Short Stories

۱٫ Awkward Hearts

From half way up the hill, the rain looks like a heavy curtain over the car park, almost making it disappear. I don’t want to go back down, back to my son’s sympathetic eyes, his wife’s soft voice, the tense smiles like fault lines on their strained faces. I didn’t want to come here at all, but if I had to, I wanted it to be alone. No – not allowed. I have to be watched now, as though I might evaporate if they stop looking.

Eat this, don’t drink that, wrap up warm. Jesus Christ – you’d think I was a child. A helpless, useless child. So what if I’m quieter now, am lost in thought at times, don’t smile so much? I miss her. What do they want from me, hysterics? That’s not my way and it never was. She hated people who made a fuss. We were never dramatic; it was one of the things that bound us together as a couple, our stoicism. They should know that.

I didn’t want to scatter her ashes. I wanted to keep them. Nope – that’s weird. The tree was their idea, where everyone in the whole bloody town has carved their name over the years. It’s no more special for us than it is for anyone else, for them. I didn’t argue. There’s no point in arguing anymore. When I try to say how I feel, what I want, their heads tilt so far to the side I’m afraid they’ll fall over. So today I trudge further up the hill, getting drenched – even they hadn’t foreseen this storm – hugging the urn that holds what’s left of her. Dust. She hated dust.

My heart flutters. Hearts. It always comes back to hearts. Hearts on the tree. Her heart. Her awkward heart that refused to respond to treatment. I run my hands over the shapes carved in the bark – broken by time, all of them.

When I’m sure no one can see me, I take the empty sandwich bag from my pocket, shelter under the tree and decant the contents of the urn. I seal the bag tight and put it in my pocket. A giggle gurgles in my throat and I have to swallow hard to keep it from escaping. Must look suitably somber when I get back down there. But this is the first time I’ve felt alive since she went.

I tuck the empty urn under my arm, shove my hands in to my pockets and head back down the hill. I let my fingers close around the soft bag. I’ll keep her with me and she’ll help me heal. And one day, I’ll be able to say her name again.

– By: Karen Jones


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