Sad Romance Speculative

The joints of the swing tensed as she eased herself into the seat, gently releasing her body weight to avoid the whole thing giving way and both her and the chains hitting the wood chip below. She looked up at the iron links as she gingerly lifted her feet from the floor to the air, her shoulder length grey hair falling behind her and the cool air of the night brushed the back of her neck. She felt her 70 years begin to trickle away as she slowly began to swing back at forth. Suddenly she was 8 again, feeling the wind in her face and the lurch of her body backwards and forwards. It was like scrubbing away the years back and forth and back and forth back and forth, she closed her eyes.

           She could have been swinging for seconds or hours, her brain was awash of childhood memories. Her mother, now long gone and her brother she rarely heard from. Memories so old they were sepia toned in her mind’s eye, flitting in and out of her consciousness as her body continued in its same path. She had started to wish she’d brought her jacket as her navy jeweled party dress wasn’t keeping out the nips of cold. At least she’d opted for full length to keep her veined and pale legs hidden, now pulled back over her shins as she held her feet out as best she could whilst keeping balanced.

“What are you doing?” Grant growled as he approached the playground. He sounded fed up; no doubt annoyed he’d caught her seemingly enjoying herself while he had to endure small talk with her friends at herbirthday party. “Come back inside! That Mandy woman has been telling me about her tummy tuck for half an hour and I have lost the will to live!” She didn’t open her eyes but heard the squeak of the gate as he entered the playground and the clank of the swing next to her being put into position. “What are you doing” he asked again. Now from next to her as he began to sit.

She slowed her gentle swinging to almost a halt as she looked to him. He’d brought his plastic wine glass although barely a drop remained in the bottom. He was wearing the dress trousers she knew he hated, anything with a stiff waistband that made him even an ounce uncomfortable. But he hadn’t put up a fuss when she pulled them out of the dresser and ironed them for him, leaving them on the back of his chair with a shirt and tie ready for this evening. He looked handsome, even at 68 years old with the face of a man who was being forced into clothes and having to talk make conversation when he really wished he was at home in elasticated clothes and sport on the television. Although the wine at least would be a small reprieve.

“I just came for some fresh air,” she let her head fall back again, making sure not to move too fast and jar her neck, as she looked up at the cloudless September sky, the feintest of stars poking through the glare of the city behind them. 

She felt him survey her. After almost 50 years together there was almost nothing about him that felt new anymore, she could have entire conversations with him without him even being present, she knew so much what he would say to any given statement. She knew he was looking at her, assessing her, deciding if he should believe her words or see if he should press to find anything the matter.  

“Well come back inside then, Mandy wants to tell you about her son with the vets practice and his PA with the moustache. And if I go back without you will need to hear about it and there isn’t enough wine left behind the bar for that.” He chucked to himself and she smiled gently.

“I don’t think I will, shall we just go home instead?” She said, not moving her eyes from the sky.

“Are you drunk? You want to just leave?” He was sitting back straight still looking her over and she playfully raised one leg and then the other from the ground out straight and then back down again.

“I don’t feel like going back inside and saying goodbye to ev…”

“You can’t just leave” he interrupted. “They have all come here to see you for your birthday! You can’t just walk out and not come back because you don’t feel like it. You’re not that rude.” As sharp as a tac he had reverted to grumpy.

She was feeling quite content on her swing in the playground, she didn’t want to reply to him and get into an argument. Or do what he said and leave this spot of peace she had found herself in. She just wanted to return to her thoughts. A moment of silence passed while he waited for a response and he used the chains to pull himself up off the seat, trying not to spill his drop of wine as he did so.

“Come on” he motioned to her as he took a step back to the gate.

“Not yet” she replied, “I should want a bit longer if I am to return to Mandy.”

He looked down at her. Sighed and then creaked back into the swing, downing the drop of wine as he did so, tossing the cup to his feet. He too began to gently swing.

After another pause she said “Do you ever think about Charlie?” and she instantly felt him bristle.

“You have one glass of wine and you get melancholy” he snaped back. She ignored him.

“He would have been 70 next week, that’s all”.

“Well he won’t because he’s dead” he said in a tone worthy of ending the conversation there. 

“He’s perpetually 22” she mused. Eyes still skyward, thinking about the man they had both loved.

“I guess so” he said, determined not to be dragged into this conversation.

“I don’t want to upset you” she pressed “but we can talk about him you know.” She sat upright and turned to look at him. She reached to squeeze his hand holding on to the chain. Quickly replacing it back on her own chain to save herself from slipping.  

“He’s been gone a long time” he replied with a sigh. She nodded in agreement. Now stopped entirely and looking over at her husband.

“But you don’t ever think about what he would be doing now? He was your brother. He would have been here tonight don’t you imagine?” She always thought of him at gatherings like this. Wondered what the dynamic would be. If they would be friends.  

“I know,” was his only reply. She supposed he was regretting coming out to find her. Probably Mandy’s arduous surgery recovery more pleasant conversation than this.

“I just think about him sometimes.” She sighed, steeling herself to get up and walk back to the village hall. 

“Think about how he would be here as your husband instead of me if he was alive?” He almost spat it at her. She wasn’t surprised he had got defensive. His reaction reminded her why they so rarely spoke about his brother. She laughed, 50 years had taught her when to retaliate and when not to rise to it.

“Now whose melancholy,” she teased. There was a small pause. 

“Do you regret it, marrying me?” he said “Is that why you think about him?” She looked away from him and off to the slide in front of her, the ladder painted to look like a giraffe before the slide snaked down it’s neck and over it’s back. 

She didn’t regret marring him but she did wish Charlie hadn’t died. She sometimes let herself wonder what life would be like he had lived. If her and Charlie would have married. If her and Grant would have ever developed feelings for one another? Their relationship had been so wound in Charlie’s death at the beginning, she wondered if there would have been something else to bond them. Perhaps her and Charlie’s courtship would have come to and end and she never saw either brother again. There could have been a whole unimaginable life that never got to materialize. 

She knew he would never understand any of this. Despite thinking of alternative routes her life could have taken, it didn’t stop her loving Grant. Loving the route she had taken. But she knew he wouldn’t believe that if she told him she sometimes dreamed of what her life would be like if she had had the chance to be with Charlie instead.

“No” she said and she meant it. “That’s not it. But a big part of our live is missing, a huge part of yourlife. He sighed and met her gaze. 

“I know. I think it’s too painful to think about. Even now”

“Yes, I understand that” for a second they just looked at one another. “Is he looking down on us do you think?” And Grant laughed.  

“I hope not. I don’t think he will have forgiven me for pursuing you, even if it was 50 years ago.” He smiled and leant across his hand to place it on her knee.

“His death brought us together.” She curled her hand around his and looked down at it. She couldn’t picture Charlie’s hands old like theirs.

“Not sure that’s the life story he would have written if he got to write his own.” How right he was. She smiled back over to her husband.

“No. Probably not. But we are alive, and we must live not for him but with him. In our hearts.” She pulled his hand up to her mouth and kissed it. Smiling back over to him as he smiled back.

“Maybe,” was all he replied. He pulled himself up and stood in front of her, helping her to her feet.

“Is there still life left in us?” she said to him as she made it to her feet, her thighs aching from the hard seat and the chains that had squeezed at her hips.

“Shall we go under the jungle gym and I’ll answer that question,” he said with a menacing twinkle in his eye.

“It’s my birthday not yours,” she laughed with an elbow to his ribs as she took his arm and walked with him back to the playground gate. 

April 15, 2024 14:13

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


Bring your short stories to life

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