35 comments

Fiction Sad

Now


She stands before the mirror, staring blankly at the reflection of a woman she has never met. With trembling hands, she unclips the silver hoops from her ears and places them carefully in the jewelry box. The matching necklace is next. It slithers from her neck and crumples into a pile of links in her palm. She pours the chain into the box. Her rings follow. She wrestles each one over the knuckle and drops them all beside the chain. The jewelry belongs to someone else, a different woman, and she is happy to shed that woman, like a snake sheds its skin.

She steps into the adjoining ensuite bathroom and discards her clothing, ripping at the garments and dropping them to the floor. She will never wear these clothes again and she kicks them to one corner.

The water in the shower is steaming hot, and she welcomes its painful sting as it sears her icy flesh. It is only when the heat steams up the shower stall in a heavy fog, that the tears finally fall.


Then


The church was full by the time she arrived. The last time she had arrived at a full church was on her wedding day. Today was not her wedding, although she had selected the dress with care. Ice blue and ruffled. There was no other choice.

Father Greg greeted her with his somber eyes, and she smiled her thanks. The expression felt stiff and awkward on her face, but she knew the ritual of greeting. Say hello, express your gratitude, smile. She allowed the priest to lead her to the front of the church, where Steven was waiting. The last time he was at the front of the church waiting for her was also on her wedding day. Ironic.

In the last six months, Steven had slowly withdrawn until he had become a stranger. That which does not kill you, only makes you stronger. Well, their marriage was not strong enough. He walked out a month ago, just when she needed him. He’d said he was sorry, he’d said he wished he had more to give. Empty words. Seeing him today should have hurt, but she felt nothing.

She sat next to him, eyes fixed forward.

He took her hand in his. “How are you Lara?”

Her hand was cold compared with his warm fingers, and her voice was icy cool as she replied with a polite, “I’m OK.”

Was she Ok? She supposed she had to be. It was a facade, and she knew it, a fragile front she showed the world. A brittle shell that contained all her ugly broken bits. Lara knew she was being watched, could feel the eyes on her, staring into the back of her head, peering with morbid curiosity into her soul. She would not give them anything to see. No drama, no hysteria. She was too broken for those dangerous emotions.

The stirring from the church foyer indicated that it was about to begin. They had arrived. Lara’s stomach dropped. She could feel the blood drain from the cheeks and her head spun. It was happening. It was really beginning now. As much as she dreaded it, she needed this. Needed it over.

The music started, and Father Greg invited everyone to stand. She stood. Not a tremor, not a waver. Her legs obeyed on autopilot.

Dry-eyed, she turned to watch the six men, her brother and Steven’s brother among them, wheel the small casket down the aisle toward the altar. Some part of her, the part outside of herself, listened to the music as it played ‘Heimr Àrnadalr’ the beautiful choral piece that was played at Queen Elsa’s coronation. Frozen was Sarah’s favourite Disney movie. The little casket was wrapped in blue snowflakes and images from the Disney classic. Elsa, Ana, Olaf, Sven.

It was so small.

It was left before the altar, alone and cold.

Father Greg incensed the casket. The spicy fumes caused Lara’s eyes to water, but she refused to lift a handkerchief, surreptitiously using a knuckle to cast away the moisture instead.

The eulogy was read. Lara focused upon the curve of a snowflake as it caressed the rounded corner of the casket, and did not hear a single word. She didn’t need to. After all, she had written it. She knew Sarah better than any other here. Who else would write it?

The slow procession past the casket began with the usher assisting her to stand and place upon its white top a small posy of lavender tied in a silky blue bow. She put it next to the photo frame of a younger, healthier, smiling Sarah hugging Mitzee, her one eyed moggy. He was a mangy-looking beast, but Sarah loved that cat. He gave her such comfort and joy that Lara couldn’t help but smile. Sarah had taken one look at the battered and scarred creature, declaring him hers, and a mother’s heart just couldn’t say no. Sarah could be stubborn like that, one-eyed, both metaphorically and literally.

When she was eight, cancer had taken Sarah’s eye, but not her ferocious spirit. Out of all the cats in the shelter that day, Sarah had taken the oldest, ugliest, most unlovable one-eyed beast, saying he was different, just like her. After suffering a mother’s anxiety as she awaited the results of the surgery, Lara was ready to give her daughter whatever creature filled her with joy.

Sooner than Lara expected, Idina Menzel’s famous, powerful ballad ‘Let It Go’ rang out through the church. The casket was carefully manoeuvred back down the aisle. To her surprise, Lara realised that she was standing, and the usher directed her to follow the tiny casket. She could feel the press of people filing out behind her, their solemn gazes weighing on her shoulders. Steven walked beside her, bowed with grief, but she held her head high, shoulders rigid.

The soft thud of the rear door on the hearse closing nearly broke her. She wouldn’t let it. The tail lights as the car quietly rolled away threatened to shatter her, but she was resolute.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Nod and smile, “Thank you.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Kiss and hug, “Thank you.”

“She was a wonderful little trouper.”

Shake a hand, “Thank you.”

Lara lost count of the number of times she said that, ‘thank you’. She wanted to scream, to tell everyone to just bugger off now, but she was scared of being alone. And there was cake, and scones with jam and cream, and tea, mustn’t forget the tea. The Ladies Auxiliary had provided it in the church hall. Mustn’t disappoint the Ladies Auxiliary.

So she smiled, and kissed, and hugged, and thanked, and waited until it was all over.


Now



In her small shower cubicle, blanketed with steam, Lara breaks. At first it is a soft, guttural groan seeping out of the corners of her mouth from behind tightly clenched teeth. It builds in a slow crescendo and becomes a full-blown wail. No one can see her. No one is there to hear, except an old, one-eyed cat, who eyes her from the bed with curious concern.

July 18, 2023 14:37

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35 comments

Amanda Lieser
19:48 Aug 11, 2023

Hi Michelle, Oh my heavens this is a heartbreaker! I loved the way you teased us at the beginning, let the story unfold, and then ended it with the true sadness of it all. The imagery was vivid and gut wrenching. I loved the way you kept character interactions to a minimum which helped emphasize the character’s pain. Nice work!!

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Michelle Oliver
23:04 Aug 11, 2023

Thanks for reading. I was hoping to show through the minimal character interactions how isolated she felt in her grief, so I’m happy that it worked.

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Kathleen Fine
10:45 Jul 27, 2023

Such a sad story but so well written. This could be turned into a novel!

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Michelle Oliver
11:28 Jul 27, 2023

Thank you for reading. It’s the last in the series so who knows… maybe one day.

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Chris Campbell
03:45 Jul 27, 2023

Michelle, A very moving piece emotionally. Told from the perspective of grief. A brave face held up to public scrutiny. Then, when she feels safe enough to let her grief loose, the healing begins. Very well written and sensitively told.

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Michelle Oliver
05:23 Jul 27, 2023

Thanks for reading this. I believe this is the end of the Mitzee Saga. It wasn't the story I initially set out to tell this week, but it was the story that demanded to be told.

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Blake Tori
19:36 Jul 23, 2023

Hey this is really good! Granted, the story is laced with tragedy and sadness and no death of a child would ever be considered ‘good’, but the way you tell it - your style - it’s talented and fantastic!!

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Michelle Oliver
22:15 Jul 23, 2023

Thank you. It completes a whole saga about the one eyed cat. It kind of demanded to be written, it wasn’t what I planned to write.

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Ty Warmbrodt
03:04 Jul 23, 2023

WOW! I hope you win for this piece.

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Michelle Oliver
03:27 Jul 23, 2023

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Thanks for reading it. It’s the last in a saga about the cat Mitzee.

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Ty Warmbrodt
03:55 Jul 23, 2023

I need to go back to the beginning of the Saga again. I was curious about the one-eyed cat.

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Michelle Oliver
04:05 Jul 23, 2023

If you’re interested, it starts with: 1) Mitzee’s Moment, 2) Mitzee’s Revenge, 3) Mitzee’s memoir, 4) Mitzee and Menace, 5) Write Rite- a Mitzee story then this one 6) Letting It Go.

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Ty Warmbrodt
04:09 Jul 23, 2023

Thank you Michelle. Yes, I'm interested. It's such a sad ending. It will be all the sadder once I read the whole series.

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Joan Wright
22:33 Jul 22, 2023

Amazing! Your word choices are perfect to describe the emotions of your character. I could visualize the whole scene because you painted an amazing picture. I lost a child and you did such an amazing job of describing the pain.

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Michelle Oliver
00:07 Jul 23, 2023

I am so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine the pain. Thank you for reading and leaving your feedback.

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Sherry Bazley
12:54 Jul 22, 2023

Michelle, I loved this one. Your style seems so tender to my inner ears. By that I mean that you seem to capture the beauty, resilience and fragility of the creatures and people you tell stories about. It's lovely. Thanks for being a writer.

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Michelle Oliver
13:16 Jul 22, 2023

Thank you, what a lovely compliment, I am humbled.

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Delbert Griffith
12:34 Jul 21, 2023

Wow! An unexpected but necessary (IMO) Mitzee tale. I always felt that this was the one hole in the Mitzee/Sarah/Lara saga. I also felt like it might be too painful to write; kids' deaths slay me, and you as well, I'm willing to bet. The only other possible tale that could be told would be Lara's journey to recovery. As it stands, the sage is beautiful, sad, poignant, and worthy of being published and acclaimed. They really are that good, my friend. I will go further and state that this tale had better be shortlisted and/or the week's winn...

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Michelle Oliver
13:13 Jul 21, 2023

Thank you for your vote of confidence. This story surprised me this week. I was writing a different one, but this tale just had to be told. It was like it had a mind of its own. I’m sorry for the tears yet again. The death of a child is crushing and cruel. I don’t know how parents survive it. I really appreciate your feedback.

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Michał Przywara
20:45 Jul 19, 2023

Great, sad take on the prompt. Sad for a number of reasons. Sad for the loss of a child, sad because we discourage hiding the entirely normal emotions such a loss brings with it, sad because even here the spouses are sparring. We put on all kinds of masks in public. "She put it next to the photo frame of a younger, healthier, smiling Sarah hugging Mitzee" - oh, dang! I didn't realize we were following these characters, and suddenly this piece hit a lot harder. "little trouper" - curious! This works perfectly, but I've only ever seen "t...

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Michelle Oliver
22:34 Jul 19, 2023

Thanks for reading it. I was inspired by a memory of a family friend who lost her oldest child just after I had my first. At the funeral I remember thinking, how the hell was she still upright and smiling? It was that mask that you talk about, putting it on to get through something that is almost unbearable. Only once she was alone did she let the pain out. I thought I had finished with the Mitzee tales, but this piece just demanded to be written. Maybe trouper is an Australian thing? I don’t know. I rarely use trooper, unless I’m talking...

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09:00 Jul 19, 2023

Slightly confusing me because I still have another 2 Mitzee stories to read, but couldn't not read this! I really like that you've done things a little differently by using Laura's POV and not Mitzee's. Love it! (Still on the finishing quest, onto the first page now! Stop writing so I can catch up! 😁)

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Michelle Oliver
15:06 Jul 19, 2023

Thanks for reading.

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RJ Holmquist
05:21 Jul 19, 2023

This is so sad! I found it fascinating how well the Disney references worked for me. They seemed to be great shorthand for describing the child's character and also provided a strong sensory impact, as the music was easy for me to hear in my head. Well done as always!

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Michelle Oliver
08:45 Jul 19, 2023

Thank you. Music is a powerful link to emotions. I find myself linking stories with sound tracks a lot.

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Emma D
02:28 Jul 19, 2023

Another Mitzee and Sarah story. So sad, but it was great!

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Michelle Oliver
08:43 Jul 19, 2023

I know, I thought the last story was the last one, but this was demanding to be told. It wasn’t the story I expected to write this week.

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Kevin Logue
18:08 Jul 18, 2023

Great emotional piece Michelle. It doesn't actually matter to the power and strength of this tale but I'm trying to work out the relationship between Lara and Sarah.

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Michelle Oliver
22:32 Jul 18, 2023

Mother and daughter. I will go back and look at this, see if I can make it clear. I didn’t want to state the obvious, but if it’s not obvious… then I need to work on it. Thanks for the feedback.

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Kevin Logue
06:18 Jul 19, 2023

I was thinking it would most likely was Mother, but because it was open I was just clarifying. It's great writing Michelle, I wouldn't edit because of my sleep addled brain ha.

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Michelle Oliver
08:46 Jul 19, 2023

I added a bit just for clarity. Hopefully it works.

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Kevin Logue
09:09 Jul 19, 2023

I can't pinpoint your changes, but on the reread there is many clues that just went past me, being ushered to the front of the church, the first to the follow the casket, the barrage of thank yous. Yes it's obvious, I'd say the fault was on my end, apologises if I cost you extra work.

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Michelle Oliver
09:30 Jul 19, 2023

Thanks I added the bit about Mitzee to clarify that it is actually a mitzee story and to make a clear link between the previous stories.

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Mary Bendickson
15:37 Jul 18, 2023

Worthy of the trophy! 😪

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Michelle Oliver
22:36 Jul 18, 2023

Thanks for the vote of confidence. This was not the story that I started writing this week, it’s just one that was demanding to be told.

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