The Artist Formerly Known as Miranda PG13, Ext of CC#177

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The Artist Formerly Known as Miranda PG13, Ext of CC#177

Postby Lucy » Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:36 pm

In my response to the Champagne Challenge #177 I wrote about a portrait and an artist. This story drives a bit further down the road of life for Mick and Beth.
I own nothing, I’m just playing with the characters as if I did….

this photo is representative of what Miranda initially drew on the beach. I don't have a photo site to post it on, so here's the link to see it.

The Artist Formerly Known as Miranda PG13

“I’m losing the light, sit still, just hold the guitar.” Miranda admonished Mick St John. Miranda’s ‘boyfriend’ sat in his swimsuit and white short-sleeved tee-shirt on an Adirondack chair near ‘Muscle Beach’. “I know you want to get out there and do handstands, but I want to capture your sensitive side, the musician in you.”

“You just want to draw me in swim trunks. I know about artists.” He winked a blue-green eye at her and pursed his soulful lips. This man will be the death of me. Miranda worked the shadowing on his chin. Could she get that heartbreaking divot right? No, I’ll never get all his nuances right. He’s too distracting to draw.

“How soon before you go for your physical? Don’t tell me. Don’t move. Just think about how I’ll be doing whatever girlfriends do when their soldiers are overseas.” Miranda smudged at the shadowing on his neck. When he holds me close, he has to hold me up. What am I going to do… when he’s gone?”

Della stood at a distance, clapping her hands for attention. “Miranda, Michael, time to pack up. It’s going to be a drive back home for dinner, you both need to get cleaned up. You know…” Miranda ignored her older sister’s prattle. Yes, they had to clean off, no sand was tolerated in her family’s car. She wiped her hands on the rag and folded up her sketch pad and put away her charcoals. Art supplies were so dear, with the war…

Mick packed up his guitar and snuck behind Miranda before she covered the drawing. “You think I look like that? You make me look serious, so old.” His brow danced at his words; she watched his lips move magically. He had the slightest lisp. She couldn’t lock gazes with him when they talked, she was mesmerized by his lips. It was late enough in the day for his five o’clock shadow to raise stubble across his strong jaw. There was a hint of a low mole on his right cheek that stubble mostly covered. His deep voice seeded naughty thoughts no matter what words he spoke.

“Can I carry anything?” He asked as he buttoned a plaid shirt over his tee.

Miranda looked around for lost gum erasers or pencils. “No, I think I’ve got it all.” She stared back to her insistent older sister and in that split second, Mick had her over his shoulder, caveman style. “You know how dad is about p.d.a., you need to put me down before Della sees you.” Miranda only half-heartedly fought Mick’s claiming her.

“One of these days Miss Pritchard, your father isn’t going to have a thing to say about p.d.a., you’ll be mine. I think I’ll buy a house across the street from his, just so he can watch you kiss me every morning before I go to work and every night when I come home.” Mick put her on her feet and picked up her wooden art box. “Your dad can put that in his pipe and smoke it.”

“You’re pretty cocky for a guy who can’t vote.” Miranda snuck peeks at Mick as they walked toward her sister. Mick didn’t have an answer. He walked head down and sat in the back seat. He watched traffic and didn’t offer even sarcastic replies as Miranda and Della planned their upcoming fall when Miranda would join Della wearing the ‘purple and gold’ at Mount St. Mary’s Woman’s College. The Pritchard family wanted their daughters to earn their Bachelor of Arts before they earned their MRS.


“Dinner’s on the table, you’re late!” twelve-year-old Josie bellowed from the front porch. Mick watched Miranda and Della scamper up the front steps and disappear into their Victorian painted lady. He waved a silent goodbye and crossed the street to the smaller, more quiet home where he grew up as an only child. Jeeze, how many kids did the Pritchards have? Del, who was piloting a C-47 in the Mediterranean, and three, may four more girls? Thinking about life with that much family was exhausting Mick thought as he silently slipped into the house and up the stairs for a shower.
“It’s a good thing we eat late!” His mother called up the stairs. “Dinner’s on the table in fifteen minutes.”

Mick came down, showered and shaved for Sunday dinner, unsure of the somber expressions on both his parent's faces. As he pulled out his mother’s chair and took his own seat he pressed for details. “What’s up? More bad news about the war?” He folded his hands for grace.

His Mother crossed herself and took a deep breath. “Heavenly Father, we thank you for this meal, we thank you for the gift of Michael’s life and we pray for an end to this war before we have to sacrifice our only son…”

“Mom…” Mick interrupted this macabre meal blessing and was stopped with his Father’s hand gesture.

“Michael, Del Pritchard was killed this week. The news arrived today. Not a whole lot of information on the radio, Joe Pritchard said it happened July 11th.”

That night, the roast sat sliced in front of them, but no one devoured it with their usual gusto. Mick moved gravy around the plate with a roll and even his mother didn’t bicker over his bad manners. The nocturnal bugs and birds took the night off. The street was silent.


Mick watched the Pritchard’s home from his front porch. Leaning behind the porch post, with his forearm raised against it, he wanted to be invisible. He wasn’t twenty-one. Not for a few months. As soon as he was 21, he’d register for the draft, he’d stay away from airplanes. If the shot didn’t kill you, the landing would. Besides, he was at USC in pre-med. If he could organize it, he’d be a ‘First-Aid Man’. The mood on the street was below somber, it was down-right funereal when the Pritchards were told Del’s body was lost in the ocean with his C-47’s wreckage.

“Hey, Micky.” Ray whistled from the porch next door. “You feel like going down to muscle beach, work out a little?” Ray was always looking for ways to impress his fiancé, Lilah.

“Nah, Ray. Got some yard work, I was just debating whether Miranda could get out of the house.”

“You know how it is, a family loses their only son and all their kids get wrapped in cotton wool. Let me know if you change your mind…” Ray’s voice tapered off as the screen door slammed shut.

Right about the cotton wool. Miranda hadn’t been allowed out all week. Each night, she’d tilt the Venetian blinds in Morse code: .. / .-.. --- ...- . / -.-- --- ..- or was it, .. / -- .. ... ... / -.-- --- ..- Does she miss me or love me? Sometimes she worked the blinds too fast and he was left to close his eyes and replay the rhythm until his heart ached.


Mick stood under Miranda’s bedroom window, tossing pebbles. “Ssh!” She leaned out and raised her finger to her lips. The lips I haven’t kissed all week. I’m going squirrely, I might as well go into the priesthood.

Mick scampered up the tree and leaned against a thick branch. It would be easier if I could just jump. “I’m sorry Del’s been shot down, but when are they letting you out of this … tower.” Mick gestured to the round corner bedroom she shared with Della.” The second he mentioned Del he felt his heart lurch. Stupid, horny man that I am.

Miranda slipped out the window to share the other large, sturdy tree limb. They were hidden within the lush foliage. “Mom hasn’t been right; Dad says we have to be here for her.” She whispered so close to ear he felt the blood rushing to all the wrong places.

“I wanted to go back to the beach before school starts again. I’ll have to crack the books to keep my grades up.” Mick leaned over his lap and tried not to inhale Miranda’s heavenly scent of Cashmere Bouquet. “What happened to that picture you were drawing?” He lightened his tone, trying to sublimate his attraction. She was too close to miss and too far to kiss without treetop gymnastics.

Her voice was husky when she whispered. It’s too much, too sensual. “I was going to try my hand at watercolors, give it to your Mom for your birthday in November…”

“What about me, what do I get for my birthday?” He boldly extended his hand to her cheek, that sweet, soft cheek of hers with a smattering of freckles.

“I thought maybe I’d get something this November.” She tapped her left hand.

“I’ve already been given the speech; I can’t marry you until graduation. Your dad will have a fit if I walk in with an engagement ring.” Mick sat back to take the sight of her in. Stretched along the thick tree branch with her arm behind her head, he was Johnny Weissmuller to Miranda’s Maureen O'Sullivan. But that’s a whole different, more carnal fantasy world. “If you think it would move your Dad along, I could remind him that I was registering for the Selective Service. Would he bend if he thought I was getting shipped out?”

Miranda’s eyes watered and she brought her hand to her face. Her pin curls shook, and she hugged herself, head down. “If you must… But, don’t go Air Force.”

Mick got the message. He caught her up in his arms and let her sob silently. He saw Della’s silhouette at the window, and he kissed Miranda’s forehead, “Mirry, baby, you better get back inside. It’s only July. Nothing’s set in stone. The war could be over by Christmas and things will be hunky dory.”

Miranda held him fiercely, but Micky nodded to the window. “Della’s inching around, see you this weekend?”

Miranda caught the front of his shirt and pressed her nose into his neck. “This weekend and forever, kiddo.”


When Mr. Pritchard took down the Blue Star Banner and replaced it with the Gold Star Banner, his move was symbolic of the wall he threw up in front of his daughter’s suitors. Mrs. Pritchard explained to her daughters that it was, “Better to break his heart cutting it off before he ships out than break your heart with a telegram.” Any ‘mixing’ that included holding hands was nixed.

Martin St. John stared at the Pritchards roll away to church in their Packard Clipper. “That’s what you call cutting your nose off to spite your face. But, Mick, with that sort of father, Miranda isn’t the girl for you.”

Mick fixed his cuffs as they prepared to leave for the same church. “You think we’ll even get to sit next to each other at lunch?”

“Nonsense, bring back one of those French women… or…” Martin’s voice trailed off as Dorothy came down the stairs, pinning her hat into her chocolate brown curls.

In stereo, the men of the house turned and complimented Dorothy St. John.

It ended up that Mick went into the Army. It ended up that Ray went with him. Not that going Army broke Miranda’s heart, it was that Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard circled the parental wagons and refused either of their nearly adult daughters to take marital vows with any young man in a uniform. Everyone was expected to suffer in silence.


Mick St John parked his cabriolet down the street from the trio of homes he remembered from his youth. Ray and Lilah were gone. Beth stood by his side remarkably well for a young woman who'd never experienced war-time romance.

“A penny for your thoughts?” His pert blonde love squeezed his hand.

“See the home with the ‘sold’ sign?” Mick gestured with his hand.

“That’s a big one, what is that four, maybe five bedrooms? Are there bedrooms in the turrets?” Beth leaned toward the windshield to scrutinize the well maintained painted lady.

Mick looked at the realtor listing on his phone. “Right, five bedrooms. And yes, the second and third-floor turrets were… are rooms.” He stuttered at the statement, not wanting to explain his knowledge of the floorplan.

“Why didn’t Josef send Simone out to inspect the neighborhood? If a few of his freshies who have aged out of his program, want to buy a home together, isn’t that Simone’s bailiwick?” When Mick displayed less interest in the property, Beth’s attentions cooled.

“Naw, this isn’t the place the ladies wanted. This was a home I thought you might like… Remember, I lived there", He motioned to the ornate home with the forest green paint that complimented the tan siding.

“And Ray’s family is there.” Beth’s voice quivered, remembering how Mick avoided going back to the Fordham home.

“Nope, they were, they’re gone. Otherwise, I’d never have been interested in coming back.”

Beth flattened herself against the car door. “You didn’t tell me that. When did that happen?” She looked back at the home as if seeking clues to disprove Mick’s statement.

He ignored her query. “I missed the deal on that one, but I figured it was for the best. Too many ghosts.”

From the expression on Beth’s face, her heart also sank at the thought of living in the home where his infidelities would face him at every turn. Or at least, Mick hoped she understood,
“So, my surprise tonight is, I’m buying this beauty and getting you out of that little apartment I have to jump up to.” Mick threw the car back into drive and pulled into the driveway leading to an old style detached garage. “I’ve had electricity installed for your car, drive home and plugin. I’ve contracted to have new wiring throughout.” Mick got out of the car and went to open Beth’s door. “New bathrooms, modifying the kitchen and new glass for all the windows.”

“That’s quite a bit of work for little old me.” Beth’s cornflower blue eyes sparkled in the streetlights.

“You think I’m doing all this for you?” Mick caught her elbow and walked her up the broad porch steps. The swing was ready and waiting for them. “I thought if the man you love bought you a home, you’d at least share it with him.”

There he’d said it, after practicing in the bathroom mirror all week.

“Share it? Without the benefit of marriage? Well, I’m not sure…”

She knew how to play him like Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello. “Close your eyes.” She half closed them. “This is why I always ask you to stay in the car. Close ‘em.” He elicited a giggle and she squinched them tight. Mick took her left hand and offered a soft kiss on the back of it, trying to disguise the feeling of slipping the solitaire onto her ring finger.

“Oh, you devil, you!” Beth squealed in pleasure looking at the simple engagement ring.

“Before I live up to that title, I want you to know something.” She sat close to him, her hand still in his. “I knew the family that lived here. All of them are gone now. My financier orchestrated the purchase with a granddaughter.”

Beth flattened her palm against Mick’s broad chest. “But no ghosts?”

Mick’s easy smile returned. “No ghosts. Miranda, the daughter I dated became an artist…”

“The Miranda who painted that monstrous portrait of you and Coraline?” Beth’s eyes went round as her lips with her gaping question.

“The same. I had Josef ship her out of the country where she spent the rest of her life. She married and painted there. She had quite a following.”

Beth cocked her head.

“But I wasn’t one of them. I only wanted her safe from Coraline when Miranda let on she recognized me.”

Beth’s index finger tapped on her chin. “Did she do the watercolor you bought in your parent’s estate sale?”

Mick nodded. “You okay with all of this?” Mick stood and held out his hand and headed toward the front door.

As he unlocked the front door and stepped into the silent home Beth oohed and ahhed at the tall ceilings and the smell of cedar from the open closet doors. She stopped Mick before he led her upstairs. “So, the new wiring, how many freezers will it support?”

Mick stood there, hands on his hips, his boyish grin threatening to burst into a full-fledged smile. “Just one.” He delivered his answer seriously.

Beth bent at the waist and leaned toward him. “One?” Her pink cheeks flamed.

“One double.” Mick shrugged and chuckled as he turned to climb the staircase.

She playfully slapped at his back, “You stinker…”
Last edited by Lucy on Fri Apr 26, 2019 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Artist Formerly Known as Miranda PG13, Ext of CC#177

Postby allegrita » Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:41 am

Okay, I got all pink and happy at the ending. :cloud9: Thanks for thinking up a story for Miranda, and hooking it to Mick and Beth today!! :heart:
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Re: The Artist Formerly Known as Miranda PG13, Ext of CC#177

Postby Lucy » Fri Apr 26, 2019 2:37 pm

Thanks! It was easy as long as Beth cooperated. When she gets what she wants... Mick’s Life is good.

allegrita wrote:Okay, I got all pink and happy at the ending. :cloud9: Thanks for thinking up a story for Miranda, and hooking it to Mick and Beth today!! :heart:
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Re: The Artist Formerly Known as Miranda PG13, Ext of CC#177

Postby Shadow » Thu May 02, 2019 7:44 am

It was so delightful to find this! I've read it several times now, but didn't leave a comment before because ... well, I kept re-reading instead of writing a comment, and then kept running out of time.

There is so much innocence in the beginning, Mick and Miranda both just assuming they'll get married one day after growing up together, even with the shadow of the war falling over them on the beach that day. (That innocent feeling made the previous story feel even more frightening, too.) It was so lovely seeing Mick's childhood neighborhood, with even an appearance by Ray and a mention of Lilah. That Sunday dinner when Mick got the news of Del's death was so telling .... everyone trying to behave like it's normal, even after the world has changed. And Mrs. St. John's macabre prayer gave me chills! It was so sad and beautiful how even the birds and the insects were silent that night. And then, that amazing jump to the ending, with Mick buying the house and putting the ring on Beth's finger.... :melts:

The thing that most struck me about this story is how Miranda was capturing Mick the musician in her drawing, with his guitar in hand, in the moment before the war causes his life to change. (Even though he really was too distracting to draw. :laugh: ) And I'm assuming that drawing became the watercolor that Mick bought in the estate sale? It made me think of Coraline's photograph of Mick, guitar in hand, which she took just before a vampire caused his life to change. And then she kept that photograph for so many years. Both these so-different women capturing the same image ... so interesting!

It was also really interesting what Mick had told/shown Beth, and what he hadn't. She knew about the watercolor, about Miranda, and about the huge painting with Coraline, but she didn't know that the Fordhams had moved away. :chin:

And so reassuring to know that Miranda lived out her full life, and seemed to have a happy one. :hug:
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