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American Fiction Contemporary

“Caroline, you promised!” Richard cried over the phone. “It’s New Year’s Eve after all. You are always wrapped up in your work. Can’t you just spare at least a few days for your family? ”

The hurt and pain in his voice tore at my heart and if I could, I would have flown to him in that moment but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

“Richard, you don’t understand. I have to be here. I have to do this. I love you and the girls, but my clients need me.”

“Even on New Year’s Eve?!”

“I have to set up all the paperwork for the sales and it takes a lot of time.”

“Well, if it is going to take so long, why not just delay it for at least a few hours?”

“Richard, please don’t make this any harder for me. You know I would come if I could, but I can’t. Please I am un-”

“What I know,” he said cutting in, “is that you never have time for your family. You never care about anyone or anything but yourself and probably your job. I know not to have faith in any of your promises. I know you hurt all who have the misfortune of loving you. I know you are selfish and unbending, unable to love fully. You know what? Just forget about it. The girls and I are fine without you. You never cared either way. Bye.”

“Richard! That’s not what I–”

Before I could finish, he hung up. Exhausted, I fell into my chair with a sigh.

“He’s always making things so hard for me!”

Looking at the papers scattered across my desk, I realized that I had no energy left to do any more work.

Some days when I bothered to think, I wondered why I kept doing this to myself. I pushed everyone I loved away. At first, thought it was for the best. I couldn’t afford distractions. I had to get it right. I had to succeed. I had to make money. I could never suffer the shame of poverty again. But now, I don’t know anymore. Years ago, it was my academics now, it’s my job. I pour all of me into it. I have cars. I have a nice penthouse and a holiday house by the ocean but it’s not enough. Nothing’s ever been. With each success, I just want more. I search and search but I don’t even know what I am searching for anymore.

Sighing again, I stood, picking my way through the mess that was my office. I headed listlessly towards the kitchen to grab something to eat. As if everything the world had conspired against me, I found nothing in the fridge except a miserable block of cheese. There wasn’t even bread!

Tired, I slid down to the floor. Drawing my legs to my chest, I rested my head on my knee. I don’t know how or when the tears started flowing but suddenly, I was sobbing. I was sobbing so hard, my body shook with the effort. In that moment, I let it all pour out, all my pent up emotions- the hurt, desperation to be seen, the tiredness, the loneliness, the frustration. I let the memories flow.

For the first time in years, I allowed myself to remember my childhood. I allowed myself to remember the hunger and cold. I remembered the kicks and slaps of bullies. I remembered my father’s drunkenness and my mother’s feebleness. I remembered having to steal just to survive. I recalled the daydreams of food and a warm bed. I remembered the taunts of other children and the hurt of my parents’ rejection. I remembered my fight against invisibility. I remembered my struggle to achieve academic excellence, my struggle to impress.

In a way, I succeeded. I graduated from Harvard Business School with honors. At twenty four, I was a top accountant at Berkshire Hathaway. I was married with two beautiful girls but it still wasn’t enough. That desire to impress that once propelled me was now destroying me. I kept working, searching for some ultimate satisfaction and in the process, pushing everyone away.

By now, I had stopped crying. I had no more tears. I was exhausted. Stretching out my legs, I let my arms fall to my side. Without realizing it, I had been staring at a framed quote by St. Augustine. It read:

“You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there I searched for you. In my unloveliness, I plunged into the lovely things you created.”

In that moment the realization hit me. Moving with the speed of lightning, I ran to my laptop. I searched frantically for a flight leaving for Maryland that night. In the span of five seconds, my greatest goal was suddenly to spend New Year’s Eve with my family. I had two hours and I was going to get to them no matter what.

However, New York wasn’t simplifying things for me. No single airline had a free seat! On any other day, I would have waited and taken a morning flight but not that day. Acting against reason, I still went to the airport hoping with all of me that someone would cancel a reservation or some other sort of miracle would happen.

To my dismay, I found that providence had once again refused to smile on me. No one had cancelled a reservation and no sort of miracle seemed in a hurry to occur. For the second time that night, I broke down into tears. I must have cried for a full ten minutes when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw one of the ladies from the counter behind me.

“Ma’am,” she said sympathetically, “it seems we have one free seat left. Someone just cancelled a reservation. Hurry, your flight is due for departure in five minutes.”

Never had words sounded so sweet. I was so happy that I wasn’t even processing what was happening around me anymore. All I remember was that by 11:40, I was in Maryland and on my way home.

In all my life, I have never experienced a drive as nerve-wracking as the last part of my trip home that night. I was ball of nerves. I kept shaking the passenger seat as if my nervous energy would make the car move any faster.

Finally, after fifteen minutes of misery, the taxi pulled up at my house. I hardly waited for the car to stop before I flew out and tore up the stairs to the front door all the while screaming Richard’s name. The moment he opened the door, I flew into his arms. Dazedly, he tapped me awkwardly on the back. I didn’t care. I was in his arms, I was home and it was 11:59. That was enough for me.

January 01, 2021 21:33

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6 comments

Jenne Gentry
22:17 Jan 07, 2021

I really enjoyed your story! I thought you did a wonderful job of developing the character. I loved that you both established Caroline as a work-a-holic and then showed how she got that way. I especially loved the happy ending when she chose her family. I felt your story was easy to relate to and was also well written. I don't really think it needs improvement, but I did wonder what exactly was behind her husband's “awkward” reaction when she came home- if he was happy but surprised or if he was still upset. Keep up the good work!!

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Chioma Opara
00:29 Jan 08, 2021

Thanks. For the husband's reaction, I was going for more of surprised

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Adaobi Nwosu
20:39 Jan 07, 2021

I lied. didn't read it.but I'll do it rn swearsss.love u chioma

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Adaobi Nwosu
20:39 Jan 07, 2021

I love it❤️

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Sumaiyya Jaafar
10:44 Jan 07, 2021

Honestly i dont think it has a particular direction. Like what is the point of the story. I am sorry but I think you can do better.

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Chioma Opara
11:17 Jan 07, 2021

Thank you. The original idea was just that she realizes that she had been searching for fulfilment and satisfaction in all the wrong places- in her job, academics etc . She realizes that her family was what really brought her happiness and they were far more important than her job.

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