Frank & Stella 6-Sentence Stories

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For those of you who have become fans of Frank and Stella, and their saga told in 6-sentence episodes, here are all that I collected from my previous blog files.  Some were missing titles and Zoe’s (hostess of 6-Sentence Story) “cue word”.  They don’t follow a chronological order, so it doesn’t matter where you start reading…and I do think they’ve improved as I settled in as their next door neighbor 🙂  If you see any errors I need to edit, kindly let me know, thanks 🙂

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“Forever Love”

(from 2013)

He was often fond of saying that when he met her, he heard a pretty piece of music playing (though there’d been no orchestra, not even a piano soloist nearby).

It didn’t matter; as in truth, it had been his heart visualizing the memories they’d own after she said, “I do”—and lay in his embrace till they grew old.

He hummed the piece of music at odd moments:  as he came through the door after working; when he shaved; while painting sunset after canvas sunset for her.

“You remind me of wind chimes,” she told him, stirring the steaming pot of spaghetti.

He chuckled, fingered the tendril of nearly black hair falling beside her smile—“I expected you to say ‘sunsets’,” he breathed.

A number of years her senior, perhaps time had grim and greater significance to him—but then, who can say when “forever” begins?

© Stella, 2013

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(Cue:  “Base”)

“Home Base Heart”

Frank and Stella’s marriage was based on traditional beliefs, customs that stood the test of time.

Stella had dutifully packed and unpacked their belongings over the years, till one day Frank announced they were moving to Honolulu—“paradise” would be their final home base.

She was ecstatic, feeling well-rewarded for her patience during their Nomad Period.

As they had no children, they’d collected all manner of whatever each had fancied:  books, art, jewelry, odds and ends.

A breeze wafted sweet Plumeria from the lanai of their condo as Stella opened the last box, smiling.

Pulling out a blue glass pitcher, she brushed straw from its heavy base and found a scrap of paper curiously taped to the bottom—“You have filled my life, quenched my heart…Love forever, Frank”.

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue may have been “Time”)

“Happy Anniversary”

For a man who was otherwise so precise (former Navy officer, former state homicide chief), Stella despaired that Frank would ever be on time.

He’d made reservations for their anniversary at a very posh restaurant that would keep him in Stella’s good graces for months.

She was decked out from her salon-styled hair, to shoes matching her new mauve crêpe de Chine dress, as she called, “Frank!  In exactly one minute we’ll be late, and traffic’s bad”…she didn’t ask if he had a clue where the restaurant was located.

He told her to stop fretting and come select his tie—and heard a loud beleaguered sigh in response, followed by clicking high heels.

After saying she looked even prettier than the girl he married, he held out a small box and opened it with quiet pride, revealing a platinum band with 3 glittering diamonds—“Your engagement stone was so minute, I’m finally making it up to you–Happy Anniversary, Love”.

Stella’s eyes widened with astonished surprise, and she was speechless and trembling as he placed the ring on her hand, kissed her lightly; before she could recover, he teased, “well, let’s get going before we’re too late for valet parking!”

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue:  “Deck”)

“Game Night”

It was Frank and Stella’s turn to host “game night”, and Frank’s old Navy buddy, Joe, and his wife Clare would be joining them for cards.

Stella preferred Scrabble, as she possessed no gift for card games; and though Frank always promised he’d help her, he typically “forgot”—insuring that she lost badly.

But she was nothing if not a good sport, and had baked a pan of frosted brownies to serve their friends.

Halfway through the game, a plane flew LOW and LOUDLY over their roof, prompting Joe to shout, “Hit the Deck!”

His wife, Clare, savoring a goodly mouthful of brownie, slapped his arm and said, “For Heaven’s sake, Frank is too straight an arrow—he would never stack the deck!”

“Oh, he might,” Stella teased, winking at Frank—who absently responded, “I think it’s too soon to resurface the deck…maybe next year”.

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue:  “Order”)

“Orderly to a Fault”

Stella’s Frank, retired Navy, was orderly to a fault—she was less so, but both were creative folk and they’d crafted a compromise system of order: she disturbed nothing in his artist’s studio, and he left her writing nook alone.

“I can’t imagine where I put that order form for our healthcare products,” she mumbled—but Frank barely acknowledged her.

The afternoon faded away as Stella searched every place she could think of for that dang order form.

As they tidied up the kitchen later, Frank suddenly exclaimed, “H-C”, and like a magician, produced the fugitive order form.

Stella’s eyebrows arched as he grinned and offered deductive reasoning:  “‘H-C’, ‘healthcare’—‘high cabinet’…curious system you have, hon”.

(Since Stella is quite petite, and Frank 6’2″, isn’t it arguable that shipshape Frank “filed” the form in the high cabinet himself??  Just sayin’…)

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue was likely “Teeth”)

“Frank’s Achilles’ Tooth”

Stella had fallen crazy-in-love with Frank’s movie star smile the first time she saw the young Naval officer.

He was proud of his teeth, and didn’t mind dental appointments because he’d never required work, only cleanings.

Stella, however, was a white-knuckle patient who needed some amount of sedation just for her annual check-up.

She scheduled their appointments back-to-back so that Frank could be in the room with her, hold her hand.

Having come through her exam and cleaning all bright ‘n shiny, she sat in the lobby reading Psychology Today, waiting for Frank.

“Mrs Morrow?” the assistant interrupted, “could you come in—your husband needs a teeny little filling, and when he heard the drill he passed out.”

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(Cue:  Suspect)

“Stella’s Suspects”

Stella had suspected for weeks that her neighbors were criminals on the lam; her husband Frank said she was OD’ing on true-crime programs and books, both.

This ruffled her feathers because, as a retired top-cop, he should be more alert to people acting hinkey*, she opined; which led him to humor her:  “where’s your probable cause, Love–and incidentally, what’s the crime?”

She huffed, “if you didn’t doze off during the news you’d be up to speed on the serial cat burglar running loose; I think it’s a team–Clay and Marjorie, two doors down”.

Unable to conceal amusement, Frank gently scoffed, “Clay’s in a wheel chair and Marjorie must weigh 200 pounds–‘cat burglars’?”

Stella pressed her case as though retirement had caused Frank’s instincts to go soft:  “Marjorie’s been hitting the gym, and the wheelchair’s a ruse, because I’ve seen Clay walking with my own two eyes; 80% of unlikely suspects are guilty as homemade sin”.

Frank embraced her, stifling his laughter against her hair; but she wasn’t finished:  “which…as I reflect…could make you a fair suspect–you’re in excellent condition, and as a cop you’d know how to avoid being discovered…and your motive could be boredom, thrill-seeking…”

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(Cue:  Draw)

“Mr Garbo Draws” (6SS)

Frank had no patience for mindless chitchat, the vacuous questions neighbors asked at occasional gatherings—he was dreading the bar-b-q planned for the weekend.

Having retired, he now pursued his solitary passion, art; it suited him, as he was not really a “people person” like his wife—the sociable, garrulous Stella.

“They’re just trying to draw you out, hon,” Stella offered; “why don’t you start a conversation that interests you sometime?”

She was too devoted, kind, to note his tendency to view himself as somewhat superior to a lot of folks.

Stella gasped with inspiration:  “I know what!  You could casually mention starting a Beginners Drawing Class—show some of your work, encourage people’s hidden artistic dreams and talent, charge a nominal instructor’s fee…”

Shaking his head, Frank had already withdrawn to his studio, muttering, ‘not for a million dollars—not at gunpoint’.

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue:  “Check”)

“Where’s that Dang Check?”

Being old-school and cautious, Stella and Frank had vowed never to use online banking; additionally, Stella just liked the satisfaction of writing out checks in her neat hand, to pay bills.

One evening as they were watching a re-run of “Columbo”, the TV went black.

Frank checked the cable box, the electric cords, and teasingly asked Stella, “Did you pay the cable company this month?”

She was certain she had, but reviewed her checkbook anyway, where it appeared she’d made the payment weeks before; nonetheless…the next day she was advised that her check had not been received.

Now she was all fired up—ready to start fussing at Frank and checking his pockets for the forgotten envelope; but first, she’d bake a dessert to sweeten her irritation.

To her chagrined surprise, on opening her recipe book she discovered she’d marked the page for “Cape Cod Oatmeal Cookies”…with the cable payment check.

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue:  “Address”)

“Hearts Address”

Stella held the piece of returned mail and said, “You put the wrong address on this, hon.”

Her forehead wrinkled, “What is this you’re sending—looks like a greeting card?”

Stella was aware Frank had been having ‘senior moments’, but this was odder than odd—he’d addressed it to ‘Occupant’…

“Read the address again, Love,” he murmured.

She adjusted her glasses, peered closely—“Frank! it’s my dad’s old house…which no longer exists since they put up the shopping center on that block.”

He told her to open it—she read:  “I may forget this morning’s to-do list, but I remember where my best girl lived; our first kiss, there on the porch swing”.

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue may have been “Market”)

“Marketing”

Stella and Frank usually did the marketing together, but he’d begged off, wanting to complete a painting.

She returned an hour later, and—hoping to spark some jealousy—told him Mr Miakura (produce seller) had flirted with her; but all Frank said was, “the old man has good taste”.

Then she mentioned that the market proprietors were going to host a community arts and crafts fair—“You should show a few of your canvases, hon”.

Frank shrugged—“I wouldn’t know how much to charge”.

Proudly esteeming his talent, Stella suggested a considerably high amount, which made Frank smile and reply that it was likely more than the local market could bear.

“Well,” she sighed, patting his cheek, “if we get no takers by mid-afternoon, you can always mark the price half-off and say I painted them—just kidding, hon”.

© Stella Carousel, 2016. All rights reserved.

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(Cue was likely “Command”)

“Artist’s Hubris”

Things had gone so well at the market’s Arts and Crafts Fair, that Frank made an easy $100 on two paintings, and was invited to display his work at the local library.

It was a small, yet rather nice coup which fluffed his ego-feathers; but distracted by the dazzling delusion of more command performances, he wasn’t sure if he was expected to teach a watercolor class—for which he had neither credentials nor desire.

It hadn’t escaped Stella’s notice that, a) Frank was flattered by all the attention he imagined swirled about him; and that, b) after chatting with Miss Kelsey, it was clear the young attractive librarian was quite taken with Frank—more so, perhaps, than with his framed works of tropical flowers.

Stella informed Frank that he would merely set up his paintings in the library’s meeting room—no teaching; and repeated how fabulous it was that he was getting exposure and recognition for his art—a possible new career in his golden years.

She hadn’t mentioned that he suddenly seemed uncharacteristically demanding; but when he requested she iron the third shirt for the “showing”—where he’d hobnob with patrons viewing his still lifes and sunsets—Stella reached the limit of sweet patience.

Putting both hands on hips, she drew her little 5-foot frame up close to his military-straight 6’2″, and huffed:  “Are you asking me, or commanding me as king?”

© Stella Carousel, 2016. All rights reserved

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(Cue may have been “Amend(s)”)

“Make-Up Menu”

After pushing the limits of Stella’s unassailable admiration and devotion when he’d gotten puffed up over the library’s invitation for him to display his paintings (and possibly, the attractive young librarian’s attention), Frank was trying to make amends.

In forty-something years, their marriage had never known a serious squabble or bitter word—only minor disagreements attributable to moods, easily remedied—thus, his efforts were failing due to lack of practice.

He’d hoped to mollify her when the neighbor’s kid offered him a cute puff-ball puppy—but Stella looked daggers at the mere idea, dog-unseen; so he’d bought her favorite Picasso roses, and a perhaps too-large box of fine chocolates; she’d thanked him…courteously.

Without Stella’s usual fountain of conversation, the house was frighteningly quiet—on a longshot, Frank sought help from her recipe box.

When she returned from the gold-card shopping trip he’d forced upon her, he was wreathed in a puff-plume of smoke vaguely redolent of an unfortunate burned chicken, and exclaimed, “Hi, Love—I’m taking you to dinner, anywhere you choose!”

She shook her head in the manner which universally translates:  “you’re hopeless”, then set the bag of Hong’s Chinese take-out on the dining table and said, “Frank, I love you—after forty-something years can’t you just say, ‘I acted like an idiot, I didn’t mean to treat you less adoringly than you deserve, I love you, my Queen’?  Then we can eat…and maybe make some romance.”

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(Cue was likely “Book”)

“Stella, Book Addict”

Stella returned from the library with an armload of books which tumbled free just inside the door, bringing Frank to her rescue when he heard the commotion.

Gathering them up, he teased, “I didn’t think it could take 2 hours to get one book”.

“Well-l-l”, she sputtered, “the one I reserved didn’t look worth a read—and  there were four new true-crime’s, so I nabbed them—plus a few other intriguing titles…”

He kissed her cheek, and said that he’d put the roast in the oven for her, “lest we starve”—but she wasn’t listening.

Stella was already tucked in a corner of the couch, captivated by yet another real-life chronicle of murder and justice.

“When are you going to follow your dream and write your own book?” he asked—to which she replied, “I’m doing research”…and wiggled her eyebrows at him in a cute, yet slightly unnerving way.

© Stella Carousel, 2016. All rights reserved

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(Cue:  “Ex”)

“Ex Libris Camelotta”

Ex Libris was the book she finally finished writing, and thus owned—featuring a lovely illuminated bookplate with her title, “Camelotta”.

It was kinda-sorta about a modern day King Arthur (or Frank) and his Excalibur, of course.

But Excalibur, and all the armor in the wardrobe was well-tarnished with age and lack of use—the whole castle was in a state of woeful disrepair.

The king was beyond old and suffered memory issues; though, this was mostly a good thing, sparing the contemporary Guinevere (or Stella) embarrassment, in the event that any past court flirtations might be mentioned—not that there were any…

As the author became increasingly enmeshed in Guinevere’s (Stella’s) character, the book became unwieldy, and more mad by the page.

Thus, when the king (Arthur/Frank) suggested she leave off the story and just publish a book of her poetry, she said, “EXcellent idea, my Love!”

© Stella, 2016

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(Cue:  “Fault”)

“Frank and Stella, Fault Lines”

It often gives detectives pause when a person of interest (witness or suspect) asks a question, because the reason behind it can reveal much that helps solve the case; this may, may not, hold true for a former detective husband in a long marriage—as when Stella inquired, “Frank, are we living on a fault line?”

He asked “why?”, and she pointed out that ‘things’ seemed to have shifted:  cupboard doors didn’t stay closed, pictures were hanging askew; that lengthening crack in the closet; occasional odd muffled sounds… ‘perhaps beams grinding against one another’.

“It’s Halloween,” he teased, shrugged nonchalantly; “the building’s 20 years old—creaks, groans, the foundation settling…all natural, nothing to fret about, Love.”

One eyebrow arched as she said, “You’re being evasive—my question was, do we live on a fault line?…and I wonder if that could explain the smoke detector’s extra-sensitivity…”

“I doubt we’re on a fault line—but I’ll find out, and get back to you”.

He headed toward his studio, then turned to add, chuckling, “By the way, I compromised my strict adherence to safety rules for your convenience—dismantled the smoke detector so you don’t have to make toast on the lanai anymore…IF there’s a kitchen fire, we’ll flip a coin to decide whose fault it was.”

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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 “Stella and Frank, Still Sticking Together”

Frank was task- and goal-oriented, liked to work at something (like his paintings) and savor the accomplished results; whereas Stella, a multi-task-er, sometimes got side-tracked.

Though eager to begin holiday baking, today she was fretting early about likely weight-gains…and Frank, in a less than stellar moment, brought up “The Treadmill”.

Standing his ground in the force of her frown, he merely recalled, “You were excited at first—said it was a great bargain—really gung-ho, you used it for a week but didn’t stick with it.”

As he spoke, her frown evolved into Gothic arches above frosted hazel eyes, lips pressed into a mute Revlon Rose-Copper line, as her folded arms pushed her shoulders higher and her right foot began a soundless tap-tap-tap.

“But then,” Frank salvaged, “you were always too skinny before—I like the new cushioned you.”

His choice of words made her laugh loudly, dissolving her irritation—“I did the treadmill for 10 days faithfully, not just a week…So, maybe I’ll accept your invitation to go walking together…I don’t know how I managed to stick with such a self-disciplined perfectionist!”

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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 (Cue:  Fix)

“A Fine Fix, Frank”

Stella hollered sweetly, “Hon, could you PLEASE fix the smoke detector so it won’t go off every time I make toast!”

Though Frank would unflinchingly lay down his life for his dear-darling wife, he was no Mr Fix-It, “handy” was not on his CV—“Just get a new toaster, Love, one with better settings,” he said from behind his newspaper.

Counting to 10 first, Stella replied, “This IS the new toaster—the problem is the smoke detector:  I can’t fix toast without it sounding like an air raid siren.”

“How about moving the toaster to a different spot?” he proposed, still scanning reports of urgent world events.

Next morning, a puzzled Frank couldn’t find Stella, nor a note as to her early plans…it was soon apparent he was in a real fix.

Twenty minutes later she came in through the lanai’s louvered doors, chewing a slice of sourdough toast—“if you want breakfast, put your jacket on…the toaster’s plugged in by the patio table…and the ‘alfresco’ dining is chilly.”

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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  (Cue was likely “Star”)

“Stella, Frank’s Starlight” (Pt 1)

Stella, befitting her name, was the unclouded star which shone day and night in Frank’s firmament; through all their moves in the military, and the stressful years following his appointment as Florida’s top-cop, her adoring support glowed faithfully.

In every port she’d made a cozy home, endearing herself to neighbors, friends, his co-workers and their spouses, with her enthusiasm for cooking, baking, and frequent invites to dinner.

Her sparkling personality, and sincere interest in people and a wide spectrum of subjects, made her shine in any gathering—and kept Frank fascinated as well.

So when he noticed the gleam dimming after Labor Day, the shadows lingering into October, he became concerned; autumn was her most gregarious season—she relished everything about the holidays.

He made subtle inquiries about her well-being, to which she smiled, responded with reassurances and a quick change of topic; now, he found himself studying her, as an increasing anxiety knocked at his heart.

Though she categorically despised Halloween, he excitedly brought home a jumbo pumpkin and announced, “I will carve an unmistakably angelic face for this lantern”…(he didn’t hear her murmur, “maybe it will dispel the ghosts”)…

(to be continued)

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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 (Story continuation–not sure what Cue was)

 “Frank, Stella’s Hero” (Pt 2)

Stella’s atypical shadowed mood had Frank worried, increasingly so because she was unresponsive to his subtle queries—and had shot down his offer of a seasonal vacation unequivocally.

He’d read enough articles to know he shouldn’t bring up “hormones” or anything related to “the change”, and not that he was an expert by any stretch, but he’d thought that was behind her (them).

But when he caught her wiping her eyes while reading a cookbook, it didn’t require genius IQ to know she wasn’t moved to tears over a chicken cacciatore recipe; “Love, tell me, please—what’s bothering you lately?” he asked, cupping her face.

She whimpered shamefully about being forgetful (not seasoning the meatballs with oregano)…then dove deeper; it wasn’t about things forgotten, but recalled:  “The tsunami of bad memories is pounding, drowning me,” she wept, “and I’m afraid of losing you.”

Frank was well aware of her tormented childhood…and the man before him whose abuse had left her barely a shell. 

His strong arms had brought her through nightmares in earlier years, and now his voice was firm, resolute:  “Tsunamis are very frightening, yes—but dearest Love, I’ll always be your FEMA man.”

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved

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 (Cue:  “Rank”)

“Rank Reunion”

Stella made a sad-clown face as she told Frank, “I don’t think your uniform’s going to fit, even with alterations…but I’ll try that nice Asian tailor—maybe he can work some magic.”

For the third time, Frank told his wife he was certain no one would be in uniform at the big to-do, a reunion for naval officers he’d served with eons ago.

“But you looked so handsome in it—my heart-throb lieutenant in dress whites,” she gushed sincerely, and sighed as the decades melted away in her eyes.

“Love, you are forever the romantic,” he said, and gave her a quick squeeze.

“So…ixnay on the uniform, we’ll rent you a tux; and I need a dress—something sapphire blue, you think?”

“Nothing too ravishing—I don’t want to lose my girl to an ensign” (Frank privately recalled short-fat-balding ‘Clarkson’, who inexplicably was a shark with all the women…).

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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 (Cue:  “Back”)

“Frank’s Back Injury”

On Stella’s birthday Frank threw his back out.

It happened after they came home from dinner and dancing, and–deciding to go for broke–capped the evening off with ‘romance’.

By no definition was this an acrobatic event, as both are emphatically conservative in most arenas; still…they’re not lacking in enthusiasm for each other, even after 40-odd years of marriage.

Frank was suffering sufficient pain the next morning that he drove himself to the clinic to request an Rx for muscle spasms.

Stella quietly fussed over him until finally she had to ask, “Did you make up a dull yet credible story about how it happened?”

Blushing slightly, Frank feigned outraged bluster–“And miss an opportunity to boast?  No Way!”

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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 (Cue:  “Bark”)

“The Guard Bark”

Stella couldn’t recall the saying about the size of a dog or his bark, but she was ready to kill the neighbor’s yapping canine.

“No, Love,” Frank chuckled, “it’s ‘the size of the fight in the dog’–Mark Twain.”

Whatever–my head is pounding, my nerves are shot…and who’s that strange man on the property?”

“Landscaper–he’s spreading fresh bark around the shrubbery.”

“Great–it’ll hide the evidence when I bury that darn dog,” Stella huffed.

Frank hugged her and teased, “You never should have revealed your obsession about the cat burglar with Clay and Margaret–it prompted them to buy a ‘guard bark’.”

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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“A Thanksgiving Plan” (Pt 1)

It had begun, the mostly mute battle over optimum room temperature whereby Stella quietly slid the lanai door open a few inches, leaving drapes closed for ‘concealment’—and Frank, after buttoning up his sweater, surreptitiously closed it when she was elsewhere.

When November arrived Frank would not allow the AC to be on, would have preferred some heat—which Stella refused…unless she too felt chilled, an infrequent condition.

“Frank, we should do something different this Thanksgiving,” she said lightly—to which he responded with the suggestion that they dine at the Hilton (thinking the restaurant would be toasty warm, a table reserved by the fireplace, no draft).

“Oh, that’s just WRONG—you know I love making the big dinner, but most of it ends up in the freezer—it would be nice to have guests.”

This was a complicated issue, as neither of them had any remaining ties to family, and their few friends were involved in lives much different from the comfortably reclusive one Frank and Stella chose.

“I’d like to invite someone who needs our generosity, hon—we should share the blessings we’ve received; and I see hesitation on your face—you want to ponder this a bit…so ponder quick,” she said, smiling and closing the lanai door with a peace-making click.

To Be Continued…

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

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(Cue:  “Light”, probably)

“Stella’s Light” (Thanksgiving Pt 2)

Frank was being a good scout, trying to show interest and not rain on Stella’s Thanksgiving plan to invite guests for turkey dinner—guests who needed blessing, people unable to reciprocate.

He’d held his breath when she suggested they ask the property’s new maintenance man (a single father) and his young teenage daughter…and was relieved, upon learning the company prohibited fraternizing between staff and condo owners.

Frank then offered to double their contribution to the local homeless mission—only to hear his wife say she’d like to spend a Thanksgiving or Christmas cooking and serving at the mission; apparently she wasn’t letting go of this newly revealed passion to put faith in action.

The conversation had deteriorated somewhat—not a fight of course, not even an argument; but lack of agreement as to just how “hands-on” the concept of caring generosity has to be, to prove a good heart’s authenticity.

“You simply haven’t caught the Light, Frank—mailing a check provides you a buffer from human beings, and you miss the deep down joy and satisfaction of looking into someone’s eyes as you hand them a plate of food prepared especially for them,” Stella stated with fervor.

And the next day…she announced the winners of what Frank dared not call her “Thanksgiving Lottery”—she had invited a disabled couple who worked at the grocery story:  the husband, sight-impaired, and his wife who did not hear nor speak, had clearly seen Stella’s Light beaming, and they’d happily accepted.

© Stella, 2016

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 (Cue:  “Thankful”)

“Thanksgiving with Frank and Stella” (Pt 3)

Frank watched Stella as she took the phone call—Dan and Pamela, the disabled couple she’d invited to Thanksgiving dinner, had apparently cancelled.

Stella was graciously understanding, assuring them, “we’ll do the dinner another time—no problem”…but it was an Oscar-worthy performance, as Frank observed The Blues falling like a wall of bricks on her happy mood and preparations.

He was careful not to say anything stupid as her silence grew like rising mold; but his concern peaked when she shoved the turkey into the oven (Bang!) and said she was going to bed—waving off his worry as she brushed at tears and mumbled, “just tired”.

While she napped he quietly prepared bread stuffing from a box, buttered yams and put them in to bake, put green beans in one pot, potatoes in another, hid the corn pudding he detested, sampled the fruit salad—and removed the extra place settings from the table; when the turkey was golden, he moved it to a platter—and gently woke Stella, saying all but the gravy was ready.

“I’m so sorry, Hon,” she whimpered, surveying his efforts—“I only wanted to do something great this year, something unselfish, make a keepsake memory for someone else, not just us…I don’t believe they traveled to her native home, Canada—they didn’t really wanted to come here.”

Frank’s arms encircled her, he kissed her hair—“You have the biggest heart in the world, Love, and if your guess is correct, then I’m sorry they elected to miss the best Thanksgiving dinner of their lives…What matters is that you know how thankful I am, everyday, to have you as my wife; to a nearly excruciating degree, I love youand your native generosity; I want us to enjoy today, and every minute we have together, forever……..Forgive me, Love, I think the yams are burning…”

© Stella, 2016

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“At Home with Frank and Stella”

(Cue:  “Home”)

Frank was checking himself out in the hall mirror, waiting for Stella to comment on his fresh haircut…finally he said, “Cindy was flirting with me today—she likes older men because they’re more settled and less self-involved”.

“Cindy??” Stella’s frown reflected mild annoyance, and concern that today was the day he’d turned the corner onto Alzheimer’s Avenue—she asked if Cindy was new.

He didn’t recall seeing her before, to which Stella quipped that ‘Cindy’ might not last if she could turn his head so easily.

“She has to turn my head to cut my hair, Love; and they can’t be fired for flirting—it’s how she makes her tips,” he chuckled…and immediately regretted breaking the cardinal rule of offering more info than required.

“Well, I need a trim next week—we’ll see if she flirts with me,” Stella muttered, looking for her gingerbread recipe.

“Oh, you’re just grumpy because your steer wrestler isn’t competing for a 9th Gold Buckle this year—hey, maybe he cuts hair when he’s not rodeo-ing”…(silence)…“Love? Did you want me to put up the Christmas lights now?…Stell?”

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

(Cue:  “Craft”)

“The Craft of Marriage”

 

Having nothing better to do, Frank and Stella completed a magazine survey/quiz titled, “The Craft of Marriage” (‘what makes the marital union an art form…and is practical, to boot?’).

“Attraction”:  Could be physical and/or personality—but more important than chemistry/sparks, sharing the same virtues of character were crucial for ‘two to become one’, they believed; Frank affirmed that they sparked and meshed at all essential points…except for their Mutt & Jeff height difference, which relegated dancing to special occasions.

“Who’s the Boss?”:  Stella noted they were both capable of leading and following, and that knowing in what areas their leadership strengths lay (or whose turn it was) was a huge asset.

“Shared Interests”:  They’d established that neither person was expected to do things they didn’t enjoy; Frank might have lived aboard ship, if he’d stayed single—but Stella wouldn’t likely overcome her dislike of sailing.

So, they’d retired to a condo with a magnificent view of the Pacific, where Stella never-ever watched Hallmark ‘chick-flicks’, and Frank eschewed major league sports (however Stella, serious rodeo fan, pre-cooked meals for the 10-day televised Wrangler National Finals Rodeo each December; and Frank was not opposed to movies with tender moments—just gratuitous or syrupy tear-jerkers).

“The Bottom Line (Aside from Love, Respect, Commitment)” ~ Take it away, Frank:  “What can I say, Love…you needed a real-life hero, and I couldn’t resist being super-glued to the pedestal of your heart…artist matched with writer, perfection”.

© Stella, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

 (Cue:  “Pine”)

“Reminiscent Pine”

For Stella, there was only one tree for Christmas, a blue spruce—the bluer the better, and big enough to fill the living room; she loved blue of every hue and shade, combined with silver accents (glittery pine cones), and maybe a bit of rose.

Frank acquiesced, as it mattered only to him that Stella be happy; when she’d hold up a roll of ribbon or blue ornament, beaming, and say, “this matches your eyes,” he’d melt—she was the young girl again, thrilled.

He sipped eggnog, reminiscing privately, and watched her decorate this year’s tree—until she pouted prettily, asked him to ‘get in the spirit’ and help her.

“What were you thinking about?” she asked—“not pining for something…someone different, I hope.”

“I was thinking about Christmases long ago…how you’d always leave your family gathering, and walk over to spend the afternoon at our house—carrying a big plate of fresh-baked cookies and insisting I eat several…now here we are, much older, yet still you shimmer.”

Stella placed a shiny blue heart on a branch, then reached her hands to Frank’s cheeks:  “I remember often telling your sister, ‘Frank’s the only guy I’ll ever love’…and how she just grinned”.

© Stella, 2016

♥♥♥

(Cue:  “Mark”)

“Hearts Indelibly Marked”

Three days before Christmas, Frank and Stella received a package originally mailed from New York…it had made a determined journey, repeatedly marked, “Forward To– ” .

One of the more unfortunate things they shared in common was that over time, each had become distanced from their families of origin—so, Stella’s eyes widened as Frank peered at it and said, “it’s from my sister”.

Frank and ‘Nan’ (the only sister, following 4 brothers) had been close, and as she and Stella were the same age, they’d been best friends for years; but after Stella and Frank married, they’d gradually lost touch as life took them in different directions.

“If I remember, you both enjoyed my special fruitcakes,” Nan wrote on the card inside the heavy holiday cake box; “I hope that’s still true, and that you’re well—I’d love for you to call me.”

Nan and her husband had lost their only child, ‘Mark’, to cancer before his 2nd birthday—a loss which nearly destroyed them; Frank’s brother-in-law had summoned him for support at the time…but afterward, their contact tapered off.

“Hello, Sis!” Frank spoke into the phone—“we got your fruitcake, Stella’s slicing it now—she wants to know how soon you and Tom can get here for a visit…oh, it’s good to hear your voice too, honey.”

© Stella Carousel, 2016 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

(Cue:  “Cheesy”)

“A Cheesy Reunion”

Frank’s sister Nan and her husband, Tom, arrived in time for the combined celebration of Frank’s birthday on Dec 30, and New Year’s Eve; the two girls had hardly stopped jabbering long enough to take nourishment—when they weren’t talking and laughing, they were hugging and wiping tears of joy till they resembled raccoons, smudged mascara ringing their eyes.

Though Tom and Frank exchanged considerably fewer words, they were enjoying the visit, riveted by the transformation in their midst—Time had rolled back like a genie’s carpet, their wives were suddenly teenagers.

The four dined casually on sandwiches—Stella’s horseradish roast beef and kaiser rolls—a fresh fruit tray, and crisp veggies with herb dip; at midnight they’d toast the New Year—and Frank—with his favorite cheesecake for a late dessert.

As they all stood on the lanai watching the fireworks display over the water, counting down the last of a remarkable, and kaleidoscopic holiday season, Nan and Stella munched cheese puffs—just like the old days.

Frank nudged Tom, and spoke with soft reminiscence, “The Cheesy Twins Redux–all Performances Sold-Out”; to which Tom replied wistfully, “I wish I’d known Nan back then…I wish none of us had had to grow up”, and squeezed Frank’s shoulder with manly affection.

Frank clapped a firm hand to the back of Tom’s neck, and with rough-voiced emotion said, “The best is yet ahead of us, Tom—you’ll see; sometimes God saves the best for last—it’s worth the wait.”

© Stella Carousel, 2017 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

(Cue:  “Rank”)

 “Frank Ranks First”

After much gentle nudging and 2 enthusiastic pep-talks, Stella had convinced Frank to submit one of his paintings to the Community Artists Review.

This was not entirely a small-potatoes show—some fairly big-name regional galleries would be on hand as a sizeable cash prize was presented to the First Place Artist; and there was potential for future opportunities, as yet undefined.

When the letter arrived from the Arts Board, Stella snatched it unopened from Frank’s hand, read quickly, and began squealing and jumping up and down, hugging him loudly.

Briefly deafened by her outburst, Frank grabbed her arms gently, and kissed her to stifle the squeals as his sister and her husband looked on, spellbound—“Did you win the lottery?” Tom asked.

Stella crowed, “NO, much better!”; and handing the notice to Nan and Tom, said, “I’m so glad you’re both here, what great timing for your visit…we’ll get all dressed up tomorrow and attend the ceremony!”

Shrugging, Frank attempted to curb the joyful frenzy:  “It’s just a local community arts board, guys—although being ranked ‘1st’ is…very nice; but if it includes a buffet dinner, you can expect rubber chicken…Just kidding, I’ll blow the prize money on my Best Fans—at Garvey’s Steak and Seafood Grill.”

© Stella Carousel, 2017 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

(Cue:  “Turn”)

“Turn, Turn, Turn”

All good times must end, if only temporarily as seasons turn from joyous effusions of holiday color to barren tones of resting winter; and so, in the wake of what had been a grand, undreamed of Christmas-New Year’s celebration with his sister and her husband, it was Frank’s turn to be muffled by a cape of “the Blues”.

Stella, well-familiar with visitations by her own shadows, eyed him empathetically—and patted him whenever she passed by his chair, or as he stood mutely in his studio’s paint-redolent doorway.

“Hon, they’re only a phone call away,” she repeated gently; “no need to wait for them—why do you seem reluctant to call Nan and Tom?”

Frank sighed deeply, then looked into his dear wife’s eyes—“I don’t want to sound too eager, desperate, pressing my suggestion that they relocate here; they said they’d think about it—I should hold off.”

She twined her arms warmly around his neck, kissed his silvered temple—“Just tell Nan that I need her, and that I’m bookmarking places they should look at soon, before the prices go up.”

He brought her hand to his lips, smelled the perfumed lotion he’d given her…and smiling, he murmured, “I dare say, you’d always take the fall for me, Love”.

© Stella Carousel, 2017 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

(Cue:  “Given”)

 “It’s All a Given”

It was a given, that Frank’s sister and her husband would move to Cape Carillon, where Frank and Stella had settled in retirement…just a matter of time…for Stella was a woman of strong, quiet faith, and Frank had observed that she usually got her way with God (as well as with him).

Not surprisingly, as soon as the holiday decorations were packed away she was itching to rearrange the furniture—a pastime she enjoyed far more, and more frequently, than Frank preferred to work up enthusiasm and sweat for…

There was something else on her busy pretty mind, Frank discovered:  Stella reckoned it a good time to buy new furniture, and suggested they store the old pieces—in case Nan and Tom might wish to use them when they relocated.

Frank’s periodic back issues dictated the hiring of a couple college boys for the heavy work; and after half the living room had disappeared, he surveyed the empty space and gave Stella a dubious smile.

“Well, Love,” he sighed, “we’ve got a dance floor now”… So, offering his hand to her, they two-stepped as he hummed, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.

© Stella Carousel, 2017 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

(Cue:  “Share”)

 “Share and Share Dislike”

♥X♥

Stella’s new furniture order was delayed, then mixed up, then delivered late AND damaged—she was not a happy camper.

Frank had reserved his opinions during her online ordering so as to avoid any blame for her possible disappointment, but as they say, “the best laid plans…”; she was now darting her irritation toward him in subtle ways he had difficulty describing, and thus addressing with her.

Attempting to ameliorate her mood, he reached for affection and levity, asking—“Do you remember when we agreed to share the responsibility for all less than brilliant choices and decisions, together?”

Yes—Frank,” she bit off the words; “but I should not have to share in the fact that you morphed into a mute, abdicating your vote as equal partner in this enterprise”.

Frank took it like a man, and said, “Alright, how would you prefer I remedy the situation, my Love?”

You call the company,” she directed, “they aren’t hearing me—tell them Everything I’ve reiterated to you several times, and demand a full refund Immediately; then phone Mr Tan’s and order Chinese for 4…Yes, 4—I’m very hungry and not in the mood to cook, since our only dining set is the one in storage.”  (huffing and turning on her heel)

Stella Carousel, 2017

♥♥♥

Cue:  “Bread”

“A Loaf of Bread and Thou”

Recovered from her ‘furniture pique’—with a Plan B for future purchases on the figurative table for further discussion—Stella moved the lanai’s casual dining set inside, with Frank’s help.

As he folded the TV trays and shoved them to the back of the hall closet, he assured her it wasn’t the table which made a great dining experience; laying it on extra sweet, he continued—“it’s the meal, and your superior cooking, Love”.

“Oh, stop buttering me up, you smoothie—the lasagna is practically in the oven; but speaking of butter, we need a loaf of Italian bread…do you think you—” ; “I’m on it”, he said agreeably, “anything else?”

Putting index finger to chin, she pondered—“maybe dessert…fresh fruit—pick out a nice pineapple”.

When Frank returned, the kitchen was redolent with baked lasagna and he hurried to prepare the bread; over his shoulder, he enthused about the Pineapple Gelato he’d discovered (sparing him the task of cutting the spiny tropical fruit).

Seated at the wrought iron and glass lanai table, Frank toasted Stella with a crusty slice of garlic bread:  “Love, if bread is the staff of life, you are my compagnon**—ever nourishing my heart and soul”.

Stella Carousel, 2017

♥♥♥

Cue:  “Sink”

 “It’s Always (Sink) or Something”

Stella had shown a trooper’s spirit, serving Frank a lovely lasagna dinner on the lanai furniture they’d moved inside (due to the resulting fiasco when the old dining set was put in storage while expecting ‘new’…which was delayed-damaged-order cancelled); but her muted longing for proper table and chairs was unabated.

Oh, she’d received his 18-stem armful of Picasso roses and $5 Hallmark Valentine with sweet-smiling gratitude, kisses—but whenever she passed through the empty dining area he’d dubbed the “dance floor”, she sighed, turning taciturn…and a too-quiet-Stella was rarely a good thing.

“I know what—let’s go for a drive!” Frank said with extravagant enthusiasm; “maybe we’ll happen on an amazing local site—an extraordinary ‘something’ we’ve overlooked, since moving here.”

Stella’s face—an e’er-changing canvas (and domestic barometer)—moved from an expression of worry that he’d spiked a tropical brain fever, to one of more hazy, benign suspicion; finally she shrugged acquiescence, and gathered her jacket and handbag.

The furniture store windows shouted in fluorescent paint, “Store-Wide SALE—WE Even PAY the Sales TAX!”, as Frank grinned at Stella—who took a mere 14.5 minutes to select a large rectangular dining table suitable for a family of 8…and barely stifled a squeal, on learning it would be delivered that evening.

At home, she chirp-chattered about the beauty and size of the heavy table—its burnished brown surface, ebony legs; the matching well-constructed chairs and 18″ center leaf (heart, be still!)—and punctuated each repeated detail with cheery chorus:  “it’s a steal of a deal, Hon!”…..until Frank interrupted to announce the kitchen’s slow-draining sink had completely backed up, and suggested she call the maintenance-super, “Now”.

© Stella Carousel, 2017 ~ All rights reserved.

♥♥♥

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