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Drama

Monday

I knew something was strange when my grandfather looked at my mother one day and declared that he wanted to explore. My grandfather had always been content with living in his brick house on the outskirts of London. His sudden declaration had taken both me and my mother by surprise. Still, we were delighted at his interest. He hadn’t ventured outside of the house since his wife, Alice, died ten years ago. I knew my mother had been hoping for a change in him; his sudden curiosity was very welcome.

It was Monday, and raining, as it was wont to do in London. My grandfather had on his warmest cotton coat and black mittens that hid his arthritic fingers. I noted he wore a Trapper hat, covering his bald head and warming his ears. He was well-prepared for the stormy weather. He coughed as I looked at him, and I turned my face away, instead glancing at my mother, who was staring at a map.

“Alright, dad, this way,” she said, pulling my grandfather’s hand and leading him towards the South Bank. I followed, glancing at the Thames as I did so. The river was rocky and high, and the constant downpour made it taller. I pulled my raincoat tighter around my body.

We walked until we made it to the queue. There were many people. Middle-aged parents with children, tourists with cameras, couples in love. We made our way to the back and waited. My grandfather complained his hip was hurting, but when my mother asked him if he wanted to leave, he told her no.

My mother handed the attendee the tickets as we made our way to the entrance. They were expensive, but we’d saved money by buying online. My mother had done it to avoid my grandfather from saying something he shouldn’t about the price. We couldn’t let him know how much we’d spent when it was mostly his idea. We smiled at the attendee as he let us into our capsule.

As a long-life London dweller, I’d been on the London Eye before, but I’d never been with my grandfather. He complained the machine was too slow, and the rocking was making him queasy. As we reached the halfway point he became silent and stared outside. My mother held his hand as he looked at the view, pointing at all the iconic landmarks he’d missed hiding away in his home.

I hurried over and joined them, standing on my grandfather’s right-hand side. From the top of the London Eye, we could see as far as 40 kilometres. I spotted Westminster Abbey, Gothic and haunting; the Shard, tall and almost translucent. We spent a while gazing at the view, wondering at the simple beauty our city possessed. With my grandfather, I gained a new respect for the industrial buildings surrounding us. He was smiling, a smile I’d never seen before, and I realised that he was happy.

Tuesday

The next day my mother had suggested St Paul’s Cathedral. My grandfather had worked as a builder, and my mother knew he was a fan of architecture. I didn’t argue. It was perfect for my grandfather, and this week was about him. He was still acting a little shady for my liking. He kept telling my mother he loved her, hugging me close when I felt sad, and cooking our favourite meals as a thank you. I couldn’t quite understand what was going on in his head, but I liked it a lot. We’d never been the closest, but now I felt like we understood each other. There was no longer any confusion between us, just pure familial love.

St Paul’s Cathedral took my grandfather’s breath away when he laid eyes upon it. My mother welled up too, but I held firm. It was a building, after all. Still, I could appreciate the exterior. The dome grabbed my attention. It looked like a drum, with layers and windows offering a secretive glance at what lay inside. It was gigantic, and my grandfather was rubbing his hands and dancing a little as we stood there. My mother had to get him to calm down as we entered, told him to act more normal. I’d never seen him behave in such a way. He was like a child given free rein at a sweet shop, grabbing all the chocolates, liquorice, and mints he could find.

Inside, my grandfather became more enraptured by the structure. I could tell from his wide eyes that he wanted to touch the sturdy walls, but my mum kept holding him back. She was good at that, good at stopping people from doing things they shouldn’t. I wondered for a second if she knew why my grandfather was acting so odd, but she hadn’t let anything slip and so I dismissed the thought. My mother told me everything, had since my dad had left us when I was five, and I knew her better than anyone. She would tell me if it was something important.

Wednesday

My grandfather had woken me up that day by handing me three tickets and beaming. I clutched the tickets in my hand, eyes bleary, and tried to make out the writing. It was hard without my glasses. I had to rummage around for a good five minutes, but I found them and shoved them on my face. Once on, I glanced at the tickets. Macbeth, at the Globe.

I ran downstairs and showed them to my mother, who looked as confused as I did, but happy. My mother and I had never been to a performance at the Globe and it felt like a fresh day for all of us, not just my grandfather. I could hardly wait.

My grandfather had gotten us the cheapest tickets he could find, and I was a little concerned at first. I asked him if he knew they were standing tickets. He said he didn’t care, that he was just happy to see a production in his lifetime. I’d agreed. My family rarely went to the theatre, and it felt like a proper treat. I watched, enraptured, as the actors monologued. As the witches cackled, Banquo’s ghost appeared, and Macduff beheaded Macbeth.

My grandfather watched it all in silence, letting out a cry here and then. He’d never been one for classics, but I could feel him enjoying it the longer the play went on. I could tell from the way his hands tightened around his coat and his little shivers as Lady Macbeth spoke. I knew, from the slight trembles in his body, that he was enjoying the production as much as my mother and I were.

After the show, I’d initiated a hug with him for the first time. My grandfather seemed taken aback, shocked, and then pulled me into a firm embrace. My mother smiled and joined in. It was a comfortable hug, a hug that seemed full of promise, full of affection between all three of us. I’d never felt so loved.

Thursday

I’d suggested the Natural History Museum for our next trip. My mother and my grandfather had paused in their conversation for a second, looked at me, and then agreed. My mother told my grandfather it was an amazing museum, full of history as museums often are, and my grandfather had laughed. It was a bright laugh, young and sweet and full of life. I’d never heard him make a sound like that before, but now I wanted to hear it from him all the time. I told him as much, and he patted me on the shoulder, told me I was a good grandson, and put his shoes on.

I had always loved the Natural History Museum. When I was younger, museums had been my way of escaping when the arguments in our house got too much. My babysitter had often taken me, while my mum was busy earning us money to keep afloat. My dad had been who knows where. I loved the different exhibitions, but my favourite was the ‘Human Evolution’ section. I loved history and science and learning about our species was one of my favourite pastimes. My mother didn’t get my fascination, but she supported it.

As we entered, I dragged them to my favourite section. I was babbling away, and probably annoying them, but they didn’t interrupt me, so I thought it best to keep rambling. I knew where I wanted to go. My grandfather and my mother followed as I led them to one of the fossils.

I told them that the fossil I was showing them was a 3.5-million-year-old Laetoli canine. My grandfather looked confused while my mother sighed, annoyed but fond. I’d shown her the fossil before and she clearly wanted to go to the ‘Dinosaur’ exhibition, but I was still on cloud nine. I waved her away, and she left to look around the rest of the collection. My grandfather stood by me, hand on his hip, and listened to me talk. I told him it was the oldest hominin fossil that the museum had, and that it was similar to how chimpanzees looked. My grandfather listened, nodding his head at the appropriate moments. He’d never paid me this much attention before. It was the best day of my life.

I’d taken him further around the exhibit. I needed to show him everything. First, it was the Neanderthal skull, then the Clacton spear and the Cheddar Man skeleton. I spoke to him for what felt like hours, letting all my knowledge flow until even I was breathless from it. Throughout it all, he never spoke, and just listened to me. His silence never deterred me. I instead took his wide grins as permission to keep talking about my interests. My grandfather and I shared that same trait; when we loved something, we wouldn’t stop talking about it.

Friday

We had plans to go visit Kew Gardens today. It was my mother’s turn to pick, and she loved flowers, so it felt right for her to choose such a pleasant location. I hadn’t been before, but I’d heard all about it from my mother. She rambled about the glasshouses, the entire rooms full of cacti, to the 320 metres of rainbow flowers. The more she spoke about them, the more I wanted to visit.

We’d gone to wake my grandfather up from his room. It was past nine o’clock, and usually he was ready to go by eight. It felt unusual for him not to be up early. I reasoned the long walks at the Natural History Museum yesterday had made him more tired. My mother knocked on his door, but there was no answer.

We’d called his name a few times and then pushed the door open. My grandfather was there, lying on the middle of the bed. He looked as if he was sleeping. I wondered if we needed to call an ambulance, before my mother headed over and felt his pulse. I watched, detached, as she met my worried gaze.

No pulse, she told me. My grandfather had no pulse. I felt cold, but not as cold as my mother did, and held her tight as she sobbed. It made sense now, why he’d wanted to explore London, why he’d wanted to spend time with us, why he’d made us all those fantastic meals. He knew that he was dying, and he hadn’t told either of us.

It was his way of saying goodbye.

August 15, 2020 16:12

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101 comments

Karin Venables
14:19 Aug 20, 2020

That was such a touching story. Brought me to tears at the end. Great descriptions, and good technical skills to go with them. Little touches like looking for glasses make characters real. Well done!

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Rambling Beth
14:21 Aug 20, 2020

Thank you so much! Yes, I love little details and I do my best to put them in, but sometimes it just doesn't work, so I'm very glad you liked that. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
14:06 Aug 20, 2020

A lovely story, Beth. You really made London a character in and of itself with all the detail - and you certainly did it justice, one of my favorite cities. As someone else said, I felt like I was on a tour. I am looking forward to reading more of your work!

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Rambling Beth
14:09 Aug 20, 2020

Thank you for the really nice comment! Glad you enjoyed. :)

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Sam S.
15:43 Aug 27, 2020

Wow Beth, you really melted my heart with this super-emotional piece of writing. This was a very spectacular story. Stay safe. ~ Kate

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Rambling Beth
15:52 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you very much! Stay safe, too. <3

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Sam S.
15:55 Aug 27, 2020

You're welcome :D

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Peace Nakiyemba
10:49 Aug 27, 2020

Beautiful story. Felt like I was truly exploring with them. Very vivid descriptions. And their small knit family is beautiful and makes the ending (even though expected) heartbreaking. A truly remarkable story.

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Rambling Beth
11:43 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you, lovely! I'm really glad you enjoyed it. :)

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T. Rezy
11:46 Aug 25, 2020

A touching story adressing how a person can view their own mortality. Also, I like how much detail you added to London to make it real submersive. I have just written my first entry for a reedsy prompt and I think it's quite good for a first try, the reader is in on a secret the characters are unaware of, with a twist in the plot. I'm not usually one to self promote but I think you would enjoy reading it, especially if you like detective novels. Feel free to check it out.

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Rambling Beth
14:40 Aug 25, 2020

Of course! I'll check it out a bit later. :)

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Mari Storm
01:33 Aug 23, 2020

Thank you. Check up on my story

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Rambling Beth
01:34 Aug 23, 2020

I'll read it first thing tomorrow! :)

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Shea West
21:46 Jan 15, 2021

I often wonder how frequently people do this sort of thing. Knowing that they have limited time, but they don't say anything. Lovely story.

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Rambling Beth
21:53 Jan 15, 2021

Thank you for reading! I wonder how many people would keep it to themselves too. Really glad you enjoyed this.

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. .
00:42 Sep 01, 2020

Great story!

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Rambling Beth
09:21 Sep 01, 2020

Thank you!

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02:49 Aug 29, 2020

Hello! How are you? You may not recognize me because I am new to this website, and an 11 year old... Loved the story! ❤️ It was beautiful and detailed. Mind checking out a few of my stories?

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Rambling Beth
04:41 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks! I'll have a look a little later.

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Michele Duess
20:55 Aug 27, 2020

Enjoyed the story. I liked the description of London and the characters.

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Rambling Beth
21:10 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you!

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Abhishek Todmal
22:57 Aug 25, 2020

I knew what was coming the minute I began reading, but that didn't stop me from reading. This was wonderfully touching and light and yet sombre in a way. I love the story and since I love London, I could picture myself in all these places you described. Nice job, Beth. This is what constitutes a good story in my opinion. Sweet, profound and written with heart. Well done !

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Rambling Beth
07:46 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you very much!

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Zammie I
22:12 Aug 25, 2020

Hey great job beth could you check out my story . It's my first on reefs. Wondering how good it is . Need a good opinion either than mine

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Rambling Beth
07:46 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you! I'll have a look soon. :)

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02:49 Aug 25, 2020

The grandfather chose the most important way to say 'goodbye.' Creating memories that will last forever. Lovely story.

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Rambling Beth
09:01 Aug 25, 2020

Thank you! I do think it's a nice way to spend your last moments. :)

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12:33 Aug 24, 2020

Wow what a story.

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Rambling Beth
14:36 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you!

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Aarshia Ray
19:05 Aug 23, 2020

It is a very sad, touching story. I liked the way you described the relationship of the grandfather with the other two characters in his last few days. The travels were so wonderfully detailed, I felt I was there, while reading.

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Rambling Beth
19:48 Aug 23, 2020

Thank you for reading! :)

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Tyler Runde
01:01 Aug 23, 2020

Hey Beth, The opening sentence of your story really drew me in and it was very well-written through, but I found myself feeling a little underwhelmed as the story continued. In order to explain why this was I'm going to need to get way down into the weeds and talk about character motivation, character growth, narrative drive, and narrative arc. I identified the grandfather as being the protagonist of this story. As such, his motivation is very important. So, what is his motivation? As stated at the end of the story, it's to spend ti...

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Rambling Beth
01:18 Aug 23, 2020

Thank you for reading. I see your points, and I know character development is one of the areas I struggle in. I think that may be due in part to the word count and not wanting to go on and on and accidentally detract from the story, if that makes sense. I decided to write from the grandson's perspective because it felt the most natural at the time (and most fitting with the prompt) but I do think it's a good idea to centralise the grandfather a bit more. Thank you for the advice on the progression, too! I don't really want to edit ...

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Georgia Bower
10:59 Aug 22, 2020

Wow, that ending gave me goosebumps! I loved the way the story was divided up by days as it provided a sense of momentum, emphasising that the story was approaching a discovery. It all felt very real which is a testament to your amazing writing skills! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

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Rambling Beth
11:53 Aug 22, 2020

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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Parul Srivastava
02:00 Aug 22, 2020

Such a well written story! I could visualize it all thanks to your amazing writing.

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Rambling Beth
04:53 Aug 22, 2020

Thank you!

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Anna Maria
23:03 Aug 21, 2020

Wow, a very touching story! The imagery was astounding, I felt like I was standing at the heart of London! The end made me feel the emotions the characters were going through, overall fantastic job! I also wanted to say thank you for the follow, it means a lot to a new author like me. Every little thing makes a difference, thank you!

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Rambling Beth
23:07 Aug 21, 2020

Thank you, lovely! I'm glad you enjoyed. I'll check your writing out straight away. :)

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Anna Maria
23:08 Aug 21, 2020

Aw, thank you! I appreciate it!

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N. Thorne
19:12 Aug 21, 2020

Very touching!

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Rambling Beth
19:24 Aug 21, 2020

Thank you!

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