Indian Food Rocks
A dog named Lou

Saint Rita's Revisted

I mentioned before that during the National Novel Writing Month contest I was amazed at the stuff that came spilling out from somewhere inside me. Stuff like story lines I hadn't even thought about before and fully-developed characters with stories of their own to include in the novel ... I'm just going through my draft and was surprised to find the scene where Izzy's mom is found by her biological daughter. The one no one knows about. I wrote that scene before mailing the paperwork off to search for my own birth mom, so it's interesting that maybe on some level I knew how it was going to end up. I remember writing that section and thinking it was too forced, that it doesn't really happen like this and even wrote some notes at the bottom of that chapter suggesting I re-work it. Even though it was a secret in Vanessa's life, and she has a very "arms-length" relationship with her daughters, she is too warm and fuzzy with her biological daughter on the phone. She goes too fast from shock to acceptance. Even in the part I wrote, Vanessa isn't sure if she wants to meet her true first-born face to face. But I tried to cover that up and change her mind even though it didn't ring right as I wrote it. I think I need to write it so that Vanessa doesn't want to meet her daughter. Use what you know, right? And maybe that way, it's also a chance to get some more perspective on why someone would make that choice.

It was an ordinary Tuesday morning when Vanessa got the call that rocked her world. She was taking on Ginny's lasagna challenge. Ginny had made it sound so easy. So why were there pieces of squash and broccoli all over her kitchen? And why did she have three noodles leftover? She had no idea how she was going to get this meal made and cleaned up before the girls got off the bus. But for now, she was too busy chopping and dicing to worry about all that. Ginny was right. There was a meditative effect in cooking. Vanessa had no idea. She always thought that was something people said to make themselves feel better about not having a cook. She was just scraping the vegetable mixture into her new Williams-Sonoma bowl. She smiled thinking of another of Ginny's lessons. Encouraging her to use her money in ways to make this new life easier, Ginny urged her to "Buy stuff that makes you smile in the kitchen. Hell, splurge on the pretty sponge." When the phone rang, Vanessa had to dig under several dirty kitchen towels to get to it. She barely caught it with a breathless, "Hello?" There was a pause on the other end. Damn telemarketers. She pulled the phone away from her ear to punch the off button but heard a quiet, "Hello?" Followed by a louder one.

"Yes? Hello?"
"Is this Vanessa Medici?" Her stomach flipped at the sound of her maiden name.

"Who is calling?"
"This is ... my name is Morgan. I uh ... Well, I found your name through a Gwen who knew you ..."

"Who is this?" Her voice getting shrill, Vanessa leaned against the counter to hold herself up, feeling her knees give when she heard Gwen's name.

"I'm the baby you gave up for adoption. I mean, I think that. I think that I might be." Silence. "Hello? Are you still there?" More silence. "Please don't hang up!"
"I won't." Vanessa finally whispered, sliding to the floor, back pressed against the counter, legs curling beneath her, smearing the lasagna mess as it spilled over her lap and onto the tiles.

"Okay. Um. I don't know what to say next actually. Are you still there?"

"How did you find me?" Vanessa finally spit out one of the six thousand questions swirling in her head.

"I didn't start looking until a couple years ago but ah, it wasn't easy. Those Catholics over there are pretty tight-lipped. Oh! Sorry, I don't mean to offend you."

"Oh, God. No, you couldn't say enough bad things about those nuns to offend me. So, who cracked?"

"Well, no one on purpose. After my phone calls and letters went unanswered for so long, I showed up there with my pregnant belly and checked myself in, figuring I could get some information from the inside."

"Were you really pregnant?"

"Yeah. Um. But so at Saint Rita's I found some photo albums and eventually found Gwen who told me about you."

"How is Gwen?"

"Oh, she's fine. I guess. I mean, I don't really know her or what to compare her to. So, ah fine I'd have to say."

"She was a crazy, crazy kid that one," Vanessa smiled ruefully, remembering her last real friend. They hadn't talked since coming back from Europe. Both agreed it would be too hard to explain how they knew each other. And though they were close, they reminded one another of a time best forgotten.