No Room for a Relationship

Submitted into Contest #185 in response to: Write a story about someone who doesn’t know how to let go.... view prompt

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Fiction Drama


Anne’s gaze was fixated out the window, savoring the view; the empty street, the singular tree towering in the front yard, the birds frolicking and competing for the lone bird bath.


An escapee tear strode down her face. Her knuckles white as they gripped the countertop. Steam started to fill the kitchen and her nostrils stung, as if she wanted to sneeze, instead they flared, irritated by the humid air and the lingering smell of dust. Her ears penetrated by the loud whistle. Loud enough now it started to ring out her own thoughts.

“What the hell Anne?” Glen said, the kettle lid now bucking under the steam as water spewed from the spout and onto the flame. He rushed over, navigating around a pyramid of jars and a number of boxes on the floor, swiped up a tea towel and moved the kettle to another hotplate while simultaneously flicking the stove off. “Are you trying to burn this place down?”

“No, I…” Her hands tightened again, momentarily, before realizing somewhere in the midst of her brief departure from her life she had grabbed two mugs, shocked at the prospect they’d soon break in her hands suddenly released both of them. The mugs hit the ground, exploding, sending shards of ceramic pieces all over the floor; between boxes, beneath the piles of old newspapers towering either side of the door way, into the milk crates filled with Tupperware, underneath the ‘spare’ fridge, into an old-new school bag, small pieces made their home amongst an array of spray and wipe bottles and cooking oils and sauces that filled the bench, some landed in a box that was filled to the brim with catalogues from the local grocery store; the catalogues raided for every possible coupon now looked like a paper people chain cutout which Glen insisted keeping ‘just in case’, little pieces pierced holes in plastic bags filled with more plastic bags and a number of shards sprayed her ankles leaving an assortment of cuts. She opened her mouth, stifled a cry, then ratcheted it shut, turned and walked towards the doorway. Glen turned on the tip of his toes, arms outstretched and pressed his back against the newspaper pillar, allowing enough room for her to march past into the living room.

Anne sat down in the recliner, upright and tense, staring blankly. Her mind thoughtless.

Glen followed shortly. Two cups of tea clinking in their saucers. Anne’s eyes were motionless as she watched Glen carefully teeter in. Past a wall of cd racks, a curtain of hanging clothes, a mountain of garbage bags filled with—does anyone really know—before Glen remerged from behind a column of 99c books. He arrived at the T-intersection. Home of 99c books, computer monitors, not one but two old tube televisions, a pile of board games and other junk. Left to the living room, right to the front door, to sweet freedom.

“Here you go darling,” He whispered, not making eye contact. “I got your favorite, butternut snaps.” Anne failed to reciprocate an extended hand to claim the plate, so he gently placed it on the end table. Her end table.

Anne looked at her cup. A new coaster, courtesy of Glen, adorned her end table. It was a microwave. A dusty, grimy microwave, with worn buttons. “And this is?” She said.

“A bargain dear. Got it off Marketplace, $10. Perfect for parts.” He replied.

Parts? She thought to herself. The microwave in the kitchen being a Samsung, the one on her end table, a Sharp. Profusely she wiped the sweat from her palms against her leggings whilst gritting her teeth. “But, it’s not even the same brand Glen?” Her voice tapering into a light hysteria.

“Yeah I know that,” He replied, disinterested as he sipped at his tea. “but they pretty much all come from the same factory, just slap a different badge on at the end of the production line and way they go. Least, that’s how it works for most things right? There has to be something worth salvaging in there.” Glen picked up a boxed model train from his recliner, then kicking loose items out of the way stepped into the dimly lit part of the living room that obscured the light by a stack of clear storage boxers filled with unused manilla folders. “Also, I got Travis a new train set today. I think he’s gonna’ lo—”

Anne launched her tea against the wall.

“To hell with your train,” Anne, on her feet now, throwing her hands wildly in the air. “To hell with this microwave, to hell with this junk and to hell with you.”


“No.” She yelled. “He’s never coming back Glen.”

“But I thought—” Glen replied, his lips beginning to tremble, “I thought we discussed this. I thought we were going to prepare the house for him for when he gets back, to show how much we missed him and he would be able to see all the stuff we’ve been buying him.”

“Prepare the house for him?” Her voice winding up, “Prepare the house for him? How? You’ve done nothing but fill it with shit since the day he left.”

“The trains not—”

“It’s not just the train.” She interjected. “You bought him a pencil case the other day, and a pair of soccer cleats that were on sale. Glen, has it not dawned on you that he wouldn’t even be in school now. Our son – if he is alive – would be 23 this year.”

Glen plopped himself into his seat. “He’s alive Anne.”

“You don’t know that.”

“He’s a good boy. He’ll come home when he’s ready.”

Anne pinched the bridge of her nose and covered her mouth, trying her best to retract her tears and pace her choked breathing. “Our son—” she inhaled, and relaxed herself, “Our son was a good boy. But good boys don’t drop out of school, run away from home, and good boys sure as shit don’t do heroin.” Anne plonked herself back into her chair, then with a gentle push, tipped the end table. The microwave rolled twice, door up, and amongst the junk—did not look out of place. “Look at this place Glen. I mean, really, look at it.”

Glen glanced around the living room, the room they as a family would spend Christmas’ opening up presents beneath the tree that stood in the corner of the room. The same corner now hosting a half dozen suitcases and an old boombox. The tv on the unit, now recessed behind laundry baskets of old clothes, a paper shredder and an esky amongst other things. The room once filled with so much natural light and clean air, now resembled a tip, and had a pungent stale air that, to Glen, made his mouth feel chalky.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Anne said, “Our home. Hmphh – this house. It’s not the same anymore. Do you remember when we first moved in? We had plans. We wanted to put in new flooring. Extend the living room and install a huge window to let more light in. So many plans. And now, we can’t even see our family photos on the wall… I think I need some time away.”

“Anne. Please. Don’t do this.”


Anne kissed Glen on the cheek. Bags packed and car idling. Glen gripped her shoulders and stared her deep into her eyes. For a moment to her, he was transparent, a desperate husband, a grieving father; a man trying to fill the void of his heart and atone for his shortcomings through purchase of meaningless objects. She nearly willed herself to stay, to embrace him and help him to overcome, but behind Glen’s sorrowful face the door was left wide open, and she once again could see it. All of it. The house chockablock full of shit.

She hopped into the car, an old Toyota Camry; her car, clean and free from unnecessary litter, not even so much as a chewing gum wrapper or a piece of lint. “I’ll be back in a fortnight Glen, I just need some time to clear my thoughts and figure out my next step. I can’t keep living like this.” She put the car in reverse and backed down the driveway, Glen had gone back inside before she even had time to put the car in drive. Seeing him disappear without a wave made her feel weak and her ears were suddenly pounding with the beat of her heart. The road became blurry as tears brimmed in her eyes. Unable to fully control the pedal in her trembling she advanced slowly up the street. Before the house was completely out of sight, she glanced in the rear view once more. She thought she saw Glen, she thought she saw him holding something bulky, square and black, he appeared to be placing it down by the curb.

February 17, 2023 22:52

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1 comment

Phineas Andrews
08:15 Feb 24, 2023

Would really love feedback if you find yourself reading my story. I'm still learning and would love criticism.


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