Micro-Story: Family

For something different, a small story. (I can understand that I’ve made a few questionable choices in how I have written this).


It was a chilly morning but the crisp weather was warm compared to the glaciers which moved slowly through her veins. She had made her emotions a block of ice, impenetrable and unyielding. Though she loved him, truly she did, she still had to leave. After 53 years of marriage it had just become too much. You could push a heavy load for only so long, and she had pushed it far beyond her capability. It was not defeat but the end of a heroic effort that could not be continued. He didn’t appreciate the struggle and hurt it was causing her. An injury sustained during the Vietnam War had robbed them of the children. Even still, they’d never been able to enjoy the freedom of independence that no children should bring. She could feel her husband’s eyes following her as he walked to the end of the driveway, saying nothing. They’d both said all they had to say and neither of them had been able to compromise. She knew he was hurting inside, beneath the stoic facade and she fought to maintain the same facade. She would not break down and relent. Not this time. She was finally thinking of herself, of escape. She focused on her movements, not her emotions, and carried her suitcase the final metres to the car idling on the road.

Her older brother stood on the other side of the car feeling awkward. He didn’t know where to look, much less what to do. There were no tears between his sisters and her husband; that made it almost worse. He couldn’t fault either of them and didn’t want to choose a side. He liked his brother-in-law, and though they’d lived a difficult life his brother-in-law had always cared for his sister well. When his sister called last night asking for a ride and a place to stay he had to help. She was going to ‘find her own place’ at the age of 70. The situation seemed so odd, so sad. Why was there a lump in his throat? He wished he was anywhere but here, participating in this sad event. He took the suitcase from his sister and heaved it into the boot. His sister, moved quickly to sit in the passenger side of the car. He looked at his brother-in-law with pursed lips and gave a sad wave goodbye. Surely they would still see each other, although it seemed likely it would be far less now.

“Goodbye,” her husband called. She pretended not to have heard him. He watched her sit in the car without so much as a look in his direction, her gaze now fixated out the windscreen. He wanted to go to her and beg but knew she wouldn’t listen. Communication between the two of them had been severed and the cost to re-establish it was one he couldn’t pay. He wanted to give her one last kiss or one last hug. He couldn’t bear it if she responded to the affection like a stone, like so many times in recent months. He had always worried, at the back of his mind, about how he might cope if she died before him. The grief would be too much. Never had he considered she might leave of her own volition before death came. He wondered if there had been anything more he could have said to make her stay. It was unlikely – they’d both talked so much over several years – and yet, he wished he found the words that made a difference. The difficulties of life had masked the beauty of their love in her eyes. The obligation was too heavy and it had never torn at his heart and soul so viciously as it did as his brother-in-law climbed into the car.

“Where is Aunty going?” his 45-year-old brother asked cheerfully from behind the safety of the fence. He smiled brightly with simple delight, “Are we still going to see the ducks today?”

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