ben. For one thing, it hurt. And another, I was embarrassed today in case anyone noticed.” “You are such a prude.” Ben placed his mouth on her neck as he said this.
Pulling away, Heather laughed. “You are just being funny, right?”
“Maybe,” Ben returned with a shrug. Ben had a way of keeping her guessing about what he might do. His unpredictability had been exciting and fun in the beginning of their relationship, but now this not knowing had become worrisome at times. Like when he told Sandy it was time for her to leave Heather’s dorm room when he dropped by once to visit. After Sandy left, she told Ben what he said was offensive. He had answered, “Why is it rude to want to be alone with you?” “OK, it’s unload the cars time,” Ben announced. “You get the smaller boxes and bags, and I’ll do the heavier ones.” They were both exhausted an hour later with unpacked boxes lined up in different rooms. That stairwell became steeper with each trip. Ben lay down on the couch and appeared to already be sleeping. Looking over at him, Heather felt so lucky to have him with her and appreciated all the trips he made getting their cars unpacked. This is going to be a summer to remember, she thought.
Checking out the kitchen, it seemed to have all the basic food prep items. Now she needed to add some foodstuff. It reminded her of summer beach rentals with her folks, as she recalled there were always salt, pepper, and two spice containers (parsley flakes and garlic salt) left in each unit for the next tenants. She started a grocery list.
Cecelia, the Alpha Retiree
Heather scheduled a meeting with Mrs. Hamilton at The Crossings Haven. She arrived the next day at Residence One, the first structure entering this huge complex of buildings, walking areas, and what looked like a shopping strip. The front of Residence One presented an extensive covered-porch area with rocking chairs extending in both directions from the centered, glass-paneled double doors. When Heather entered the lobby, an attractive older lady got up from a table close to the entry doors and put out her hand. Mrs. Hamilton displayed fair hair pulled back into a low bun, benevolent brown eyes, a sharp-looking pants suit, and a tall stately manner. “Heather, you must call me Cecelia,” she said, as she introduced herself in a rich voice that matched her regal presence. “This place is huge,” Heather returned. “I had no idea such a whole world exists down this inconspicuous two-lane road.” “Well, today you’ll get a partial tour. It’s quite a village.” “Now I know what my journalism professor meant when he said ‘exclusive.’ ” “Tell me, what do you think of Dr. Lamb?” “He’s professional, and at the same time, rather personal and human. I always feel like he wants to get me to be more than I might be capable of right now.” “That’s an interesting statement. I know Dr. Lamb, and I can see why you might say such,” Cecelia agreed. “But never limit yourself, dear; we’re all capable of so much more than we think.” “Hopefully, you’re right,” Heather returned with a chuckle. Cecelia pointed out the side rooms extending off from the main lobby in Residence One—one area had a massive conference table with seating for fourteen, another alcove held small table sets and stools around a protruding bar. Existing from the rear of this first building, they encountered covered walkways connecting to The Restaurant and onward to the medical complex. This partially enclosed pathway then continued in another direction to connect to the sizable Pavilion. All the structures were painted white brick. Cecelia pointed out that ten apartments plus a guest suite comprised each of the eight residential buildings. Other structures included The Restaurant and kitchen, a full-care compound connected to the other side of the medical complex, and the Pavilion. A separate sidewalk led to an extended area of connected shops of various functions, such as a beauty/barber shop, a nail salon, a massage spa, a variety store with clothes and toys for the grandkids along with other various necessities, and a coffee and goodies place they had nicknamed the “Snack Shack,” offering welcoming outside seating under the shade of tall sawtooth oaks. “This is like the main street of a small town,” Heather injected. “I’m impressed with all the paths leading to scenic spots, such as those overlooking the James River.” She had noticed people resting in these various locations. “A lot of planning went into the blueprints of this community. I believe they got it right this time for a relaxed retirement environment. The only thing they left out is the golf course.” “Am I writing up just the occupants in Residence One for this booklet?” The size of this place concerned her as to the number of people she might be interviewing. “Yes. I’m having a meeting in about ten minutes to introduce you to our group of eleven. We consist of two married couples, two widowers, four widows, and one single lady.” Cecelia added with a giggle, “Those two widowers are quite lucky men.” Heather and Cecelia returned to Residence One, where Cecelia led her into the room with the conference table. Several seniors were already seated around the mahogany top. Heather hoped she wouldn’t be expected to remember each person’s name, since introductions were continuous as more people arrived. They presented an impressive assemblage, as most looked younger and definitely better dressed than she remembered her grandmother ever appearing. When all were present, Cecelia stood and began, “I wanted Heather McGregor, our reporter, here today with us so she can learn, along with all of you, what I expect each person’s write-up to contain. Remember this is my project, and most of you know how I expect to be obeyed.” Heather looked around at her tablemates to notice this last remark was taken in a good-natured way as everyone was smiling. One gentleman chuckled and put his head down with his arms stretched upward in a bowing gesture. She guessed Cecelia was the alpha retiree of this group. “First, this is not your obituary. That means I don’t want to read about your career accomplishments, education, degrees, etc. Nor do I want the names of your relatives, deceased or still alive, or a description of your children’s undertakings, or a listing of your beautiful and/or handsome grandchildren. “The top part of each person’s first page will contain one or two pictures. One idea is a shot during your youth to show how great you looked when younger, complemented with a current picture showing how well you’ve aged. Some of you may prefer one larger portrait of yourself with your family so you can show off all those fabulous children and grands. This is your choice. If you don’t have a picture you want to use, a photographer from the University of Richmond has agreed to come out when needed. “The first written part of each personal article will be a message from you to be sent back in time.” Cecelia paused to catch the reaction of her peers. “Say what?” one in the group protested. “What would you say to your eighteen-year-old self if you had the opportunity to send a memo back in time? What do you know now that you wish someone had convinced you of back in your youth? You now know the mistakes you made, so what advice would you give to your younger self to help her or him not make those bad choices?” “You had to make this difficult, didn’t you?” a retiree from the table retorted. “Wait until you hear the next two parts,” Cecelia responded with a devilish grin. There were loud moans from the residents. “Bring it on,” a lady blurted. Cecelia laughed, as she quipped, “Thanks, Cookie, I knew I could count on you.” After a pause, Cecelia continued, “Each of us has had many special moments in our lives. Reveal one of those significant instances that changed your life, or made you aware of some new truth. Something from your past that makes an interesting story or discovery—just one. “And now a note to you ladies—the birth of your first born and your wedding day are off limits. We all recognize the significance of those events, but I don’t want to read about them. And you men, I don’t want to hear how you made the winning touchdown at your homecoming game.” “Hey, that’s really important,” one of the men countered. Water bottles had been placed around the table. Cecelia sat down, opened the bottle closest to her, and took several swallows. “And now to the reason why I decided to do this project,” Cecelia began again. “We all have gone through an experience together that we’re having trouble dealing with because of painful recall and overwhelming feelings. I wanted to do something to help get all of us beyond this agony. “We need to accept Leslie leaving us. And I believe we each need to present a short message to Leslie telling her what she meant to us. Put in writing what you’d say to her if she were standing in front of you right now. And add one of her delightful capers if you like.” “Oh no,” a lady cried out. “I don’t think I can do that.”
Looking around, Heather noticed a change in the demeanor of the retirees sitting at the table. Most had tears in their eyes. One of the men had a handkerchief wiping his nose. Such sadness was displayed; this scene depicted pure wretchedness in all of these seniors. What could have caused such a debilitating reaction? Who was Leslie?
“We need to do this, folks!” Cecelia declared. “The picture thing, the message back to yourself at age eighteen, an earth-shaking moment from your lifetime, and your personal tribute to Leslie. Each of you will receive an appointment day and time with our lovely young reporter Heather. “I thank you all for coming for this booklet request. And you are dismissed now, as I need a few minutes with Heather.” Heather watched as these ladies and gentlemen quickly left the room without looking at or conversing with each other. Cecelia, blinking back tears, looked as miserable as her retreating companions. “Cecelia,” Heather began, “I was bothered by everyone’s reaction to this Leslie woman leaving. What’s that about?” “I don’t want you to know what Leslie did at this time. It might affect the way you write up this last segment from each contributor. If I find it’s the right thing to do, I’ll tell you the Leslie story when this project is completed.” “Are you sure everyone who was here will participate?” “Yes. Come back after the weekend. I’ll set up your first personal interview at ten next Monday. Spend time with each communicator and let them talk about whatever they want, but steer them to answer the particulars.”
Ben, the Boyfriend
Returning to her apartment, Heather noticed Ben’s car was in the same spot it had been when she left. He’d told her he was going on a job interview this morning. She surmised it was cancelled.