The faded hammock hung between two trees, keeping it all through the day in dappled sunlight. Chloe sat at one end, legs curled under her to save on space, dressed in shorts and a cotton shirt, sunglasses and big hat settled over the braids in her hair.
She wasn’t alone on the hammock. She was curled up, not that she minded at all, so that Nadine could stretch out fully, ankles crossed. Unlike Chloe, who wasn’t bothered by threats of what the sun could do, Nadine was in worn jeans and a long sleeved shirt, sunglasses and a hat that mirrored what Chloe was wearing. Both were barefoot, letting freshly painted toes feel the warm sun.
They did this often. Chloe had watched how her dad had made sure the bolts holding the hammock up were strong enough to hold whatever load the hammock could bear. When the weather was nice, they’d come out here and read.
Turning another page of the memoir she was reading, Chloe lowered it a bit, just enough to see Nadine over the top. “You should write a book.”
It was quiet out here. Occasionally there was the sound of birds or an old truck rumbling up the dirt road, but rarely anything else. For a minute, Nadine didn’t react and Chloe wondered if she hadn’t heard her. It wasn’t a secret that her hearing was going, though she hadn’t done anything to help just yet. After that minute, however, the book in her hands lowered slowly to her chest. The one after that, sunglasses slid to the tip of her nose. “I should write a book?”
“You.” She smiled the smile she knew Nadine could rarely turn down. “About your life.”
Nadine scoffed. “Why would anyone want to read that?”
She held up the book she’d been reading. “Why does anyone write a book about themselves? You’ve had this awesome life! I’m sure you’ve only told me a tiny bit of it.” He movements made the hammock sway.
“Because you’re far too young to hear it.”
Nadine shook her head, but while wearing a fond look. “Still too young, my dear.”
Turning down the corner of the page, Chloe tucked her book aside, leaning forward. “There has to be something. Something you wanted to set the record straight on or an experience you had that you wished other people could have too. You’ve traveled all over the world, you’ve served for the President!”
“I’m not good at expressing my own thoughts on paper. I- I would forget parts or not know how to explain something. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember things in the right order.”
Chloe gave that some thought. She couldn’t deny that Nadine’s memory recall wasn’t what it’d been when she was a girl trailing at her feet. “What if I wrote it?”
“No, wait. We’ll record stuff, like now. We’re sitting here and if you have a story to share, I can record it. Then I can type it out later until we have a book. You don’t have to tell it in order. We’ll just do it a bit at a time.”
She was still shaking her head. “As nice as that sounds, I just don’t think I’d ever be comfortable publishing something like that. I’m sorry.”
“What if I saved it? What if I waited and kept all your stories until after you were gone? You would’ve already approved it and it would be your story, the things you always wanted to say to the world.”
Footsteps crunched across the dry grass. Chloe hadn’t even noticed her dad’s truck come back. “I could hear the two of you from the garage.” He was smiling. “What has you so excited out here?”
Nadine pushed her sunglasses back into place. “Your daughter thinks I should write a book… about myself.”
Chloe watched as he chuckled, shaking his head. “That’s not a bad idea, though. Something to be your legacy.”
“Chloe can be my legacy.”
“You can fill it with everything you haven’t told her yet.”
“She’s too young.”
“Nadine… she’s old enough. I promise.”
Rushing through the front door, Chloe stopped in the kitchen, cutting the tape with scissors and freeing the book inside. It’s been a labor of love, fifteen years of talking, of writing, of editing, and of waiting. Her dad had said several years ago that he thought Nadine set her mind to simply living forever so that it’d never get published.
Through her own marriage and three kids, Chloe had started to agree.
The door slammed again and Chloe looked up, grinning. “It’s here!” She passed one copy of the book to her husband, flipping open the cover of another. “It’s finally done.”
“You went with the first dedication in the end?”
“Once I was sitting in the publisher’s office, it just felt right.”
“It’s perfect.” He pressed a kiss to her temple.
Chloe stared at the print a moment, reading it to herself- To all the strong, bold women who work tirelessly behind the scenes, thank you. “I had them do the forward too as well as the quotes.”
She flipped the page, seeing her own words, her own personal part of this project, printed in black and white. There were quotes, things people remembered about Nadine, or things Nadine had said to them, as well, but the first page was from her.
I was told I met Nadine when I was a day and a half old. Obviously, I can’t remember that meeting…