Last year I participated in a 12 short stories in 12 months challenge. Each month we would get a topic, exact word count and dead-line date. I was proudly one of 30 to achieve writing all 12. It was great practice to hone my writing skills and try new things. Below is one of those stories. Enjoy
Lonely, Not Alone by Debbie Gravett
Prompt: The Club | Word count: 750 words | Genre: Drama
“Sorry Kim, I won’t be able to meet for coffee. I’ve got to… um, help the kids with their work. Thanks for calling. Bye.”
I lowered my nose to my armpit and took a sniff. Whoa! I should remember to keep deodorant in my bag or better yet shower more often.
“Why do we have to go to the shop again?” complained my thirteen-year-old from the passenger seat, as I quickly hid the chocolate and chip wrappers from my binge the day before. “We go every day.”
“I forgot dishwashing tablets.”
“You’re forgetting a lot lately,” chirped my eight-year-old behind me.
And here I thought nobody had noticed. Maybe I should send them back to school, then no one would be around during the day to pick up on my failings and point them out. As if I wasn’t already acutely aware. It didn’t help that my kids were around me almost twenty-four-seven. From a respected salary-earning career woman solving IT dilemmas to a dependant, domestic affairs manager – aka cook, cleaning lady and laundry girl. Not forgetting the resented teacher who thought she was improving life for her previously bullied children who had slipped through the cracks of the education system.
I felt so lonely. I was dodging meeting friends more and more. The anxiety of having to pay for a cup of coffee didn’t motivate outings. I looked at the familiar turn ahead of me wondering, as I had so often if anybody would miss me if I drove straight down the cliff.
“Oh no!” the back seat moaned.
“What?” I asked coming out of my trance.
“I died in my game.”
“Oh.” The thought of dying and my children in the car had me turning the wheel and following the curve of the road. The same children who were always connected to some device or another. How was I ever going to teach them to connect with people? Although they would fit right into society, nose in cellphones and generally not listening.
“Mom, can we get ice-cream?” asked Katie, my eldest.
Not listening, but always asking for something.
“I don’t want ice-cream, I want chocolate,” whinged Maccayla.
Their bickering created the background noise for the same old questions in my head: Who was supposed to pay for all these things they wanted. Considering I wasn’t contributing anything to our finances I didn’t feel entitled to spend it on myself or luxuries. Except of course for the necessary chocolates, chips and cold drinks to help me feel better. They weren’t working anymore.
What else was I supposed to buy. Milk? No, but I’d get just in case to hopefully save another trip. Bread? Orange juice? Damn it! I couldn’t remember.
“Ouch! Mom, Katie pinched me.”
“STOP IT! If you carry on I’ll turn around and you can wash dishes by hand.” Sometimes I wished I didn’t have the responsibility of kids. Lately it was more like all the time. I love them, but…. how could I be accountable for two other lives when I couldn’t even look after myself? Although my mind returned to sanity after a jaunt of madness it was a bit like sinking sand, because I would find myself going back.
A blaring hooter pulled me back from my cesspool of self-pity. There was a car mere millimetres from my door. I’d missed the traffic circle in front of me and not checked to give way. I raised my hand in apology as the liquid sadness began to ooze from my eyes. As always I fought it, but I could barely see to drive. I pulled over into the emergency lane making sure to keep my face away from the girls. They seemed oblivious, still absorbed in their screens. The other car followed and pulled up beside me. My breathing quickened. I had no energy for confrontation. I looked down in my lap, hoping they would go away. There is a knock on my window. I looked up into Kim’s blurry face. I unlocked the doors and she pulled me out and shut the door.
“Jo, are you okay?” She folded me into her arms and let me sob my heart out until I regained enough composure to talk.
“I can’t cope. I’m falling apart. I feel so worthless.”
“Join the club my friend. That’s why I wanted to meet for coffee.”
There, on a warm winters day on the side of the road we held each other and cried.