Sad Drama Holiday

cw: suicide-related content

A glass of fizz in one hand and a sad little shrimp in the other, I vowed to drive a red car this year. Even as I said those words, I surprised myself at how dull it was, perhaps even a bit greedy. A year ago, there was nothing I could have wished for that I didn't already know would happen. I had carefully planned my life and it was all going to happen, as I dreamt it. I could have wished for nothing more and so I wished for nothing. New Year's eve annual renewal philosophy is ridiculous. I, too, have often wished for a fresh start, after a difficult period in my life. It's only human to hope things will eventually get better but it is a universal fact, that on New Year eve, we are all expected to forget and simply move on, regardless of what may or may not have happened during the year. Forget the fact that that particular year may have been the best year of your life and disregard that little voice inside of you who knows, things are, in all honestly, very unlikely to ever be this good again.

This year, I was one of those people. I was convinced that fortune had finally turned and no time could ever compare to the year I've just had. I started the year off by marrying the love of my life on a frosty hilltop, spent the spring successfully launching my own company to raving reviews and celebrated my first birthday with my estranged father, putting a much-awaited smile on my dying mother's face. It had taken twenty years of sacrifice and struggle to finally convince the world I really wasn't this irrelevant. If I were greedy enough, I could have wished for more, but as far as I was concerned, this had truly been the happiest and most rewarding year of my life and the only thing waiting for me now was agony, loneliness and possibly prison. I didn't believe in new beginnings and I didn't even want a fresh start. What I really wanted, from the bottom of my heart, was to evaporate like those tiny bubbles in Maureen's mammoth of a Champagne fountain.

Nothing was missing from her table. There was no empty glass and not a single discrepancy in her carefully arranged carousel of canapés. Maureen had dragged me to her New Year eve “soiree” in a poor attempt to take my mind off things.

"Try the spicy salmon", Maureen insisted "and I've saved you a caramel lolly for midnight, the same as Granny used to make. Do you remember? There is nothing like it to celebrate."

I did remember. I remembered that Iris, our young neighbour, liked them so much that one day, she stole some from granny's kitchen, and hid them in her pocket. A girl of seven doesn't think about the heat and she was quickly betrayed by her sticky stained trousers. Even at 35, Iris still remembered the beating, she got for it. That is how long Iris and I, had known each other, how long it took me to finally accept lollipop girl, would be the only girl for me, the only girl I'd ever love.

My mind was made up and I had never been more sure of anything else in my life, except perhaps the time I proposed to Iris. Avoiding no romantic cliches, it all happened on a night, not so different from this one. Glasses were jiving and heels were clinking. It was also on a similar night, last Thursday night, that I received the visit from the fraud department. My accountant had stolen most of our capital and conveniently disappeared. It had been snowing for a few days and outside, the December air had turned the snow into ice. Iris never wanted to relinquish her car. I might have ruled at home, but in her car, Iris was queen. On my way to the police station, my phone rang and Iris's childhood nickname appeared on the screen. I was late and in no mood to be cheered up, having spent every last hour and minute trying to find evidence to save me. I switched it off and entered the station. When I came out, I was even more depressed. I switched my phone back on and saw several missed calls from an unknown number. I had told her to take the train, didn't I? But would she ever listen? Her car, her rules, she used to say. There had been an accident. A fatal accident.

I appreciated all that Maureen was doing. I really did but no nostalgic lollies could make me change my mind. I waited from her to look away, when she was rearranging her dessert, to make my exit. If you're thinking I was drunk, think again. Grieving had felt like being in a constant state of intoxication. I drifted from one place to another without the smallest sense of directions. So you see, I didn't need any drink, I was already there. At the entrance of town, there was an old drawbridge. It was quite worn out and often tested the patience of drivers or passers-by but it was still the quickest way into town. On New Year eve, I was sure to find it nice and quiet but I was surprised to find it closed. The switch was broken and there didn't seem to be another option.

"Could you open the bridge please?" I yelled out. "I need to pass" I repeated but heard nothing back. I looked around to see if there was another access to the water. I peeped down to the side of the bridge but saw the access to the river was not so clean cut and a plunging hill was blocking my access. I finally heard movement and a shy voice cried out:

Who goes there?”

Me. I need to pass. Could you open the bridge please?”

I hadn't thought about someone actually being here and it did alter my plans. I told myself things would happen so quickly, I could not and would not be stopped.

Why?”, the timid voice replied.

What do you mean why? I need to pass. Open that bridge.” I shouted, becoming increasingly irritated.

My name is Flora but people call me Flo.” This was getting ridiculous, I thought.

Could you open the bridge Flora, please?”

What is your name?”

That's it. I'm leaving. You people will hear from me.”

Please stay. I'll open the bridge. I so rarely get to speak to anyone. With that switch, people don't see there is a real person operating the bridge.”

The switch is broken”

Yes, isn't that great?”

I can't say I share your enthusiasm. Will you open that bridge now?”

What will you give me in exchange for it?”

Now look here, enough playing. If you do not open that bridge, I can easily go somewhere else.”

There is no other bridge. You could try to go through the forest but is that what you really want?”


I don't ask for much”

What do you want? I have nothing. Nothing worth to gamble. All I have is my life and I'll willingly give it to you but what use will it be to you?”

There was a moment of silence where I thought she might take pity on me and open that bridge.

I'd like to tell you about people that cross my bridge, three little stories. Would you listen?”

This is absurd, this is absurd, this is absurd, I whispered. I could have left but it is what I had planned. It is where Iris last drove. It is where we used to argue about dinner, about my dad and about the time I spent at the office while waiting for that poor old bridge to collapse on us.

If you do I'll open the bridge for you.”

Fine but make it quick. I don't have all night.”

Are you in a hurry.?”

You could say that.”

The first person crossed my bridge about a year ago. He seemed in a hurry to get to his daughter's ballet rehearsal. I heard him shout at the bridge and at the rain. I believe the insults were really meant for me but no one ever sees me.”

She was doing an excellent job of making me feel worse. She kept going but I stopped listening at the word “daughter”. I spotted some steps along the suspended bridge. I could try to climb it until I reach the level where a fall could work out. At least the way I wanted it to.

What are you doing? That is cheating”

Where are you? I've had it with your stories. I don't need to hear about other people's happiness.”

You're not going to go through doing this. Al you'll do is fall to your death”

I didn't reply. The metal was frosty and slippery but I kept on climbing.

Stop this. Spot this now or I'll call the police.”

Do that and I'll jump even faster. I can hear you, you know.”

I had reached the middle of the hanging platform. Like a chimpanzee, I held on tight to the railing with my hands and legs.

How cold is the water?” I asked.

Not cold enough. It'll take time and it'll be painful.”

Good. That's all I deserve.”

You didn't let me finish my stories. That is not very nice.”

What is your point?”

Could you at least tell me why?”

Looking down at the river, it was dark and I could barely make out anything but I could feel the cold and the wind coming from the waves.

I can still see them celebrating, eating, drinking and clinking. So much clinking. I have nothing to celebrate.”

I am not sure why but I waited for an answer. For what felt like an eternity, I waited for Flora to say something, anything.

There is always something. I'm looking forward to fishing in the morning”, she finally replied.

No there is nothing. She should have been here, she had so much to celebrate. It should have been me in that car and her dancing. Did I even make her happy? If I did she would not have been driving like this. What a waste.” My arms were tired and everything became hazy. I slipped.

Flora!”, I yelled and landed in a wet and smelly net.

Flora!”, I yelled again. “What is this? Get me out!”

My fishing net! I was keeping it ready for the morning.” cried out Flora. I was furious. I jumped around in an attempt to break the net but nothing was working. The net was too thick and I was stuck.

Now as long as you're just hanging there. I might as well tell you my last story.”

No”, I cried out with exasperation. “No more stories.” I stared down at the water. I could now see the dead branches slowly disappearing into the waves.

There was an interesting driver that crossed my bridge last Thursday night. She pushed the switch so many times, I thought she was having a stroke. I had to get out of my lodge to see what was happening. She was wearing a curious long red coat with blue feathers. I guess it is what some people call classy. She looked like a fancy parrot to me.”

Tears started to run down my face. I had gotten her that coat. She wasn't used to small towns but she was determined to make an impression.

So what? What are you supposed to do at a drawbridge?” I replied.

I guess you could say my job is simple. All I have to do is lift that bridge up and down. I spend my days watching boats, cars and people wait for it to open or close and having the most curious of conversation each time as if they were waiting to see if they were really meant to cross that bridge. She was being so loud, it wasn't difficult to make out what she was saying.”

I rolled up in the net in a ball. I didn't want to listen anymore. I hoped Flora would stop but she didn't.

I heard her yelling at someone on the phone, saying to pick up the phone, that she had found it, she had found the proof they needed to save him. She was rushing to him.”

My face was now covered in tears and I was more determined than ever to slip through one of the holes of the fishing net. I stretch the rope and I tried to let myself free.

Stop this. What are you doing? I gave you something to celebrate. I gave you the poof she was happy. Why do you still want to jump?” There was a pinch of panic in Flora's voice. I heard a switch and saw the bridge slowly opening below me. A small old Lady with beady eyes appeared. With considerable agility, she jumped on the railing and cut down the fishing net. I fell and landed abruptly on the hard and icy concrete. Great. All I had managed to do was hurt my bottom.

Flora held out her hand to help me back up but I refused. I remained down on the floor. I wanted her to leave now. I wanted to be alone. This had all felt like some kind of joke.

If you were in that car that night like I've seen you so often, what would you have said? “ I didn't answer. I knew very well what I would have said. I had told it to myself repeatedly since that dreadful night.

The past few days had been like peeling the layers of an onion. The deeper you get, the smaller it all seemed and yet the more it stung. I kept hoping she didn't suffer and it had been almost impossible to wake up without wondering if her short life, had really been a happy one or a fruitful one at least. The truth was that, despite Flora's attempts to prove me wrong, there was one last thought I couldn't quite forget. The selfish one. Listening to Maureen's speech that night, I had tried, for the last time, to imagine the events of the next few months to ease the pain. The police investigation, the arrest, the loans and the funeral but there was nothing compared to the difficulty of thinking of the next few hours and the next few days without Iris. The more I thought about it, the worse it got and the clearer the solution became.

So here we are. I got back up and put both my hands on the railing. I felt very relaxed. My body had finally gotten used to the cold and the dark. I had forgotten about Flora and looked straight in front of me until she made an outrageous come back into my life. If you had told me, that one day I would dance with someone else, I would have laughed at your face. There was only one girl for me. Flora danced like a whimsical swan with no form or class.

Dancing with an older woman will make you grow wings”

She was light on her feet and I let her sway me around the bridge with her delicate grip. I felt both drunk and sober, frozen and burning, miserable and yet dancing.

When she finally let go of me, I made her promise never to dance like this again, or at least not in public. It would do nothing for her love life.

If I make a vow, you make a vow”, Flora replied. Are we back here again, I thought.

I know you're already thinking too big and too abstract. What do we know about tomorrow? You're asking for trouble.”

I could barely feel my hands and all I could really think of at that moment, was some warmth or some heat but that would not cut it for Flora, too abstract she would say. Maybe some gloves? I settled for a car, my car, a red car, like Iris's coat. She let me go. I came back to Maureen's party and served myself a glass of fizz and grabbed one of her shrimp cocktail thingies. From the moment the clock struck midnight and all year long, I held on tightly to my little vow. The next year, I vowed just a little bit bigger. Always, eyebrows were raised but I never bothered to explain how something so small could feel so big.

January 08, 2021 21:03

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Elizabeth Inkim
19:14 Jan 18, 2021

Hi Marion! I found your story through the Critique Circle email, I know I am a few days late but better late than never, so here it goes. I enjoyed your storyline and dialogue. Your character voices and sentence structure were wonderful. It was definitely an interesting story choice for sure. Also, after reading your story, I think that you might enjoy some of mine, particularly "And I am a creator at heart" and "The Savage Truth of Fear". My latest story is called, "Tables Turn, Bridges Burn", and I would love to know what you think abou...


23:14 Jan 19, 2021

HI, thank you so much for your feedback. I am glad you've enjoyed it. It was a difficult story but I still enjoyed writing it. Happy to take a look at your latest stories and I'll let you know I think :)


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