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.

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A Hellish Night Indeed

Drenched in sweat, tears leaking down my face, I woke up repeatedly from the most horrid night’s sleep I’ve had in memory. Tossing and turning and throwing blankets off and pulling them back on again, I could not get any rest.

In the books, in my lovely, loved books, the heroes always sleep badly before a battle, before a grand decision, when there’s a monarch’s life on the line or at least a wedding or something else significant the next day. For me? None of these. Today is not a special day, is not supposed to be anything special or life-altering or even exciting. No offense to Monday, the 20th of October.

So why? I have no answer. I just know that of all the nightmarish nights that I’ve endured – and I’ve had my fair share, believe me – this was the worst. I dreamt of my boyfriend dying, I dreamt of every mundane chore and how I cried through it because of his death. When I woke up from the dream, it took my a full ten minutes of lying in bed and sobbing to realize that it was just a dream. Even after that, I spent the next four hours until my alarm was to ring waking time and again thinking I was late, thinking it was a different day, panicking that it was afternoon and I’d missed the bus I’m to take.

Small wonder then, that I feel like I’ve been up all night running.