This story is by Sofia and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Hurry up! We need to leave soon!”
It was Nancy who was the loudest one, and the one who was packing all the baggage. She stayed there, a coat open, hands in pockets – so busy, extremely serious. Yet, the only thing she did care about was not that they were late but the fact that they had no light at all.
“Such a wrong time for this,” she sighed, picking the keys.
Dan in a dark-blue suit stayed by the doors, looking around as if he saw the living room for the first time. He had no clue whether they would come back, so he stared in the nook where the photos of grandparents laid. Nearby, there was a layer of documents covered with dust. There was nothing that could cause a stop in their trip. Nothing he could hold on to or even try to. Not a single paper.
“Do you want to go to grandma?” she asked one evening, as they were sitting in the corner under a soft light of a floor lamp. He was lying on Nancy’s knees, holding a newspaper in hands. Nancy was knitting, and for the first time in a month there were no talks about their bills, their bank account or anything like that. He was dreaming about the place he’d love to go one day to for a shoot, and she was thinking of her mother, Lina, who was so fragile during those couple of days they had to put her in a wheelchair.
He managed to avoid the answer.
“How is Lina?”
“Lina… Lina is alright.”
She raised her head in bewilderment. He never asked about her mom if it wasn’t his turn to go to pharmacy.
“You talked to her in the past few days?”
She raised her head in bewilderment.
“I talk to her nearly every day.”
“You should have known that.”
“So, do you want to go to grandma’s house?”
“Do you really want to go to grandma?” he echoed, making her stop knitting. Nancy looked at him with annoyance.
“Sometimes you don’t need a reason to go somewhere”, she replied, “Especially when it’s a grandma.”
He said, trying to sound patiently:
One day later, they’ve discovered that her mother has died, and since then, Nancy was keen to go to grandma even when she’s known that Dan wasn’t ready.
He exited, not saying a word. Nancy looked at him with confusion.
“A stranger”, she said to herself, “But it will get better”.
“It will get better” was a mantra she remembered every time when it seemed to get worse. There were moments when she didn’t quite understand whether he was who he pretended to be, or even smarter, funnier, friendlier, nicer than the “wonted” Dan.
And it was all right to be willing to know. She wanted to know everything, until there was a chance of changing everything. With each day, though, it was getting less and less likely.
They entered the door of the railway station, going straight to the track where their “caravan” to Vienna stayed, Dan frowning, his eyes getting icy.
“Did you take that fruit cake I’ve made for Grandma?” Nancy asked carefully, twisting an umbrella in her hand.
“No,” he said, looking straight into her eyes, “It doesn’t matter.”
“What is this supposed to mean?” she asked, trying to sound amiably, “You are not taking this trip seriously, are you?
“It’s all right,” he burped, “I am going to have some drink.”
They stayed in silence. She just squeezed her head into shoulders and watched him masterfully dissecting cling film, pulling the bottle of whiskey out, and then going back and forth, getting drunk immediately. As he wandered back and dropped the bottle on the pavement, a station clock struck five.
“I will be back in a minute,” he said, wrapping the luggage again, “Stay right here. I will be right back.”
He went, swaying, and she bent to the pavement, picking the bottle up. The wind shook her hair. She fixed her bangs, laughed and drank the rest of the strong drink out of the bottle.
The wind shook the trees, scattering leaves and paper cups around. She stayed, frowning now herself. The wind blew in her back, the trees rustled. Nancy stayed, not shaking at all, as if she turned into obelisk. The sky became blue, like the one they’ve seen on Paradise Island back in 2005, when they had no money at all, but they were young and flew to the city on the other side of the planet, and spent their first autumn there.
It was November, too, but the warmer one, and the trees were red and the sun was peeking out the forest, everything being so fragile and wonderful as if it was their last day on Earth. They’ve climbed cliffs and watched as rivers turned their colors to darker. It was also when they’d made a stop on a beautiful hill and he’d suddenly remembered every little thing that she had done wrong. She’d put leaves in a bouquet for him, and he would turn it down. “Look, I’ve found something”. “Nice. Now, let’s get back to work.” She’d sneak outside the hotel and stay there, imagining cold weather coming over and vanishing all the beauty out of the island. When they finally left, Nancy felt nothing but sorrow. She still had feelings towards Dan, but something important was broken, and it’s been seven years from their last trip, and Dan has not changed a minute.
A thousand bells rang in her ear as she finally moved from the place she stayed for such a long time at, and came up to a station manager.
He looked at her with lenience – the kind of lenience only old men have when it comes to life, but with her approaching, a smile appeared on his face, as if he was back in the days with her grandmother; and the leaves were falling off the trees, like the ones he was just watching, and the wind shook her hair, like Nancy’s.
She came up and smiled, too.
“Sorry, mister…. Where is the cafe here?”
“It’s right around the corner,” the man answered, “But let me carry you through, my dear, the station is quite new and, therefore, confusing.”
They went down the hallway, – him, his head down, as he was not daring to look at her, and her. Felling odd as they passed a corridor led to the tracks and found themselves smiling silly all the way through this walk. There was no one but them in the railway station. Nancy suddenly found herself not shaking at all, not worrying about Dan, and not talking about the grandma and how wonderful it was to go on the trip.
“It’s right there,” he pointed out, “I apologize. I have to go back to my duties.”
She watched him go with eyes full of tears, then entered the cafe, twisting an umbrella, smiling.
Thus ended the trip.