A Chance For Things That Never Were

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: Start your story with someone making a vision board.... view prompt

12 comments

Fiction Inspirational Sad

Lizette reluctantly pushed the last pin into her cork board. "For Sale by Owner" read the bold, red poster font plastered across her two-story's photo. Re-entering the housing market was something she'd never imagined doing again. This was intended to be her and Charlie's forever home, but the house wasn't the same to her anymore.

The corridor walls she and Charlie had once personally draped in pastel green paint now seemed to be more of a muted sand color. The rooms no longed boasted the echos of the children's laughter, but rather the click of her lonely kitten heels each day that she drudgingly returned from another day of work. It was one thing to act like everything was fine in the office, but as soon as her Camry hit the driveway the inevitable pang of grief immediately pierced into her heart. Never again would she see Ben's little legs arduously peddling his Radio Flyer on the front of their lot, nor would she hear Alice's sweet, infantile giggle.

Instead, she would be regaining her composure and restarting her life. She'd be selling their family home seven months after the accident and moving back East with her parents until she found a new dwelling of her own. Black ice may have had taken her family from her, but she refused to let it take her as well after the fact. She also knew that regardless of how much she wanted them back, the only realistic option she had was to begin to move on. Thus, leading her to the creation of the vision board that now hung before her.

She'd reinvented her life through photos, drawings, literary excerpts- anything she'd seen that had inspired her. There were photos of Benny and Alice, because despite what she'd been through she knew it was still her calling to be a mother. Liz had mapped out goals for herself- new ones she'd never even considered the first time around. Programs she wanted to attend and degrees she wanted to earn. She would become a pharmacist now, rather than staying within the bank teller profession she had previously joined. She wanted to help people. The accident lent that trait to her. As devastated as she was and had been for over half a year now, she had to find the positives in the negative she'd been given. A new house was also at the top of the list of being able to make this possible. A new space signified a fresh start.

The hired moving van could be heard pulling into the same cobbled driveway Lizette's heart always sunk to see, and she drew in a tightened deep breath. It was time to go. It felt wrong of her to feel relief over leaving those four walls, but her mind also swirled with anxious thoughts that this could somehow be the wrong decision.

Would the late-night terrors actually even stop, or was she fleeing the only home her forever babies would ever know for no reason? Was she selfish? Would her new home also give horrific glimpses of her toddler's ghost? Did Charlie pass feeling guilty for something he could never have controlled? How would things have gone differently if she'd just taken the same car to dinner?

The time for answers still hadn't come, but right now wasn't the time either. Right now it was time to leave.

So, she did.

Lizzy greeted the driver, a man seeming about a decade her junior named Will, and invited him inside to begin the first of many load-ups. The majority of the items from the interior were to be donated to the local House of Hope and Goodwill in the area, a small portion dedicated to a storage unit a few miles from the home, and an even smaller portion kept by Lizette. She'd wanted the children's baby blankets and memorabilia, the dried flowers from her and Charlie's wedding as well as his work coveralls and Bible, and a handful of decorative items from various rooms of the house. However, as she climbed into the front of the U-Haul, she reckoned that the newly-established most important item in her carryall was her vision board.

Once again, the deeming of importance to a new start without her family that once was guilted her. So much so, that it evidently struck her face enough for Will to notice and offer a mousy, "Is everything okay?". Lizette looked to her left and nodded. She'd gotten accustomed to painting a lie as her answer to that question, she'd been asked it so much. It had long stopped being worth it to describe her pain to anybody but her therapist. Being the first on the scene of your partner and children's accident would do that to you.

Will cleared his throat.

"I don't mean to press, or be disrespectful in any way, ma'am, but... I know that's not the case."

Lynette blinked away sudden, hot tears as he continued.

"I mean, we just loaded up a lot of stuff for a single woman. And, like I said not to pry but, I saw the photos."

There was a brief pause in silence. "And, I saw the evidence board.", he gulps, "Did something happen to them?"

Lynette mistakenly let out the tiniest sliver of a giggle. "It's not," she choked a bit, "it's not an evidence board. It's a vision board. I'm restarting. Not entirely willingly, but... it's a lot to get into."

The air in the cab stiffened as Liz's talking ceased and Will isn't sure how much he can respectfully press her on her story. He wants to know, but he doesn't want to ask. Lynette is now the one clearing her throat.

"If you want, Will, you can just play music. Wake me up when we get to the airport, please?"

Will wanted to hear, though. He could tell it had been too long since someone had truly validated Lizette's grief. So he pressed, the slightest bit, and to his surprise she didn't resist.

"Can you at least tell me about the board? It's got way too many details for you not to explain it to me. You took your time on it, now let it pay off."

Her reasoning for breaking her wall was the same as his reasoning for listening. His listening felt as genuine as her need for an emotional decompression.

"Are you sure it's okay? I really, really, don't like forcing my issues on other people. And, it's a lot. Not a lot about what directly happened, exactly, but a lot in the sense that once I become emotional about it, it's very difficult for me to stop. I get really caught up in the 'what ifs'. My point is, it'd take a long time to get through, which I already thoroughly apologize for in advance."

Lizette was fully prepared for Will's rejection to her trauma dumping; but just like she had, he didn't resist.

Instead, he gazed out into the horizon on her side of the cab as if he were scaling it by eye and smiled.

"Well, ma'am, we've got a while yet to the airport, so be my guest. Tell me all about it."

January 02, 2023 00:43

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

12 comments

Wally Schmidt
05:09 Feb 27, 2023

This story really encapsulates the magic that can happen between two people who barely know each other and the comfort that can be found in a relationship, no matter how brief, because you can just let it all out. I agree with the others who have written that we need to see the characters further down the road on their joyrneys, whether parallel or intertwined

Reply

Ashlynn Altman
13:16 Aug 09, 2023

Thank you!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Dave Bede
03:15 Jan 12, 2023

Loved it! You really get the rawness of her pain across without spilling too many details, which makes it all the more powerful. It makes me want to listen in on the conversation on the way to the airport. Nice job!

Reply

Ashlynn Altman
13:16 Aug 09, 2023

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Daniel Allen
18:15 Jan 08, 2023

You've brilliantly developed a very haunting story here! It sounds like it could be the prologue to a much larger work. Do you have any plans to expand on it?

Reply

Ashlynn Altman
23:08 Jan 08, 2023

Hi! First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read and comment! When I first started thinking of what I wanted to do with this weeks prompt, I initially didn't plan to grow as invested in these characters as I now am. That being said, though at first I didn't have any plans on branching this into something larger, I do now have a lot of ideas of how I can expand it. So, hopefully I will be able to turn into that! Thanks again!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Lehnert
05:58 Jan 08, 2023

Haunting in its lack of explanation. What an intriguing story, profoundly sad, yet understandable in Lizette’s reluctance to open up to Will. We need to hear more from this talented writer.

Reply

Ashlynn Altman
23:09 Jan 08, 2023

Thank you so much for reading and writing back, I truly appreciate it <3

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Brenda Wilson
22:26 Jan 07, 2023

Aww the raw sadness in this piece shines through. I hope this character gets the new beginning she obviously needs.

Reply

Ashlynn Altman
23:10 Jan 08, 2023

If everything goes to plan with maintaining my writing motivation for this year, she certainly will ;)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rama Shaar
07:46 Jan 04, 2023

This is a sweet story of strangers offering one of the best sides of humanity: empathy.

Reply

Ashlynn Altman
16:58 Jan 04, 2023

Thank you for your time to check out my story!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.