Write a scene or a short story establishing a female character who experiences a strong desire
I wanted out of that small cottage, in that small town, full of sanctimonious people with small minds. But Mama and Papa? Well, they greeted me cheerily every morning, the smell of Mama’s special chamomile tea and cinnamon pancakes wafting through the cottage. I too smiled at Mama, gave Papa a peck on the cheek and sat down for the usual family breakfast that adorned the oddly shaped wooden table. Papa had bought it from the yard sale just last summer. I’d asked him why we needed another table, but Papa’d just smiled and patted me on the shoulder. Papa didn’t speak much and sometimes I felt like screaming out his emotions, along with mine.
How had Mama survived with him for the better part of her life? Guilt struck at such crude thoughts and I shook them away.
I was an only child, Papa didn’t keep well, Mama was getting old and I was all she had for support. But there was always the town folk. I’d caught Mrs. Randolph with her ear to the door during one of the doctor’s visits. She didn’t flinch. On the contrary, she wagged her haughty finger at me for keeping her in the dark regarding Papa’s condition.
Mama didn’t complain about the Mrs. Randolphs wandering around town. She’d resigned herself to the obvious and it didn’t bother her as it did me.
Maybe because of my time spent working at the only library just two blocks from home, where I’d come in close proximity to all the Randolphs that ever existed.
I had gone along with Mama when I was a child and helped her sort the books. Ms. Perkins at the desk would give me reproving looks and I’d stay a good distance away from her tangible glares. I’d only started working when Mama had to take a few days off to look after Papa. That was three years ago and here I was, with every book, title, number and shelf practically memorized. Ms. Perkins with her censuring looks still stalked my every move.
They would start trickling in just an hour after opening time, sometimes in pairs. Mrs. Donahue, Mrs. Fenwick, Ms. Mead, books tucked into cloth bags, handed carefully to Ms. Perkins. I’d almost snort out loud at some of the titles they’d issued. Family Matters, Life’s Journey, The Dangers of Gossip…. this was when I was sure they’d never even turned the first page.
Mrs. Donahue had accosted me just outside the library once.
“So, Dr. Gerald came to see your Papa again? Hmm, Margery really does spend a lot of time talking to him, now doesn’t she?”
No, I wasn’t resigned to this town like Mama and had almost ripped that old lady’s face off.
I saw her again just a week later, this time sitting in my living room, chatting blithely with Mama. I’d gone up and banged the door shut. Mama mentioned how the house had shook, but that was it. She knew the vice that was Mrs. Donahue but it made my insides burn at how pliant Mama was. How could she have let that woman into the house? Mama could be as infuriatingly calm as Papa sometimes.
I got an e-mail from Donna. We’d grown up together but grown apart. She was in Chicago now. She sent pictures of her rented apartment.
Once you get out of there Jen, you’ll never look back, trust me!
That night I submitted another two job applications online.
“Dr. Gerald said Papa might need to be admitted this time.”
Mama was breathless. She’d usually get this way when it came to Papa. I squeezed her hand reassuringly. Only Papa looked relaxed. He asked me to bring him To Kill a Mocking Bird from the library.
“You’re dying Papa!” I screamed in my head.
But Papa just smiled.
Dr. Gerald was right and a few weeks later, Mama and I were holding his frail hands in the hospital room.
“You have visitors,” the nurse whispered.
I looked up and saw the vultures had swooped in from town, Mrs. Donahue leading the charge.
Mama went out to meet them and I stayed holding Papa’s hand.
“You have your Mama’s eyes,” Papa’s soft voice surprised me.
He smiled and just like Mama, my eyes welled up.
“Take care of Mama, dear.”
The last words he spoke to me.
The smile never left his face and Dr. Gerald said he’d passed away painlessly and peacefully, the best death one could ask for.
Once back home after the funeral, I’d marched straight into my room. Downstairs, I could hear the whispers getting louder, as the perfunctory eye-dabbing and shakes of the head melted into an ordinary luncheon.
“Now, now Margery, don’t worry about a thing. We’re all here for you. By the way, I don’t see Dr. Gerald around, I’m sure I saw him at the funeral.”
I had decided to come down as Mrs. Donahue’s words filled my ears. If Mama’s pleading eyes hadn’t stopped me, it would have been Mrs. Donahue in need of Dr. Gerald that day. But what I did do was walk firmly up and sit down next to Mama. I was the one curtly answering all remarks directed at Mama after that. They soon stopped.
A month later, I sat staring at the letter I’d just received.
We are pleased to inform you that you’ve been accepted….
I stopped reading, tapping my fingers on the oddly shaped wooden table. Mama still had her special tea and pancakes waiting for me every morning. She’d let her fingers linger on Papa’s chair as she walked by and I’d see her smile wistfully. She’d go out into the backyard and just like Papa, fill the bird feeder, her face crinkling into a smile at the first flutter of wings. I’d heard her tell Ms. Perkins, who’d stopped by with a lemon meringue pie, how she’d helped Papa paint my room walls blue when I was five, because pink was no longer my favourite colour. Too many memories she’d never want to leave behind.
“What’s that, dear?”
I folded the letter and later, crumpled it up before chucking it into the dustbin.
I’ve expanded on a previously posted flash fiction story that I’d written: Thank You Mama