This story is by Adrienne Cooper and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Leah took one last look around her home and the memories she and her husband had created there. She saw the couch they picked out with laughter after doing the plop test. Reaching out, she touched the lamps that took them forever to find and remembered the joy and pride of arranging them on the tables.
She walked to the kitchen and ran her hands over the counter, walking around it. Images of meals cooked together and trying new recipes filled her vision. Some successful, others destined for the trash bin. She heard the knife hitting the cutting board as she chopped vegetables and sliced meats. She saw moments of playful food fights and spontaneous dancing as tears pricked her eyes. Ruthlessly, she pushed them away.
Leah made her way into the laundry room and was overwhelmed by the scent of fresh washed clothes, remembering the heat of a dress just pulled from the dryer and worn. Warm clothes folded with love and kept in the basket for days before they finally made it to the drawers. That last basket sailing through the air… Like the tears, she suppressed the memory. This walk was for happy times.
Leah moved to the dining area. Happy times and great conversations around the dinner table filled her senses. Family gathered for holidays with joy filling the air.
Moving quicker now, Leah stepped on the back porch and looked over the yard. She recalled the memory of seeing people milling around, kids playing, food cooking on the grill and s’mores made over the fire pit.
Stepping back into the house, she moved to the bedroom door, but her feet refused to cross the threshold. She didn’t want to see the bed where intimate moments and conversations had taken place. The place where she had cried tears of joy and of frustration. Where she had been held and comforted.
The sitting room was her last stop and tears streamed quietly down her face. She could no longer hold them back. She saw her husband and her sister, Rachel, sitting there. They had been so caught up in their conversation they didn’t notice her.
“I’m pregnant,” she heard Rachel say. “What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know,” her husband said. “Your dad won’t be happy.”
“It’s his fault we’re in this situation. If he hadn’t insisted that you marry Leah, we could be together now. But no, he had to have control and you had to go along.”
“It was the only way to stay close to you. He would have made sure I never got to see you again, if I didn’t.” Leah knew his hands were running through his hair. It was a gesture that often accompanied that tone of voice.
“But you didn’t have to marry her. Leah had memories of a life with you.” Bitterness leaked into Rachel’s voice. “Leah’s happy and all I can think is, it should have been my life.”
“I get through them by thinking of you, Rachel. You know that it’s you I love.”
Leah cringed as she heard those words spoken by the husband she loved. Tip toeing back until she was completely out of sight.
A conversation overheard, a heart broken and a sense of betrayal still running deep. They all knew, even her father, and she had been oblivious. She lived in a house of lies. The happy memories faded as she stood there, replaced by one word: Lies. They had all known and they had lied to her.
She closed her eyes and let the realization seep into every cell of her body, finally replacing the last of the denial. She turned away and as her eyes opened, they fell on the stand. The stand which held general information notes, loving notes, thinking of you notes, gone to the store notes in the past.
Leah placed the envelope on the stand and walked out, closing the door behind her. She never intended to return to this house. She waved to the neighbors on the way to the car, murmuring a final goodbye under her breath. Entering, she looked at the containers in the back seat. Containers filled with memories that hurt to look at but were too precious to destroy. Maybe, she’ll put them in storage for now.