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Authors: Viola Shipman

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BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
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“Thank you!” Lolly laughed.

Lolly moved into the center of the crowd and pulled some candy from a pocket on the side of her sequined dress.
“Take some fudge, fellas, and some brittle, fellas, 'cause Dolly'll never go away.”

She took a dramatic bow, flinging her boa behind her head, as the tourists applauded and went in for hugs and photos before flooding the shop to buy treats. As soon as the crowd had dissipated, Lolly walked inside to the paper clock adhered to the window and moved the hands up an hour.

NEXT SHOW: 2:OO.

She tied her pink apron back on, adjusted her wig, and began to stir the chocolate that had been added to the hot urns.

Lolly caught Arden's face through the window and smiled broadly.

“See?” Lauren said. “She's so happy we stayed and watched.”

Arden smiled at her mom, then at Lauren.

I have to admit—despite my own feelings—the crowd loves her,
Arden thought.

“Let's grab a little lunch and then do some shopping,” Arden said. “There used to be a great local winery not far from here, and I'm sure there's a farm stand. Why don't we pick up some wine and fresh veggies after we're done, and I'll make dinner for you and your grandma?”

“You're cooking?” Lauren joked. “We might need two bottles.”

 

Five

Arden didn't need GPS to find her way home again.

She simply followed the dragonflies.

Every year, as the cold spring rains ended and summer—ever so slowly—began to crawl onto the shores of northern Michigan like a forgotten castaway, the dragonflies arrived to signal summer had begun.

Arden navigated her car toward little Lost Land Lake away from downtown Scoops and the sprawling, historic cottages that lined Lake Michigan. Hidden in the woods, pirated away amongst the pines, Lost Land Lake is where she'd grown up.

The farther Arden drove and the nearer she got to Lost Land, the more the dragonflies darted alongside the car, serving as her guides.

“Tinker Bell?” she remembered having asked her mother when she was a girl.

“Yes!” her mother had said. “Magic is all around you! All you have to do is look!”

When Arden turned five, Lolly had given her a dragonfly charm as a birthday present.

“To a life filled with good fortune,” her mother had whispered. “Just like Tinker Bell!”

Arden looked out her window at the dragonflies, shook her head, and pressed her foot down on the accelerator.

Arden drove until she saw the old red barn with
WILSON FAMILY DAIRY
painted on the side, took a little two-lane road until she passed the massive weeping willow that arched over it, then turned onto a narrow dirt road, canopied under soaring pines that choked out the afternoon sun. Finally, the little road opened onto Lost Land Lake.

“It's so beautiful, Mom!”

Arden looked over at her daughter, the wind from the open window blowing her long, blond hair.

“It is,” Arden said, slowing her car.

She had forgotten how stunning Lost Land Lake was: The sandy-bottomed lake, loons floating, swallows swooping, birch trees bending in the soft wind, like a Midwestern version of
On Golden Pond
.

Arden eased the car over the many potholes that pocked the old dirt road, around an ancient pine trunk, past an old birch stump, and across a swinging bridge that sat over a creek winding its way to the lake. And, finally, they drove alongside seven old log cabins with lake stone fireplaces, stoops filled with fishing poles, wet swimming suits and inner tubes, and screened porches that faced Lost Land Lake.

Home.

Lucky #7.

The last log cabin on the lake.

Arden parked in a little area outlined by a fence of stacked logs. Before she could even stop the car, Lauren bounded out.

“I forgot how cute it is! It's so Walden Pond!” Lauren exclaimed, with more enthusiasm for the setting and little log cabin than Arden could muster. “I used to think Grandma's house was made of Lincoln Logs, remember?”

Arden smiled, yanking their suitcases from the trunk.

“Lauren, I need some help,” Arden said. “Can you grab the groceries and wine?”

Too late. Her daughter had already kicked off her shoes and raced down the warped wood dock that jutted over the sandy shore, reeds, and blue-green water of Lost Land Lake.

“Thanks! Appreciate it!” Arden laughed.

Arden watched her daughter take a seat on the dock, whooping in delight as she stuck her feet into the water.

Arden relaxed for a second before she clamped her eyes shut, took a deep breath, and then willed herself to find her cell and make the call she didn't want to make.

“Arden?” her ex said. “What's going on? I'm about to go into a meeting.”

Nice to talk to you, too,
she thought.

“I'm sorry to bother you, but…” Arden hesitated, instantly feeling like a failure as a wife, mother, and daughter.

“Yes? What is it?”

“I took a couple of weeks off to visit my mom in Scoops. Lauren and I haven't seen her in years, and I was worried about her. She's missing work. She's just aged so much, Tom.”

“Get to the point, Arden. I'm in a hurry.”

You haven't changed a bit,
she smirked to herself.

“Well, since I'm missing work, we're spending a little extra on vacation, and Lauren's tuition payment is coming up, I just thought…”

“Are you telling me you're not managing your finances? You received this month's deposit, didn't you?”

“Yes, it's just that…”

“I'm sure you'll be just fine. You've always been a hard worker. Why don't you ask your mom to help out?”

Arden could feel her anger rising.

“Tom, that's not nice! I can't believe you would suggest that.”

“Tell Lauren hello for me. Hope she can visit this holiday season. I'm taking the family to Aspen. She'd love it.”

“Always a pleasure, Tom. Have a nice Memorial Day.”

Arden hung up and sighed, watching her daughter splash her feet in the lake.

Arden yanked the suitcases along the mossy steppingstones that hopscotched to the front screened porch and thought,
I'm glad Lauren doesn't know about any of this
.

After nearly every thunderstorm, polished lake rocks—in a myriad of muted hues—would wash ashore, and Arden had helped her mom gather the flat stones to finish a walkway. The stones were always mossy in May, before the summer sun had a chance to dry and warm the rocks.

Arden stopped and inhaled deeply. It was a habit every time she came home.

Green.

If Arden could describe the scent of Michigan in spring and summer, it wouldn't be a particular smell—blooming wildflowers or boat exhaust from the lake—it would be a color: Green.

Everything—after a long winter's hibernation—came alive, and it was that essence of life that permeated the state, like Mother Nature's perfume.

I'm alive,
it screamed,
in every petal, leaf, reed! I'm green!

As Arden came to the porch, she suddenly realized she had no key, but then remembered: Her mother never locked a door in her life. She gave the screen door a tug. It was unlocked.

She swung the creaking door open and dropped the luggage. The smell of wood and smoke—from decades of fires in the old stone fireplace—greeted her. Nothing had changed: Same old barn red glider, rocking softly in the breeze, same quilt over the white wicker couch, an odd array of jigsaw puzzles—shellacked, yellowed, and poorly framed—lined the walls, patchwork rugs and painted floor coverings—of pines, ferns, trillium—scattered across the slatted wood floor of the porch.

It's nice to be home again,
Arden thought,
even with so much on my mind.

Some of the screens were in need of repair. A couple had come loose from the frame, a couple had tiny holes.

The makeshift coffee tables on the screened porch—old milk crates, blueberry boxes, and shelves from neighbors' bee houses—were stacked with magazines.

Arden kicked off her sandals, instantly feeling sand on her feet just like she had as a girl, and walked toward the stacks.

Growing up, her mother had read
National Geographic
,
Life
, and
Newsweek
religiously. When Arden had told her mother she had gotten a job at
Paparazzi
, Lolly had stated, “I never knew celebrities interested you. I hope you're also writing about something that is deeply meaningful to you.”

Arden picked up a copy and did a double take. She stooped with some effort and began rifling through the issues.

These aren't just
any
magazines, these are
my
magazines.
Paparazzi
. Seemingly every issue. Even though I don't have a byline on any of the articles.

Arden's lip quivered, and she clutched the magazines to her as if they were her mom.

A breeze through the screen door ruffled Arden's hair, and she heard a fluttering. She tilted her head, trying to determine the noise.

She walked into the cabin and that's when she noticed a myriad of Post-its fluttering in the wind. They were stuck to nearly every surface, almost like a Yellow Brick Road: The log walls, the refrigerator, the microwave, the pantry, the phone, even the floors. Arden followed the trail, plucking and reading the jagged handwriting aloud: “Eat breakfast!” “Get milk!” “Do laundry!” “Pay the phone company!” “Vacuum!” “Make dinner!” “Be at work by noon!” “Always put keys in basket by fridge!”

Arden drew her arms around herself.

She turned and walked into her mother's bedroom, a little log-filled nook that overlooked the lake, the long shadow of a pine falling across the middle of the worn mattress. More Post-its were stuck to the mirrors over the dresser and the bathroom sink.

“Take medicine!” “Take a bath!” “Brush wigs!”

Arden took a seat on her mother's bed and turned to face the window looking out at Lost Land Lake. The glass was cracked open, and the smell of water and pine filled the air. In the distance, kids screamed as they jumped into the still-cold lake. A dragonfly flitted onto the old wood windowsill.

Arden grabbed a pillow from her mother's bed and began to hug it.

Another scent overwhelmed her: Her mother's perfume.

Shalimar.

Arden noticed Lauren standing in the doorframe. In the shafts of light splaying off the lake and through the pines, her daughter looked so young.

“Mom?” Lauren asked, walking over to take a seat on the bed. “Are you okay? What's going on with all the Post-its?”

“No, I'm not okay,” Arden said, her voice shaky. “And I don't know.”

Suddenly, the screen door banged shut.

Lolly appeared in the door, smiling. It was then she noticed Lauren fidgeting with a Post-it and the look on Arden's face. Her smile began to fade.

“I didn't want you to see this. I didn't want you to see the cabin this way,” Lolly began to mutter. “I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.”

“What's going on, Mom?” Arden asked.

Lolly walked over and took a seat on the end of the bed. She hesitated, as if she wanted to make up an excuse, but all she could do was blink back the tears pooling in her eyes.

“I don't know,” she said, as a flood of tears trailed down her cheeks, clearing paths through her makeup. “I'm scared.”

 

Six

“It's my belief she has MCI.”

Arden was sitting with a geriatric doctor in an office at Lakeview Geriatric Center, grateful to have gotten an appointment on such short notice.

The beauty of living in a small town,
Arden thought, before asking, “MCI?”

“Mild cognitive impairment,” Dr. Van Meter said. “It's the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging and the development of dementia.”

Arden watched her mother through the window walking with Lauren in the immaculate back garden of the center, pointing out birds and flowers to her granddaughter, before the two took a seat on a teak bench. Arden knew this facade was, in essence, just like a pretty celebrity on a magazine cover. It made a great first impression, and helped distract people from the real issues in their lives.

“Are you sure?” Arden asked.

“Completely,” the doctor said, patting Arden's leg. “We've performed a comprehensive series of physical and neurological tests on your mother, including a mental status examination.”

The doctor stopped and smiled at Arden. “This isn't the end of the world, Ms. Lindsey. You need to know that. Not everyone with MCI develops dementia, but this does signal the need for significant changes in your mother's life and care. People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory, and they are often aware of their forgetfulness. Symptoms can include difficulty performing more than one task at a time, difficulty solving problems or making decisions, forgetting recent events or conversations, taking longer to perform more difficult mental activities.”

“That explains the Post-its in her cabin?”

“Yes. And you should be aware that, over time, should your mother develop dementia, her life will become more complicated. She will have difficulty performing tasks that used to come easily, she will get lost, she will have language issues, she will misplace items. She could have personality changes that lead to inappropriate behaviors.”

“She's had that for a long time,” Arden said, trying to make a joke.

The doctor didn't laugh, and Arden realized that her mouth was moving as she stared at the doctor's face. She wasn't able to hear all that she was saying, because Arden kept thinking,
What do I do? I can't move to Scoops.

BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
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