I decided to post a short story I recently wrote when I had some spare time. I hope you enjoy!
Nothing Goes According to Plan
Esther Wilson pinched the bridge of her nose in irritation as she leaned back in her office chair. She had to finish this assignment her boss had given her. The deadline was tomorrow, and she had promised! Sure her Son had come down with the flu, taking a week of her work time, and maybe her ex-husband was trying to once again take custody of her only two joys in life, but her boss wouldn’t care! She had made a promise, and those she needed to impress to raise her ever decreasing bank account would not care to hear her excuses. As a community relations expert, Esther was tasked with creating a plan to spread the business in a positive light and generate clients without costing the company an arm and a leg. The rapidly growing business, Evolving Toys, was learning what it truly meant to grow a business with few investors. Evolving Toys was a company dedicated to releasing Montessori style toys that grow with a child for a number of years. The most popular item currently was a wooden shape sorter. The wooden shapes designed to fit into the openings in the cube were not only rainbow colored, but also numbered. The idea was that children who could match the shape with the appropriate opening could then learn colors. A parent could tell a child, “Put the red star in first, then the blue triangle.” Finally, after mastering that concept, the child could place the shapes in the openings in numerical order. Having a degree in Early Childhood Development had ensured Esther got into the business on the ground floor; however, it was risky. She had left her steady job of an early childhood special education teacher for something she was more passionate about–and took a pay cut in the process. However, after getting away from an abusive spouse and finally daring to spread her wings, Esther felt she needed to prove to herself that she could be successful. She hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be. The door to her bedroom/office burst open and her nine year old son barreled in.
“Mom! Naomi won’t let me play with her! I said my cars could drive her barbies around, but she said her barbies weren’t old enough to drive and wouldn’t let me play!” Esther swiveled in her chair to face her son and sighed.
“Nathaniel, it is eight-thirty. I told you to start getting ready for bed five minutes ago. What is going on?” Her twins were a blessing, but sometimes she just didn’t understand this parenting thing. No matter how hard she tried, her children always seemed off schedule.
“We were going to go to bed soon, but we wanted to play a little longer.”
“That was not an option, Nathan. I gave you a command, not a suggestion. Now, please go clean up your cars, brush your teeth, and get dressed for bed. Then, and only then, can you call me, and I will come read and say your prayers with you. Tell Naomi to do the same. I mean now, not in ten minutes, got it?” Her son heaved a sigh and turned toward the door. His curly red hair needed to be cut desperately, she noticed.
“Nathan,” She let the warning hang.
“Fine.” The word was clipped and full of attitude and Esther closed her eyes and prayed for patience. Making a conscious effort to keep her voice calm, she spoke firmly.
“Nathaniel, I said it is bedtime. You both have school in the morning and you will be exhausted if you continue to stay up. On the other hand, I do not appreciate your attitude and I think I have made it clear in the past that it isn’t tolerated. If we need to revisit that, we can do so.”
“No ma’am,” Came the quick reply.
“I think you owe me an apology; however, I want you to tell me when you feel like it. There are times you apologize because it’s right, even when you don’t feel like it; however, for this situation I would like you to come to me when you are ready. You can go, and please tell Naomi to get ready for bed.”
“Okay, Mom.” Nathan disappeared and Esther turned back to her laptop. Fifteen minutes later found her computer screen exactly the same–blank. Nathan poked his head in.
“Mom, I’m sorry for my attitude. I didn’t want to make you sad, but now I’m ready for bed.” Esther felt a relaxing smile spread across her face.
“I forgive you, Son, and okay. Let’s go read and say your prayers.”
When Ester made her way back to her desk twenty minutes later, she felt a wave of exhaustion slam her body. She leaned her head back and tried to think. How do I come up with something that will generate sales and benefit the community? I don’t want to just do a popsicles in the park theme. I want something that will genuinely make a difference. After racking her brain until two-thirty in the morning, Esther’s body decided to shut down. Barely able to hold her eyes open, Esther stumbled to her bed, collapsed atop the covers, and didn’t move. Three and a half hours later, her chiming alarm tugged her from her exhausted sleep and she realized she was still on top of the blankets and hadn’t even taken off her shoes. She needed to work for at least an hour, then wake the kids up, get them ready and fed, and on the bus at eight. Maybe today would finally be a normal day and she would meet her deadline. The next thing she knew, someone was tapping her shoulder.
“Mom, I think we’re late for school.” Esther’s eyes flew open and she eyed Naomi, who was up and dressed–even her hair was brushed.
“Naomi, what time is it, sweetheart?”
“Oh goodness! I must’ve fallen back asleep. You’re not late for school yet, but you probably will be. Where is Nathan? Is he ready?”
“Yes, he is downstairs finishing his cereal. He looked in on you and thought you were super tired. We got ready and ate cereal for breakfast. We even brushed our teeth!” Esther smiled at the pride in the shy smile Naomi was displaying.
“Great job, Sweetheart. Tell your brother I’m getting dressed so I don’t look like I slept in my clothes and I’ll be down. Oh, and tell him I said thank you. You guys rock!”
“I had one more question, mom, what’s your middle name?” Esther eyes her daughter quizzically.
“It’s Rose, honey, but that’s an awfully random question.”
Giggling, Naomi skipped from the room and Esther flew to her closet, shaking her head. She pulled her black skirt, white shirt, and blue blazer from their hangers and rushed to make herself presentable. She was supposed to be presenting her idea today, so she dressed the part even though she was beginning to doubt. She simultaneously ran a brush through her hair and brushed her teeth before slipping on black flats and running down the stairs.
“Let’s go, y’all! Our goal is no more than fifteen minutes late, and school starts in four minutes so we should make it!” Fifteen minutes later, Esther dropped her children off at the front office. Arriving back at home, she once again found herself staring down a blank computer screen, willing an idea to appear. She sighed in relief when her ringing cell phone offered a distraction.
“Hey, Esther, it’s Amber.” Amber was her closest friend, and she was also twenty-four weeks pregnant.
“Hey, Amber! How’s the baby?”
“Oh, Esther! They’re admitting me to the maternity ward now. They said the baby isn’t doing well, and she may be born soon. I’m so scared! Joe is at work and I can’t reach him. I came in for my check-up and this all happened so fast.”
“Oh! Honey! I’m so sorry. I’m on my way now. What room are you in?”
“Three ten.” The lack of argument from her friend revealed how terrified she truly was.
“Okay, I’m coming. I’ll try to get word to Joe somehow too. It will all be fine, Amber. Don’t stress, just focus on your baby and keeping yourself together for her sake.” After hanging up, Esther spent a few precious minutes searching for the construction company that employed Joe. She called the listed number and a woman answered. After explaining the emergency, the woman promised she would get word to Joe, and Esther ran out the door. Esther arrived at the hospital a few moments later and checked in. Locating the plaque with three one zero, she pushed open the door. Esther sat next to her friend and held her hand. She began discussing everything that was going on in life, and anything she could think of to help Amber relax. Joe finally arrived, and sat on Amber’s other side, his eyes worried, but his demeanor calm.
Twenty minutes later, Amber went into labor. Esther paced and prayed for the next excruciating fifteen hours while Joe held his wife’s hand and gave her ice chips. Finally, the baby was born–alive! The little miracle was immediately rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and Esther rejoiced and thanked God with the brand new parents. With the tension somewhat evaporated, Esther felt exhaustion seeping into every pore. Deciding to go find some coffee, she walked down the hall. She neared the NICU, and her heart went out to the dozens of new parents pacing in the hallway with red, bloodshot eyes. They didn’t seem to notice her at all, but Esther noticed the look of hope that would appear when a doctor would walk out, only to crash when they got no news. The fear and anxiety seemed almost palpable in the hallway, and the ill fitting clothes of some showed they had been there for an extended period. Walking up to a particularly haggard man, Esther spoke softly.
“Excuse me, sir. You seem to be having a very hard time. I totally understand and I would like to help you. Could I purchase you a meal, perhaps? For your wife also?” The man regarded her with confused, bleary eyes.
“No, no thanks. The only food around here is hospital food and it’s gotten to where it makes my wife and I sick. My wife used to still drink a milkshake, but they stopped serving those, of course. My son has been here for three weeks. Three weeks and there’s no hope in sight!” The man didn’t acknowledge the tears rolling down his face, and Esther suddenly realized her own eyes had filled.
“I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do? Anything at all?” The man considered her for a moment before shaking his head.
“No, but thank you. You’re the only person that has stopped and seemed to care.” After the man paced away, Esther turned back towards room three ten. God, please give me a way I can help these hurting people. I don’t understand why they have to go through this, but please give me a way to brighten their day and ease their suffering–even if it’s only for a brief moment.”
Her phone vibrated in her pocket and Esther pulled it out. She had ten missed calls from her boss and thirty two unread messages. Groaning, she tapped the green button on the screen as the phone buzzed again.
“Esther! Where have you been? I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for so long! You missed your presentation, Esther. You stood the board up. Not only are they not going to believe you can be a good fit in the community relations role, but you risk being sent from the company entirely. Do you even have an idea for the project?”
“No, but I had an emergency come up. My son got the flu, and then a friend went into labor last night. She was only twenty-four weeks along so it was hit or miss for a while. I haven’t even noticed my phone.”
“Esther, we can work with you if you share what’s going on up front! This late notice not only reflects poorly on you, but on me, as well, for the person that hired you. I think I need to go. Some of the others in the company mentioned giving out popsicles at the park one day or something with our business cards. I wasn’t thrilled, but that’s better than what you’ve given me.” Suddenly, a huge smile spread across Esther’s face.
“No! I have the perfect idea! We can partner with restaurants who will donate food, and make meals for the parents of babies in the NICU. We can also give one of our toys for the children along with the food! I’m at the hospital now, and this is a desperate need. We could make a huge impact, but spread our name as well!”
“I like it, Esther. No, actually, I love it. Can you meet at the office at eight in the morning to work out the logistics? I can get us a meeting for eleven.”
“I’ll be there.” Esther hung up the phone with a new fire burning inside her. They could make a difference! She would even partner with an ice cream shop to cater milkshakes. She peeked in on Amber and Joe, to see them both in the middle of an exhausted nap. She wrote them a quick note and left it on the bedside table before leaving. She had work to do!
Three weeks later, the hospital was teeming with volunteers and food runners. Esther personally visited each room and delivered a unique, one-of-a-kind toy. She hand-wrote a note for each child for when they would understand. Esther cried more happy tears throughout the day than she thought possible. She could’ve filled an entire pool–salt water of course–with her tears. She thanked God for such a special time and for providing her with the inspiration she needed.
“Ma’am?” Esther turned to see the man that had been in the hall what seemed an eternity ago. “I don’t know how to thank you enough! You’ve made my wife smile and laugh for the first time in a couple months. She ate a full, nutritious meal, and got a milkshake. You are an angel!” Esther felt happy tears prick her eyes once again.
“It was truly my pleasure! I was so glad to do it.” A nurse ran up, interrupting Esther before she could say more.
“Mister Johnson! I’ve been looking all over for you. Your son has had a turn around! He’s fully breathing on his own and the doctors suspect he’ll be out of here within another week!” Esther burst into tears with the man and the nurse ushered him away to see his wife. Finally, Esther made her way to her car and fell into the seat. She was tired, but this was a good kind of tired. Her phone buzzed and she answered the call.
“Hey, Amber! How is little Andrea doing?”
“She’s doing great, Esther, but we wanted to call and tell you her name.”
“Amber, you don’t usually change a child’s name. I thought it was Andrea.”
“It’s Andrea Rose, Esther. You were the only reason I got through my time in the hospital and you’ve helped me so much. Your friendship was truly a godsend. I love you, Esther, and I wanted your legacy to carry on through our daughter.” Esther wiped her face once again and she chuckled.
“I’ve cried so much today I’m going to be so dehydrated! I’m kidding, Amber, but I truly feel so honored. I love you so much and I can’t wait to be Aunt Esther to your miracle baby!” Esther finished her phone call and drove to her special spot by the lake. Life was good, and it was just going to keep getting better.