This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Two from the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE by Margaret McMillion.
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Each time Penny looked at her reflection she hoped to find herself improved, her features suddenly beautiful, but as she adjusted the makeup mirror and painted yellow coverup over her under-eye shadows, the same odd eyes frowned at her: one brown, the other one blue. She parted her shoulder-length hair at the center of her high forehead, back combed, sprayed the wispy ends to hold them in place, and then smeared on lipstick.
Previously blessed with normal vision, she struggled with near-sightedness brought on by aging. At home she kept reading glasses on a chain around her neck, but at work the chain tangled with her stethoscope, so she wore bifocals the entire shift. She cleaned her glasses and put on dangling silver earrings before opening the door into the hallway leading to the family room, which extended into an eating area and the kitchen.
Summer daylight usually arrived by six, but this morning the sky appeared overcast, and it seemed earlier. Penny positioned herself at the kitchen table so that her view through two large windows took in the patio, the backyard, and a wooded area behind the house.
She drank the last of her coffee as Johnny shuffled to the table. He blinked with surprise at his dolled-up wife, then inhaled and blew his breath up into his face. “You’re determined to do this!”
Penny gazed into her lap and shook her head. “I didn’t just decide overnight. I asked for advice, but you wouldn’t help.” Her husky voice was unsteady and defensive.
He corrected her. “Couldn’t help—you always do what you want anyway.” He sighed as he poured a bowl half full of Grape-nuts, then came to sit across from her at the table. Leaning back, his head supported in his hands, he jiggled one leg causing the table to vibrate. Narrowing his eyes, he gave her a long glare. “You just HAVE to do it!”
Penny raised a hand, palm to chest, to meet the rush of emotion against his accusing words. She had spent her life trying to do the right thing. Now, with years of striving for perfection behind her, she was a taut E-string, tuned too high and ready to snap.
She rinsed her coffee cup at the sink and wet her dry mouth with a swallow of water, then in a stoic tone explained her reasoning again. “My salary will be higher, and I can learn more; it’s a big hospital where they do advanced procedures.” Her voice rose. “I thought this would be a good thing to try.”
Johnny removed his eyeglasses and inspected them for smudges.
Penny changed the subject because the discussion was futile. As a child she had listened to her father’s mockery of the stupid things people said and had learned to critique her thoughts and to weed out comments he would deem less than “worthwhile.” As a result, she listened more than she talked. “How was your meeting last night?” Penny thought this was a safe subject.
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