The New Normal

by Sarah

When she saw him on her TV, she spilled her wine.  The entire glass.  It just slipped out of her hand and landed soundlessly on the beige living room carpet. She wished she’d reached the point with him where her biggest concern was that an excellent Barolo was now soaking into the deep pile, but honestly, she barely gave it a second thought, other than the split second where she considered if losing the wine was worse than staining the carpet – it was very drinkable.

He looked good, which was disappointing.

Reaching over the arm of the sofa, she placed the now empty glass on the side table, reached for the TV remote, which always sat there, and turned the volume up.  His voice filled the space all around her.   It was odd, hearing him again, and especially to hear him speaking at a normal volume, at a normal pitch.  She couldn’t remember the last time they has spoken to each other when at least one of their voices hadn’t sounded spiteful and defeated.  At least two Christmases had come and gone since then.  Jo had moved out.  Ben was a father now.

At first, when they had stopped talking, stopped trying to make the other see their own side of things, she thought it was the biggest mistake they’d ever made, but as the slow days became slow weeks, she realised that not speaking was the only way they could come to terms with what had happened. Because they couldn’t talk themselves out of the mess that was their marriage.  They could, and they would forevermore apportion blame, but that wouldn’t alter the reality of where they stood now – apart.  And she liked being apart from him.  She liked the emotional freedom this allowed. It didn’t mean that she wasn’t still deeply hurt by what he had done, but time and distance enabled her to realise that in spite of all that hurt, she had thrived and was now happier than she’d been in years.

And so what if he looked good.  So what if the creases around his eyes bestowed character on his otherwise plainly handsome face.  So what if his greying hair suited him even more than the dark brown tousled mess that she used to love so much.   So what if he looked like he laughed more now.

And was the female BBC presenter flirting with him?  Really?  She leaned forward on the sofa, as if increasing her proximity to the TV would reveal more. Onscreen, the thirty-something brunette presenter mirrored her pose, leaning in closer, hanging on his every word, and she knew that without the presence of the cameras the woman would pour herself onto his lap.  He was still utterly charming.   He was the perfect mix of intellect, good looks and humility.  That he had a pathological desire to be desired only came to light after you were under his spell was really quite unfortunate.   Because by then it was too late. By then, you had two children together, had written four books together, owned a house together, and never for one moment had you questioned why every time he met up with friends to play golf on Saturday mornings, you wouldn’t hear his key turn in the front door until the early hours of Sunday morning.  Or why on the occasions when you opted to stay home instead of attending a work conference, he’d go without you.

Yes, he looked good.  Divorce agreed with him.  She wondered if he was seeing any one woman in particular.  She doubted it.

A few minutes later, the news segment ended, and now she being told that there was a greater than 70 percent chance that it would rain over the upcoming weekend.  She got up off the sofa and headed to the kitchen to grab something to try and soak up the wine. She wondered why her heart wasn’t beating faster.  Wondered how she was able to focus on cleaning up the mess without breaking down and cursing him until her throat hurt.  It didn’t take long before she was sitting on the floor, next to the still very present splash of purple, contemplating how she’d arrived at this point where she didn’t care. It was a shock. Because she didn’t care. Not really.  Not in any way that would hold her back.  She was living a life that for the most part didn’t include him. A few years ago the thought would have terrified her, baffled her, but now it made sense in a way that normalcy mostly did.

She picked up the rag and the compacted stack of kitchen towel and began to blot the stain some more.  The carpet would have to be professionally cleaned, probably. And it was such a waste of good wine.


Follow Sarah on Twitter: @BlindAssassinUK



by Dana

She had timed their arrival at the funeral home perfectly. She didn’t want to be so early that they were in and out quickly. She wanted her children to see how many people had been touched by the man they were saying good-bye to. She was grateful that the line to talk to the family had not yet made it out the front door. The biting cold and the snow/sleet mix that was currently falling would have made for a miserable wait. The weather conditions would have been an acceptable reason to skip the visitation, but she wanted to be there. She wanted her children to see the impact one person could make, especially in a community as small as theirs.

The three of them huddled together against the cold that swooshed in every time the door opened. Within five minutes of their arrival, the line was out of the building. The door was being held open, but no one waiting inside complained. There was one thought in the forefront of their collective minds – comfort the family suffering such a great loss.

Bits of conversation started to drift toward them as they waited. She smiled a little to herself. This is why they had come, to hear the stories being told about Robert. And there were so many stories to be told.

“I remember when Mr. Parker coached my baseball team. He was always so patient with me.”

“Did you know that Robert was in a band when he was younger. He played piano. He couldn’t read music, but he could play almost anything he heard on the radio.”

“Remember the big wind storm in ’98? Robert heard that half of our roof had been blown away. He came right over and helped me get a tarp. A week later, he was helping me put the new roof on. He wouldn’t let me pay him, just wanted me to buy the beer that day.”

She looked at her children to see if they were taking all of this in. She could read on their faces every time a story surprised them. They had known Robert well, but there was so much about him they didn’t know. She leaned over to whisper to them, pointing out that at it seemed like half of the town was there. She watched as they looked around in awe at the number of people present.

They were slowly making their way toward the front of the line to speak to the family. She looked back and saw that the line was still out the door. It seemed that the weather hadn’t kept anyone from being there.

“He helped me build my pinewood derby car and his sons weren’t even scouts anymore. He offered because my dad wasn’t around to do it with me.”

“Did you know he still called Sally his bride? They were married almost fifty years and he still called her that.”

“I wonder how many sports he officiated for and coached. It seemed like every time one of my kids was playing he was there doing something. He would even just come to watch. He said he loved to be around the kids and loved sports almost as much.”

It was their turn to talk to Sally. She started to introduce her children, but Sally stopped her.

“I know who they are. Robert talked about them a lot. He told me that McKenna is going to be a fabulous volleyball player. He loved to watch her play. And he said that Samuel is a talented artist. I’d love to see some of his work.”

Her children stood there, with shock on their faces. This woman, who was grieving, knew who they were. She even seemed to be trying to comfort them. She was letting them know that they mattered to Robert. The mother and children each gave the widow a hug as they passed by her. They spoke to each family member gathered there, expressing their condolences.

The family of three turned toward the back of the room, preparing to leave. The room was packed with neighbors, friends and family members. They slowly made their way to the door, greeting people as they passed, occasionally getting wrapped up in hugs, comforting people as they could. They reached the door, which was still being held open for the people who were waiting in the line, which was wrapped around the exterior of the building.

She walked with her children through the now heavy, wet snow, an arm around each of them. She hoped that the message had been received. One man had touched the life of each of the more than four hundred people who had been at the visitation. She wanted them to realize that the smallest actions can make the biggest impact.

Follow Dana on Twitter: @craftyjhawk