When All The Girls Have Gone(2)

By: Jayne Ann Krentz

And hunting accidents happened all the time in the mountains.


“‘. . . And then I killed him.’”

Ethel Deeping looked up from the page she had been reading from her memoir. She smiled proudly, clearly anticipating a round of applause from the audience.

For a few seconds the other members of the Write Your Life memoir writing group were shocked into a state of speechlessness.

Then the muttered complaints began rolling across the room in a wave that crested to full-blown outrage.

“You can’t put that in your memoir,” Hazel Williams announced from the back of the room. She banged her cane on the floor for emphasis. “We’re supposed to be writing our life stories, not fiction. The fiction class meets on Wednesday evenings.”

“Hazel’s right,” Bob Perkins grumbled. “It’s a memoir. There are rules. You want to write mysteries, go join the fiction writers’ group.”

Ethel narrowed her eyes. “It’s my life story. I can tell it any way I want.”

Charlotte Sawyer, seated at the front of the small classroom, raised her hand, signaling for silence. The grumbling subsided. Everyone looked at her.

She was far and away the youngest person in the room. The Thursday afternoon meeting of the Write Your Life group was a popular program at the Rainy Creek Gardens Retirement Village. It had been one of the first workshops she had introduced upon accepting the position of director of social and educational activities. That had been a year before, when, after bouncing from one boring, dead-end job to another in Portland, Oregon, she had taken her stepsister’s advice and moved to Seattle. Her first interview had been at Rainy Creek Gardens. She had landed the job immediately. Five minutes into her new career she had concluded that she had found her place in the world.

Overseeing the busy schedule of workshops, events and programs at Rainy Creek Gardens lacked the glamour and sophistication that her stepsister, Jocelyn, enjoyed as a fund-raiser for a wealthy entrepreneur’s foundation. Jocelyn frequently traveled to exotic locales and mingled with the rich and famous—all in the name of convincing them to donate to the foundation. Nevertheless, Charlotte had no desire to trade places. She found her job far more satisfying than anything else she had tried to date.

The only real drawback—and admittedly it was a big one—was having to walk past the memorial board in the elevator lobby on her way to and from her office. Rarely did a week pass without a new name being posted. Because of her position on the staff, she was usually acquainted with the deceased. She often knew some of their family members, as well.

She had attended more memorial services in her year at Rainy Creek Gardens than most people did in a lifetime. And somewhere along the way her attitude toward the inevitability of death had begun to change.

Lately it had dawned on her that until she had come to Rainy Creek Gardens, she had spent her life living mostly in the future. As a child, that had meant looking forward to holidays and birthdays and, most of all, becoming a grown-up. Upon achieving adulthood she had discovered that being a grown-up wasn’t nearly as satisfying as she had anticipated. What was more, the future was uncomfortably unpredictable.

At Rainy Creek Gardens she had finally begun to realize that, no matter your age, when you looked back it always seemed that your life had passed in the blink of an eye. The past could not be changed and the future was unknowable. The residents of Rainy Creek Gardens were teaching her that the real trick to a good life was to learn to live in the present.

She smiled reassuringly at Ethel Deeping and the other people in the room.

“Ethel makes an excellent point,” she said. “She is allowed to write her life story any way she wants. And it’s certainly true that there have been a number of very successful memoirists who have, to put it mildly, embellished their memoirs.”

“Makes ’em more interesting,” Ethel said.

“But it’s wrong,” Ted Hagstrom thundered.

Ted was a retired engineer. He tended to be a stickler for the rules.

There was another round of disgruntled murmuring. Once again Charlotte signaled for silence.

“Before we critique Ethel’s essay, I think we should ask her why she chose her rather unexpected ending for the chapter on her marriage,” she said. “Ethel?”

Ethel beamed. “It’s more exciting that way.”

“Well, yes,” Charlotte agreed. “But are you certain that it fits with the rest of what you have told us about Mr. Deeping? You’ve made it clear that your husband was an excellent provider and well respected in the community. You said he was a churchgoing man. You mentioned his military service and you said that everyone liked him.”

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