15 comments

It wasn't dark but it looked as though the world had died. The air smelt of garlic and a tantalizing mixture of pain and half relief. A man, troubled by the darkness from within, gazed up and let out a groan. For a moment, he stayed where he was, unmoving, dead. The sun came up and died down in one long stride but still, he sat there, as silent as tomorrow. When he moved later as the darkness settled over, it was not noticed.

He made tea. He gave the little child who stared up at him from the photograph, a deep, treacherous smile and gulped down hard. It tasted sweet, the sugar settling like a lie at the bottom of his cup. He rinsed it off. He cleaned his lips with the back of his palms and prayed.

The second call came as he washed the dishes. He missed it again. He knew the caller even before he marched off to it, water dripping slowly from his large palms. He watched the telephone for a while, thinking but not really caring. 

The third call came. He took it up and stifled a yawn. The woman on the other end did not take it too well. She screamed words at him and hung up. It wasn't fear that engulfed him later. It was the little things that made him breathe in the morning and it moved him to call her back.

She took the call, stayed silent for long seconds. Then she said, "How are you doing?"

He scratched his head for better words but found nothing. She would see through his lies no matter what so he smiled at the little child and said, "It's been a long time, Jane."

He could imagine her sitting on the kitchen floor with the phone in her left ear. She would be twisting the end of her hair, too tired to pretend the wine wasn't working.

"Don't act like it wasn't your idea for a divorce. What did you expect? That I would wait for you to be done with your novel."

"I wanted you to." His voice was low. It was because he knew it had not been so. He had wanted her to stay because she had been his muse, his hope for inspiration and she had become too tired.

"What do you think could have happened?" She asked.

He stayed silent. She mistook it for fear and she hinted so. He denied but he knew and she knew it too, the fear could not be hidden under a cloak of red wine and beautiful manuscripts.

"I did not call to talk about the past. Your child will be home tomorrow night."

He looked up at the smiling child and asked, "Alone?"

"I wouldn't leave my child alone with you, don't worry. Why the hell do you think you lost custody?"

"Because you had all the money?" Even he knew that had not been the case. 

"Because you are not well." She said to him.

They said little about Christmases missed and autumn leaves and they ended it with a nod and a shaky goodbye.

Alone, he limped towards the door and pulled it open. He stepped outside and watched the night sky. They had looked at him with careless attention and had proclaimed him unfit to take care of the child. He hadn't begged them but he had held the young girl's hands and whispered into her hair, "I will love you forever." 

He had thought he would die before the morning but the very next day, he took his pen and notebook and walked down the path that led to the past and wrote. Through discarded memories, he could write about everything that never happened.

He stared at the darkened sky and gulped down hard. He could already taste the joy of seeing his family again. It made his knees grow weak and when he thought about how his child would look at him, he panicked. The sky was the exact color of death and sunshine.

He stepped into his house and locked the door. He turned around and saw the manuscripts, scarred from all the months and years it had taken to say something meaningful. He walked to it, took it, and carried it like a small, lifeless child up the stairs and into his room. He sat like a shy adult and pulled open his recollections of the past.

My first story, he thought with a smile that threw all the years away with a careful sweep. The tears welled up in his eyes and as he pushed the first words into his head, he wished his family had been patient enough to discard his tasteless jokes and abnormal eating habits. He wished she had stayed and told him to write whatever he wanted and loved him so hard the story mattered.

In the morning, he went to work. He didn't take the bus, didn't feel the need to. He walked down the road, waved at all the people who secretly hated him, and his need to finish his first book. They did not wave him back. Instead, they turned away to listen to fireworks in their hearts.

At the library, he sat and watched the people who read and pretended to understand. The library where he worked was not one he particularly liked but which gave him enough money to sit in his room in the middle of the night to write and not worry about the bills. 

He smiled at himself again. His book would be seated on his made-up bed, waiting for him to return to it. It would wait because it loved him, far more than anyone else ever could and it would stay even if he cried himself to sleep. It would love him because he created it from his mind, from past memories, from his past hidden emotions.

In the evening life made more sense to him. He prepared pasta even though she had called and told him to prepare nothing. The sound of the doorbell ringing was the music he needed. He opened the door. He smiled at her. She looked down at their child and smiled back. He locked the door.

She said, " It smells nice."

"Pasta with cherry sauce. Your favorite." He said.

She nodded. He took his daughter in his arms and held her so close he could hear her heart beating fast. He told her, "I missed you, Princess."

It took a while for her eyes to open to the familiar sound of his voice. She smiled. Then she giggled and called him daddy.

She took the child up the staircase and he stood with his hands in his pockets. She did not come down. An hour later, he walked into the room. His child was asleep.

"She is tired." His ex-wife whispered.

He nodded. 

She stood up but as she made to leave, she noticed the book by the table. She picked it up and turned to him. Her voice was low, "Is this the...book?"

"It is." He said to her.

She walked past him with the book safely tucked underneath her hands. He followed her down the stairs. They sat on the sofa.

"When did you finish it?" She asked turning it open.

"Yesterday. It's exciting." He told her.

"Your first book." 

"Yes." He smiled wearily.

She saw the dedication first: For her, for staying and walking away. She did not smile. She said, "what's it about?"

"About us. Everything."

"Can I read it?"

"Do you want to?"

She closed the book. He hugged her, she let him do so. Sometime later he kissed her and she let him do it. He put his hands in her hair. She wrapped her hands around his neck and pushed in gently.

Then they fell asleep. In the middle of the night, she pulled open the book and under faint light, read about her when she was young and wild and full of love. And when she was done, she cleaned the tears from her eyes and kissed his cheeks. He was still asleep.

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

15 comments

06:50 Jun 25, 2020

You were able to capture all three characters struggles in dealing with the family being torn apart. I liked the story in that the characters could be seen, and their lives could be real and as you read the story it feels more tangible. This is the second story ive read of yours and both stories i have really enjoyed.

Reply

Show 0 replies
08:51 Jun 24, 2020

I love your story Abigail and the way you write is strangely comforting. Makes me want to sigh in satisfaction

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jn Park
12:24 Jun 22, 2020

I loved this story. I read two of your stories for contest 46 (I'll check out the other stories later.) and I daresay both will comfort all the writers all around the world. Nice story:)

Reply

14:11 Jun 22, 2020

Thank you so much, Janey. I am glad you liked it

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Yaeyrah Daedal
22:31 Jun 20, 2020

Awesome read Abigail! ;) I loved how you worded this story, and some of your similes and metaphors really got me thinking. I also felt how dear the main character's book was to him. It was as heartwarming as it was tragic; in the course of its creation, his marriage was destroyed. The end was thus a fitting one and I'm glad his ex got to read it and finally know that it was the fruit of a beautiful love she'd abandoned too soon. Thank you very much for this story.

Reply

23:14 Jun 20, 2020

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment.

Reply

Yaeyrah Daedal
13:54 Jun 21, 2020

You're welcome ;)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kelly Vavala
11:51 Jun 17, 2020

Well done Abigail! The characters are captivating and it reads very well. Would you take a moment and read mine as well? I’m new here! Ashen Tears under Inaction thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Twilight Bee
15:41 Jun 16, 2020

The second you step into this story, you are trapped in its captivating contents. Great story! :)

Reply

16:08 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you so much, Bee. It's wonderful to have a friend who likes your stories here and I'm really excited about it. Also, I have been checking your stories out and hoping for more.

Reply

Twilight Bee
23:41 Jun 17, 2020

Your welcome and thank you, love your stories!! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Smudge Himmel
21:37 Jun 15, 2020

You are a really good writer. The language is very fluid and the emotion is clear and very real.

Reply

06:56 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you so much.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Emma Chatterton
11:08 Jun 15, 2020

This is beautiful. I love how you don't name the characters making them easy to relate to but at the same time I feel like I know them so well from your writing :-)

Reply

17:43 Jun 15, 2020

That's awesome. I'm glad you liked it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply