I wrote the story below for an essay competition during the summer, I had no luck, but I liked it so I thought I’d share it with you. I hope you enjoy.
(Feedback always welcome)
If You Loved Me
#shortstories #daretobelieve #dreambig #keepwriting
The coffee is cold, it’s been cold for over an hour, but the kitchen is warm, watery sunshine sending shards of light across the marble counter top. I know the coffee is cold, I know the dishwasher is full and I know there’s fruit rotting in the fruit bowl, but I’m stuck, stuck listening to the sounds of the house, stuck holding it all together, stuck putting on the brave face, stuck in this house, our house. The ticking of your grandmother’s clock in the hall way, the creak of the third step on the stairs, the sound of Murish, the terrier next door, losing the plot, because Mary is gone to work again and hasn’t taken him for his walk. This is our house, not mine, the countertop is white marble because you convinced me it had more ‘longevity’ than the black and of course you were right, but this is our house and I’m left wondering if you ever loved me?
The postman came about a half hour ago, a pile of envelopes are sitting on the mat inside the front door, there’s at least four cards, if the envelopes are anything to go by and a few bills, they’ll be in your name, the cards in mine as those people will know, but I’m stuck, stuck at the counter with my thoughts and my questions. How long will the bills with your name keep coming? How long will I constantly be reminded? Do I need to phone someone to make it stop? What do I even say? Yesterday’s post made it as far as the hall table, I think today’s can stay where it is, I’ll deal with it tomorrow, or maybe the next day. The rotting fruit might take precedent today. You’d kill me, I can hear your voice in my head, ‘post on the mat and decaying pears in the bowl!’ And then you’d tussle my hair and smile. You would be serious and I couldn’t help but do as you wished. God I loved you, but I wonder now if you loved me?
Funny how the small domestic chores bring the most reflection. There were your jobs and mine; ‘man’s jobs and lady’s jobs’ you used to say. The rotting fruit is just the tip of the iceberg, the dishwasher was your thing and as for the mountain of laundry… How can a man that’s no longer here still have a basket full of laundry? I scanned the house the day after, people say that they tidy up, finish up loose ends, give away precious things, a kind of goodbye. You missed that memo in your planning, the bed was unmade, the towels still on the ensuite floor and the laundry full to the brim. I contemplated tidying up in that crazy few minutes after I found you, I don’t know whether I was in shock or just crazy, but I did, I contemplated tidying up. And now I’m left thinking I was crazy and questioning whether you ever loved me?
Today is the first day I’ve been alone, the front door has been wide open for days with a constant stream of people in and out, a constant stream of tuberware; full of casseroles, apple tarts and nonsense. Nosey neighbours trying to figure out where and what had happened, not so discreetly asking to use the loo to go and investigate, over bearing aunties that swore you were raised you right and couldn’t understand what had happened since you’d left the village, your mother staring at me constantly, blame searing through me, my mother heartbroken; for me, for you, for your family and for the family we would never have. The people became a blur and I found myself asking if you loved me?
I’m alone and stuck today and there’s an aching inside, one that hasn’t been there over the past week. I guess the initial shock and adrenaline got me through that, but today there is an aching, deep, deep in my core. My womb aches today, your mum cried for lost grandchildren and I realised you’d robbed me of that.
I feel empty, aching and empty and there is rotting fruit in the fruit bowl; spoiled and wasted, only good for the bin. Children had always been on the cards, our children, not mine. Our children, we had named them, pictured them, planned holidays with them. He’d look like you, she’d look like me; a gentleman’s family. I enjoyed the practicing, not that we had much of late and I had longed to feel a baby squirm inside me, feel my belly stretch and bulge, to smile as you’d cradle my bump and kiss and sing to the surprise inside. I couldn’t wait and had even bought one or two baby grows from time to time – just in case. It would happen eventually my mother promised, but my womb aches today and I wonder if you ever loved me.
The radio would be a distraction but I’m stuck and I’m afraid; music was our thing, you loved the radio and singing stupidly at the top of your voice to the songs was your favourite pastime. It made me laugh every time, because you were useless at remembering lyrics and to be fair you weren’t the best of singers either, but hey did you give it socks. I can’t bring myself to smile now but we used to be in hysterics, I’m sure the neighbours thought we were nuts…they definitely do now, now that you’re gone, now that I’m alone and I wonder do they question if you loved me?
The radio can stay off now, I’m not ready for that yet and the house makes enough noise of its own. The phone has rang four times this morning since I made the cold coffee, your mam and my mam I’m guessing. I’m reckoning I have another half hour before one of them appears at the front door, rapping their knuckles nervously, hoping I haven’t done something stupid. Funny that, no one has said that about you, no one said you did something stupid, but I’ve been asked several times over the past few days not to. I’ve thought about it though you know, I’ve thought about doing something stupid.
I’ve longed to close my eyes and not wake up to this nightmare. The doctor prescribed something to help me sleep over the last couple of days. I’ve googled the name and found that maybe if I took them all together and if I mixed them with the tequila from Mexico last year and maybe the Dingle gin in the sitting room, I might get somewhere, but the chances are a good sleep is all I’d get. I’d have to wake up to this nightmare afterwards, with a lousy hangover, my mother and yours and you’d still not be here and I’d still be wondering if you loved me?
I wonder what happens now. When am I supposed to get myself together and get on with things? When do I move on? When is it appropriate to move on, to go out and do the shopping, to put on the washing machine, to start the process of washing you from my life? I don’t want to smell you in the house, or on your pillow, I don’t want to see your things around me and be constantly reminded of you and what you did here in our house, but I also don’t want to forget, I don’t want to make hasty decisions now that in the weeks to come I’ll regret and I’ll want your smell back, I’ll want your things. For now I guess I’m stuck, unable to decide. I haven’t a clue what to do. I hate you and love you in the same breath, I want to kick and scream and be quiet and reflect. I want answers and I’m afraid I’ll get them and won’t like what they say about me. But I do want to know if you loved me?
Murish is barking again, his a nice little thing, friendly enough, but a bit yappy. I wonder should I get a dog. It might keep me company and keep me safe now that there isn’t a man in the house. God I hadn’t thought of that before. Am I not safe in my own home?
I’ve heard about a few burglaries locally lately, would they see me as an easy target now that I’m alone? Surely they’d take pity on the mad woman under the circumstances, probably think I’ve nothing to offer because you didn’t stick around either. They’d probably drive past the house make a little joke, but ultimately question how you could do that to me if you ever really loved me?
The coffee has that milky scum on it now and the sun has shifted towards the hob. I have no idea what time it is, I never sit in the kitchen like this at this time of day. I wonder… I lean back on the stool to get a glimpse of your grandmother’s clock in the hall and lean too far, wobbling and ridiculously trying to regain my balance I dump myself unceremoniously head over arse onto the kitchen floor, coffee cup flying and the contents sprayed all over me. I lie flat on the cold tiled floor, I can see right to the front door from here and down the front drive.
The world is moving on, getting on with life, cars pass, a mum and a toddler stroll past the gate, she has him tightly by the chubby hand and his wearing dinosaur crocs and carry a Winnie the Pooh that has seen better days. Mary from next door has Murish on the leash and is heading towards the park; Murish happily wagging his stump of a tail. The hall window needs a good clean and the grass on the edge of the drive is trampled and threadbare; the stream of tuberware bearers wondering if you loved me.
What a strange perspective? I think about you lying in the graveyard watching people come and go, God how strange it would be to report back from the dead on the goings on from day to day. I wonder what crazy conversations are had and what lovers meet up there, in fairness it’s not like the people buried there can tell their wives. I start laughing, catch myself being ridiculous, spread eagled on the kitchen floor with my mother’s car pulling into the estate in the distance.
I pick myself up, right the stool and take a breath. The rotting fruit bowl; I’ll start there. I pick it up, fruit flies scattering from the sticky, gooey pears. I always hated this bowl, it was too big and I never ate all the fruit. And then I spot it, stuck to the countertop is a crisp yellow post it, hidden so discreetly under the bowl, written so carefully in your beautiful handwriting, your birthday card, anniversary writing, a little pear juice flawing the top right-hand corner. How long has it been there? Was it just for this moment? Had you planned this out?
I don’t care, it was for me, you wrote it for me.
‘I love you’.
There are no questions now, I know you did.