Ella’s Grandma [A Short Story]

Roberta Marshall put her head down on her desk and wept. The tears flowed freely from her heavily made-up eyes and created black streaks on her cheeks. She wasn’t thinking about her make-up, though, and nor was she wondering how to conceal her reddened eyes. In fact, Roberta Marshall wasn’t thinking about anything very practical.

After a few more sobs, a rational thought did spring into her mind. She thought to herself I’m being unreasonable.

A few minutes later, she went further.  I’m being stupid.

The tears didn’t stop flowing, though. She felt a grief that went deep in her, piercing some of her most precious memories. She felt as if her whole childhood was about to disappear.

Eventually, the torrent flowing from Roberta’s eyes came to a halt, and she lifted her head up from her arms. She looked around her big office and was glad to see that the door was closed. Shakily, Roberta reached for her telephone, dialed a number and waited.

“Hello?” a soft voice answered.

“Mom?”

“Roberta?” the voice became incredulous. “Are you crying, Honey?”

“Not anymore, but I was.” Roberta’s voice, still thick from her recent crying jag, replied. She spoke again, a plea in her voice. “Mom, do you have to sell the house?”

Silence, almost a physical silence, came through from the other end of the line. Roberta could feel it weighing upon her. After what seemed like an eternity, Roberta’s mother heaved a sigh.

“Oh, Honey,” she breathed. “Yes, we have to sell the house. It’s not practical for us to live there these days. Your father really has a difficult time on the stairs and it’s simply not worth it to rent out the place.”

Roberta already knew all this, of course, and she felt guilty forcing her mother to go into the painful subject again. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She remembered thundering up and down those stairs with her brother. She remembered breakfasts in the big kitchen and birthday parties in the backyard and, later, arguments about curfew in the cozy den. Now it would all be gone. The tears threatened to overwhelm Roberta again, but she swallowed the lump in her throat and spoke into the phone again.

“Sorry, Mom. I don’t mean to make this harder on you,” and after a moment’s pause, she began again with a cheerier voice. “And anyway, you and Dad will be closer to Devin and me now, and you’ll get to see Ella more often.”

“Exactly, Honey. This can be a good thing,” her mother answered bravely.

“Ella will be happy to see her grandma more often, that’s for sure,” smiled Roberta as she spoke. After a few more minutes of falsely cheery talk about Ella’s toys and diapers, Roberta hung up the phone.

The tears began streaming out of Roberta’s eyes even as she collected herself and began to work again. She would cry on and off for days, but eventually, she learned how to cherish the memories of the big house and reconcile herself to the reality of losing it. At least, she always comforted herself, Ella’s happy that her grandma can babysit her sometimes.

Fatigue and Mental Health Days

Even people who love their jobs totally and unreservedly must have days where they’re weary to the bone and need to rest. It might come on by a soar throat and an aching head, it might come on by a long period of time without a proper vacation, or it may come out of nowhere or out of some irrational, emotional state.

Whatever it may be, sometimes you just need to take a day off. A day during which you let yourself sleep late, let yourself forget about the cares and worries of responsibility, let yourself be completely idle and enjoy every minute of it.

Well, you SHOULD be able to let yourself do all that. I, for some odd reason, have a fixation over this issue. I feel like if I’m not actually sick, fever and all, then it’s wrong for me to take a day off. I did take a day off today, and I did come home early from work yesterday, and I did have a soar throat and a tiny bit of a fever last night – and yet, I wasn’t truly ill, and I spent half the day feeling guilty about not having gone to work.

Uh-oh. I feel a workaholic in the making. Better nip this urge in the bud before it’s too late!

Rosy Thoughts [Part III]

Rosy was staring out her window when she heard footsteps in the hallway. She leaped back into bed, covered herself with the thin summer blanket, and closed her eyes, trying to breathe naturally as she did so. She had been out of bed and standing, staring out of the window, for the past hour – she was quite sick of lying down all day and it made her muscles hurt. That didn’t mean, however, that she was ready for her parents to know that yet.

Matt opened the door slowly, and, upon seeing Rosy’s slightly flushed face, he deduced that she was awake and only pretending to be asleep at the moment. Nevertheless, he walked slowly into the room, shut the door quietly, and sat down gently on the bed, as if trying not to startle her out of sleep.

As he ran one large, rough hand over her brow, Rosy opened her eyes slowly, trying to seem groggy. She looked at him for a moment, and then turned her head from his face. She couldn’t stand when he looked at her like that, his face suffused with love. If he loved her so much, she thought, he’d make everything work out with Mama.

Rosy’s reasonable side immediately flared up at this thought, and began chiding her – “your parents DO love you – you know the divorce has nothing to do with you really!” – but before her thoughts could get into a serious flurry, she turned her head back to Matt’s face.

“What?” She asked sullenly.

“Are you feeling any better, Rose-Bud?” Matt asked quietly.

“No.”

“Are you feeling very rotten?”

“Yes.”

“I’m so sorry, Rosy,” Matt whispered. The door creaked open once more, and he looked around to see Laura peeking in. She entered the room and came and sat down on the other side of Rosy, perching on the little room that was left there for her.

Rosy looked from one parent to the other before fixing her gaze on the ceiling. She hadn’t seen her parents together in the room since the day she had entered her bed and refused to leave it. She had forgotten, somehow, how nice their faces looked, close together like this.

Matt and Laura exchanged a weighted glance, both of them steeling themselves for the conversation to come. Their eyes seemed to be conversing: -You with me? –Yes, we’ll do this together. –For our girl. –For our Rosy.

“Rosy,” Laura began with a barely concealed sigh. “You know Papa and I are getting divorced – you’ve heard us talking about it. We should have had a conversation about this earlier.”

Rosy continued to stare at the ceiling.

“Honey, we never meant to put you in such distress,” continued Matt. “We want you to understand that this has nothing to do with you. Mama and I love you very much, and we’ll both always be in your life. We’d never leave you – neither of us – and no matter what happens, we’re always going to make sure you know we’re both here for you.”

Rosy was fighting the urge to roll her eyes. She could almost hear her parents practicing this – this – this horrid TV-mom-and-dad talk. She wasn’t stupid, she knew all this. She knew her parents loved her, at least in some distant, rational part of her brain. The rational part also knew that she was probably getting one of the best divorces there could be – neither of her parents had some other creepy person on the side, and neither of them was going to move to Alaska and start a band. She knew her life would be pretty normal even after the divorce, and she knew also that she would be alright with this in time.

But Rosy’s rationality didn’t seem to alleviate the pain in her chest and the tears that prickled in her eyes as her parents kept on talking about how much they loved her, how much they were worrying about her, and how much they hoped she could forgive them.

As Rosy screwed up her eyes and felt the tears streaming out from under her closed eyelids, she felt something shift inside her mind. As her parents both showered her with kisses and held her hands and wept a little bit with her, she could feel her irrational thinking begin changing its views. It seemed as if more and more of her mind began to agree with what her small, rational space had been saying all along, that “They love me, they do love me, it’s going to be alright because they love me.”

Rosy stayed in bed for another day after the conversation. After that day, though, she got up, she hugged her parents, and she went to school. She felt rotten still, and would keep feeling horrible all through her mother’s moving into an apartment building down the street, all through the faux-cheery shopping trip for furniture for the new room for Rosy in her mother’s small apartment, all through the year or so it took for her to get used to spending half a week in one place and the other half in another. Eventually, though, as Rosy passed into her teens with two smashing birthday parties, one in each of her homes, she grew used to it. She knew she would, but that didn’t make it any less pleasant to wake up one morning and realize that she was content, finally.

Seeing Red

For a moment, the heat rises from the very tips of the toes all the way to the smallest nerve-endings in the fingertips and from thence to every part of the face. The heat rushes through the veins and tendons, searching out every muscle that can be flexed and made taught. For only a moment, all this happens unfettered by thought, by reality, by anything except the pure and unending rage.

In the one, pure moment before thought, the body is entirely out of its owner’s control, ruled by temper and animal instinct. But for a moment only. Muscles taught, blood pulsing wildly, hands clenching and unclenching, the thoughts nevertheless rise to meet rationality, reality and morals. The rage fights to be heard, to be let out, and while the body might lash out, hit, rend, tear and scratch, it will now be done with the knowledge of what is right, what is wrong, and what hurt is being inflicted because of the temper.

Rage and Temper – two harsh masters of which we all would want to be free. Alas, they are part of our natures. It is only that in some they rise to the surface more quickly, while some are lucky enough to have them lie dormant most of the time.

Don’t colleges WANT students?!

Why must colleges have such HORRIFIC websites? Can they not see they are losing the faith of the young generation, i.e. the generation they’re supposed to be catering to? Anyone who breaths and lives the internet knows how annoying it is to stumble across a website that is not designed well, has missing links, has strange ways of navigating users from place to place and is all-around generally bad.

Suggestion, O Collegiate Geniuses: take twenty jacking-off, pubuescent, nineteen year-old kids from your newest freshmen class, prefferably the ones taking many computer classes, tell them to design a more approachable and straightforward website and give them extra credit so they’ll do it. Your problem will be solved and your websites won’t make me and the other prospective students want to scream and hurl things at our screens.