It was the New Year that brought about a sense of hope for Dottie Mackenzie. Usually unmoved by the joyous confetti filled parties that come with the end of December, and never one to make empty resolutions; this year Dottie had a very good reason, at least in her mind, to consider the vast blank canvas of a year not yet lived, as something wonderful.
Chris Wallace was the reason for Dottie’s optimism, he had become almost an obsession for her since she began working at Strategic Medical Services 5 years ago. Chris was a sweet guy, and the two had formed a nice working relationship.
“Happy New Year Chris!” she said as he came into work, after the 2 week holiday break that SMS gave their employees each year.
“Thanks Dot, and the same to you. So, how was your holiday?” His smile was so beautiful.
“It was great!” She said, but it wasn’t.
Dottie spent another Christmas at her mother’s, getting an earful of how disappointed Eleanor Mackenzie was in her daughter. “I don’t ask for much Dottie, just that you find a nice husband and give me grandchildren.” Oh no, she doesn’t ask for much at all.
It was Dottie’s mother who insisted every year that she spend the holidays at their home, in her old room, “Just like when you were a little girl.” Eleanor was a control freak, and a woman you didn’t say “no” to.
Dorothy Ann Mackenzie was the only child of Thomas and Eleanor Mackenzie, and from day one, Eleanor had a firm grasp on any and everything Dottie did. Not much had changed over the years, and at 28, Eleanor still refused to let go of the reins of Dottie’s life; but in her defense, Dottie never got the courage to break free from her mother either.
However, Dottie could endure anything now, because this was the year she planned on telling Chris how she felt about him.
Dottie was in a daze, thinking about Chris as her mother rattled on like she always did. “I heard that Helen Davis’ daughter Chelsea just got engaged, and she isn’t half as pretty as you are honey.”
Eleanor was all about appearances, about looking good to the outside world, even though her family were in shambles. She continually bragged about Dottie as if the girl were some kind of trophy to be displayed. When Dottie got good grades, Eleanor’s friend Helen would be the first to know, and when Dottie was accepted to one of the best universities in the country, even the freaking mailman knew.
But Eleanor had been disappointed by Dottie since the girl graduated college. Eleanor believed that Dottie had so much potential, but “settled” for what she considered to be a lowly management job in a medical billing firm. At least Dottie could’ve tried to find a career at a Fortune 500 company —for Eleanor’s sake.
Realizing that Dottie wasn’t paying any attention to her, Eleanor stopped, and gave the girl one of her patented scowls. “Ahem. Did you hear a word I said?”
Dottie’s father finally looked up from his plate of roasted duck. As usual he stayed out of the conversation as much as possible, just hoping his wife would leave him the hell alone. Thomas had checked out of his family a long time ago, and left Dottie to fend for herself under Eleanor’s maniacal guidance.
“Can you believe her Thomas, she is ignoring me, simply because I want her to be happy.”
This was his cue, Thomas was there to back his wife up no matter what. He may have been a huge regret for Eleanor, but in this he never failed her. “Dottie dear, don’t ignore your mother.” Aaaaand he was gone, back to his delicious duck dinner.
Convinced Dottie was listening again, Eleanor continued. “I can hardly show my face at the women’s club these days, you know. I’m always asked about you…” She looked at Dottie, “…and I have to tell them that you’re only a manager at a medical billing firm…” Eleanor touched her hand to her chest as if Dottie’s career choice would be the death of her one day. “Do you realize how hard that is on me? I’ve spent years building you up, young lady, and this is how you repay me, by taking an almost embarrassing job, and not even gaining yourself a husband of some means in the process.”
She noticed Dottie was not paying attention —again, and not only that, her daughter had a little smile on her face.
“Dorothy Ann Mackenzie, are you listening to me?!” Quite frequently, Eleanor used her voice as a weapon, and it worked to jolt Dottie out of her reverie.
Thomas Mackenzie actually felt some sympathy for his daughter, still he said nothing.
Dottie looked at her mother; a woman who had never given her love and affection freely —there was always a price to pay. If Dottie pleased Eleanor, by getting good grades, or making friends with the “right” people, Dottie would be showered with love. However, if Eleanor was upset by anything her daughter did, the woman would sulk like a child, and treat Dottie as if she were invisible, refusing to respond to anything the girl said.
It was all too much for Dottie. She just wanted her mother to shut up, to leave her alone, that’s why she said it.
Dottie stood up and screamed, “I am seeing someone mom!” It was said so forcefully, she even surprised herself. Both of her parents looked up in shock; Dottie had never shown this kind of anger before.
First Eleanor’s face darkened, and she weighed whether or not she should address her daughter’s outburst. But she was willing to let it go on hearing the news that Dottie had a serious beau. “Oh honey, I knew it.” She beamed. “I just told that old Helen the other day that my little Dottie had a sweetie, I could just see it in your face. You were always a girl who took her time, I knew it would eventually happen.”
Dottie nearly fell over when Eleanor rushed to her and wrapped her up in a ferocious hug. She rarely received an embrace from her mother, and Dottie rested in it. She wanted to have a close relationship with Eleanor, the kind Chelsea and her mother had. Maybe it was still possible.
Then reality hit her square in the face when Eleanor asked, “What’s his name?”
For a moment, Dottie was stunned, she forgot that she would have to produce this fictional man to her mother.
Without thinking Dottie blurted out, “Chris Wallace.”
“Well I want to meet this Chris fellow!” Eleanor barked. This wasn’t a suggestion, or a request. It was a command.
Dottie realized she had made a tremendous mistake, but she couldn’t turn back now.
Dottie thought that maybe the verbal blunder with her mother at Christmas dinner, was a good thing that would finally force her to admit to Chris how she felt about him.
How did you spend your vacation?” she asked Chris while he shuffled around some files.
“Some friends and I rented a cabin up at Mt. Fuller. It was a blast; sleeping, eating, and skiing for two weeks, I didn’t want to come back.”
“Sounds fabulous.” Dottie said.
“What about you, what kind of excitement did you get into over the holidays.” ‘Oh my,’ Dottie thought, his smile was actually making her weak.
“Nothing great, spent it with my folks, you know…” Dottie’s voice trailed off.
Chris smiled, it was warm and welcoming, then he said, “I don’t get along so well with my folks either.”
That little opening gave Dottie the confidence she didn’t know she had, and in that moment things for Dorothy Mackenzie changed dramatically —kind of.
Dottie’s head was spinning. It was one of those whirlwind romances she read about in her romance novels. Chris actually listened to her, laughed at her jokes, took her places she would never have gone on her own. On the fateful day he had to meet Eleanor, Chris took charge; he was polite but firm, and didn’t let Eleanor take control the way she always did.
Dottie’s father loved Chris, and the two started playing golf together. This time around, Eleanor was the unhappy one, and she tried getting her husband to come over to her side. “Thomas, I don’t think that Chris is good for Dottie, he’s a disrespectful young man. You see that don’t you?”
Thomas wasn’t afraid of his wife, he just didn’t want the headache of dealing with her when she was upset. This time though he spoke up, “You’re simply angry because Chris sees right through you, and doesn’t let you control Dottie like you’re used to.” With that he picked up his golf bag, and went to meet Chris at the club.
In one last act of desperation, Eleanor pretended to be deathly ill, hoping it would bring Dottie to her bedside, where she could work her magic and make the girl break things off with Chris. But the old tricks didn’t work anymore; and with that the reign of Eleanor Mackenzie was over.
Six months later, Chris and Dottie were married.
Chris took Dottie to Europe for their honeymoon, and on the balcony of their 4 star hotel, she was happier than she had ever been in her whole life. Dottie thought back to that New Year’s pledge she made to take a chance on Chris, and couldn’t believe how well it all turned out. She had a husband, and more importantly, her mother was no longer a controlling figure in her life; Dottie Mackenzie was free —not quite.
Married 3 months, Dottie Mackenzie Wallace sat at dinner with her new husband perusing the menu.
“Ready to order?” Chris asked.
When the waiter arrived, he looked at Dottie and asked, “May I take your order ma’am?” But it was Chris who spoke up, “We’ll have the salmon with the green beans, and your best wine.” Chris took the menu from Dottie and handed it to the waiter, who left with a confused look on his face.
Dottie was nibbling on some bread as Chris told her about his day, “Maybe you should cut down on the bread honey,” he told her with that beautiful smile on his face.
Dottie frowned, she was starving, and didn’t want the salmon, the Sirloin sounded more her speed, but Chris said she shouldn’t eat too much red meat.
After dinner Dottie didn’t want to see the movie Chris chose, “Let’s pick something we both like.” She pleaded. “Don’t worry honey, you’ll love it.”
She hated it.
Back at home, he laid out a nightgown for her, the pretty red one that he bought. Dottie didn’t want to wear it, but Chris could be quite insistent when he wanted to be.
A few weeks later, Chris decided that Dottie should stay home and take care of the house instead of, “Wasting your time at that job,” he said. But Dottie wanted to continue to work until they started a family. “Well, no time like the present.” Chris replied.
A few months later, she was pregnant. Chris made all the arrangements; he organized the nursery, gave her a list of baby names to choose from; he even picked the doctor and the hospital. Chris kept a close eye on what Dottie ate, giving her a list of foods she should eat because, “Now that you’re pregnant, I don’t want you putting on too much weight.” He told her.
Dottie loved seeing Chris excited, especially since the warm man she fell in love with was becoming more and more rare these day. He still had the beautiful smile though, but Dottie only saw it when she did the things that pleased him.
The New Year was around the corner, it had been nearly 15 months since Dottie thought her life would turn around for the better. Chris had been a mistake, one as controlling and manipulative as her mother. But Dottie escaped that life once, and she could do it again.
Dottie Mackenzie Wallace smiled as she went over the plans that lie ahead; how she would make it look like an accident, how she would cry bitter tears at the loss of her beloved Chris. She would have the perfect cover too; that of a grieving expectant mother.
Chris, noticing the happy look on Dottie’s face, and the fact that she’d stopped listening to him, snapped, “What are you smiling about?!”
“Oh nothing,” Dottie said, “Just looking forward to the New Year.”
~Like this story? Want to participate in future “Theme Weeks”? Look out for our February prompt later this month.
Alice Nelson says
Reblogged this on The Stay At Home Feminist and commented:
My latest SFB short story titled “Unchanged”
June Griffin says
Loved this story!
Alice Nelson says
Thank you June!