Grace’s Gift

On August 12, 2009 by Aimee

This is a short story I submitted to The First Line for their fall issue. It didn’t get picked but got a “Not bad.” notation. 😉 So I’ll write another with the next first line …

Grace’s Gift
“My life is a sham.”

“Of course it is.”

Grace’s head snapped up as if she’d been hit with more than just words. Her eyes registered shock. She’d expected support, encouraging words, pats on the back, high fives and figurative chest bumps, followed closely by blasphemous words thrown back on her behalf.

Instead, she got agreement – plain and simple.

After twenty years, had Casey changed her mind? Best friends, since their junior year, when Grace moved to Rune, North Carolina, Casey accepted Grace’s quirk — her distinguished ability. She’d claimed it was cool, not bizarre like the other so-called friends she’d met along the way.

Grace stared at Casey. She let not a remnant of her features change. If she’d misunderstood four little words, she wasn’t about to acknowledge it. Thanks to her step-mother, Catherine, she’d become very adept at hiding emotions and thoughts, a necessity given how her mind worked.

‘Of course it is’ seemed pretty clear. ‘Go on’ must have been written on her forehead.

Casey’s piercing blue eyes looked deep into the green of Grace’s as if, by look alone, they would bring clarity. It wasn’t like they hadn’t had this conversation at least a hundred times before. This time, she’d simply decided to try a different tact; reverse psychology.

“Our lives are nothing but perceptions, Grace. We all try to be what others want us to be. I’ve never understood why you, of all people, don’t understand that.”

Casey was right of course. All her life Grace had been ten steps ahead. It wasn’t because she knew everything. That would be a simpler explanation.

“Listen.” Casey put her hand on top of Grace’s to reassure her. “You’re an amazing doctor. You save countless with your research, knowledge and ability to recall so many facts within split seconds, and I know you know that.” She wagged her finger at Grace to confirm her point. “You could have easily been a pilot, astronaut, physicist, vet or any other profession from the laundry list of those you’ve studied. You chose medicine. No one did that for you.” Casey patted Grace’s hand then leaned back into her chair to sip her mimosa.

They sat together, as they did once a year, on Grace’s birthday, outside Le Bistro in Paris. They’d chosen the spot during their graduation trip when together they’d toured Europe for four weeks with Paul and Scott. Four eighteen year olds with no worries, concerns or any particular ambitions; Grace the exception.

While their lives had taken a few detours along the way, Grace and Casey had returned under the pretense of reliving the glory days — Casey’s at least.

The breeze from the Seine blew through their hair and brought with it the smell of freshly cut flowers from the cart a few feet away.

They’d chosen the restaurant because of its proximity to their hotel as well as the welcome they’d always received from the owners — one of whom Grace had saved during their trip twenty years prior.

Despite her attempts to block, the terrifying memories reappeared.

While the four of them ate their first meal of the day, a husband-wife team chopped, chatted and prepared. One wrong move changed the course of their life forever.

Grace could recall the entire event, in vivid detail, along with each action she took.

Mrs. Lebeaux ran from the cafe, covered in blood screaming unintelligibly. As patrons scattered and ran from the cafe, Grace’s three friends looked at her and nodded her forward. On the spot, she’d been forced into the role she prepared to become.

Luckily, she’d never been squeamish.

Her body reacted quickly, with purpose. Mr. Lebeaux, visible from the doorway of the small cafe, lay in a pool of bright red as more seeped from his neck.

It had been nothing more than wrong place, wrong time for the Lebeaux couple, right place, right time for Grace.
Everyone agreed that without her, he’d have perished on the floor of his beloved cafe. Two months later she started medical school and as she’d predicted, finished, residency and all, just three years later with Paul at her side. Dr. Grace Brooks.

“You’re thinking about Mr. Lebeaux aren’t you?”

“How can I not? I still can’t believe they both passed away a few months ago. I also can’t believe you still won’t call them by their first names.” Grace smiled at her friend.

Casey simply shook her head. “It’s ingrained training Grace. You know what my momma always says.”

Grace knew. She’d known all her life. She’d gotten over the Mr. and Mrs. requirement herself, only to reinstate it once she had MD after her name. She’d needed it to survive the “you’re too young to be a Doctor, please get me someone else” phase that began her career.

“Tell me why this has come up again Grace.” Casey’s question was sincere.

Grace turned the glass in her hand and let the liquid smoothly coat the inside. A head full of knowledge and she still wasn’t able to find herself.

“Mid-life crisis?”

Casey looked at her with one squinty eye. “Nice try. Next?”


“Over what? You’re young. You have a great life. A good marriage. A fabulous job.”

“I’m afraid.”

As far as Casey could tell Grace was never afraid.

In high school, she’d hidden her gift in the hope she’d be considered just another girl; not in fear.

She’s been awarded numerous grants for her risky, yet flawless research in infant and fetal medicine. In turn, she’d saved hundreds of babies, and their mothers, from untimely deaths.

When she wanted to be a pilot, she did — only to find she was an easy target for motion sickness.

“Of what?”

“Self-fulfilling prophesies?”

“OK Grace. I give up. I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“You know today marks two different anniversaries, right? My birth … “

“And your Mom’s death.” Casey tried not to think about it. “I know. But I thought you’d made peace with it.”
Grace waved away the sorrow induced moisture on her lashes.

“It’s just –” Grace couldn’t get the words out. Her problem seemed ridiculous. She was a trained medical doctor!
Casey leaned forward, looked straight into her eyes again. “Tell me Grace.”

On a sigh, Grace closed her eyes and spoke through her thoughts. “I can learn anything I want. I’ve experienced everything but the one thing that would seem to come natural to me.”

“Everything does come natural to you, Grace.” Casey’s only point of jealousy in their entire relationship centered on Grace’s gift — that she could remember — quite literally everything.

That gift allowed her to read and know. Touch and understand. See, smell or taste and remember — with absolute clarity and with an instantaneous ability to retell. It was why she was such a damn good Doctor. Nothing got by her.
She didn’t have to research a problem — if it was out there and she’d read it, she knew it. She didn’t have to think through a conversation — all the possibilities were right in front of her, and through logical deduction she’d get to the heart of the problem the first time.

That’s why she’d been able to save Mr. Lebeaux without medical training.

“Not motherhood.” Grace looked at Casey.

Casey had become a mother just four years before, and from Grace’s estimation, loved every moment of it.

“Oh. I see.”

“Do you? Really?”

“Maybe. Give me a minute. You process faster than I do.”

Grace laughed at Casey. Aside from Scott, Casey’s husband, and Paul, her own, few people knew about Grace’s gift. It was kept under the radar as much as possible. Between the four of them it was a running joke.

“Ok, I think I got it. You are a superwoman Doctor who saves moms and babies often at great risk to their lives. You care for, offer advice, encourage and promote your theories yet you haven’t experienced them. You’re a do as I say, not as I do girl.”

Grace nodded in agreement.

“So you’re a hypocrite?”

For the second time, Grace was stunned by Casey’s words.

She must have misheard. “I’m sorry? What?”

“You’re a hypocrite. Your life really is a sham.”

“You really are going to agree with me?”

“Yup! Because I think you’re afraid that what happened to your Mom will happen to you. Or what happened to you will happen to your child and to Paul, despite the education you have. So instead of taking risks — which you do with others’ lives — you live vicariously through them.” Casey’s smug attitude irked Grace.

“And,” She continued before Grace could interject. “I think you are dying to be a Mom. I’ve seen how you look at your patients and at my daughter. If that’s what you want, Grace, then you need step outside of yourself and be that normal human being you ascribe to.”

“But -” Casey interrupted again.

“No buts Grace. None. This isn’t something you can learn from a book. Motherhood is sacred, individual and opens up new worlds. You’ve spent way too much time on the other side. Its time for you to use what you’ve learned and take a step into the unknown.”

“What if -” interrupted again.

“Don’t live in “what ifs” Gracie. This is one area where you can’t read ahead and won’t know the outcome. You can prepare only to a point. You’ll never be ready if you keep thinking through all the possibilities. If you want to be a Mom, there’s no time like the present. And, it’ll be the first time you and Paul will be on the same playing field.”

“He’d get a kick out of that, wouldn’t he?” Grace smirked. Knowing Paul, her desire would thrill him and would indeed make him her equal.

For the first time in her life, she be less than a hundred percent prepared, mentally blind, just another woman. She’d be normal. She’d be real. She’d be Mom.

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