'Flash!' Winter 2017

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium


A short story written by Imaginarium House member, Hullabaloo22.

Chapter 36 (v.1) - Home For Christmas

Submitted: December 23, 2017

Reads: 115

Comments: 2

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 23, 2017

A A A

A A A

Home For Christmas

 

When I made that decision it seemed like the right thing to do. A ‘good’ thing to do, anyway. Christmas is always portrayed as being a time for families so perhaps I should go, make my peace with them. I haven’t been home for almost four years.

 

Decision made, I start packing, then think – I’ve not got any gifts! To turn up at Christmas empty-handed would not make a good start to patching things up. There’s still a couple of hours left before the shops shut. I’ve got time to find some presents, to fill up the car.....I’ll just have to get a move on.

 

I don’t really know what to buy them. Dad is pretty easy, I’ll get him a bottle of that expensive whisky he’s always been so fond of. Mom.....well, I’ll get her something nice, that cushion with the flowers that costs so much it should include the chair.

 

And now there’s the problem of Jack. Is he still there, living at home? Even if he has moved he is sure to be there for Christmas. My younger brother, the golden child, the one who just seems to do everything right. There is just no way he would fail at any family obligation. But what am I going to get him? I’ve no idea what he’s doing now, what his interests are. All I know is that he is totally different to me.

 

I struggled and fought my way through school, barely graduating. I didn’t have lots of friends but I’d rather do anything but study. Dad wouldn’t have minded if I had only shined at sport; Mom would have been okay if I’d been good at art. But, it seemed, I was a very untalented individual. Jack flew through it all, excelled and flourished. A straight A student that made the football team, that produced beautiful art – all this in spite of my bad influence. Sometimes I hated him so much, brother or not.

 

And then the rows started. My parents wanted me to ‘better’ myself, to learn a trade or carry on my education and I just wanted a job. I worked in a bar, I worked in a store, I’d help out on building jobs. I was never afraid of hard work but I was forever being compared with Jack and it really started to get to me in a big way.

 

The point of no return came when I lost my temper. I cursed my Mom, I shoved my Dad, and I gave my brother a black eye. They didn’t throw me out but I left anyway and nobody tried to stop me. I have not heard from them since then and they have not heard from me.

 

So back to the problem – what to get for Jack. He’ll be twenty-four now, three years younger than me. Does he drink? Is he still into sports? I know next to nothing about him and who he has become. I’ll get him a book, one of those full of photos; coffee-table books, I think they call them.

 

While I fill up the car with gas I try to decide if I should ring ahead, let them know they should expect me. I think I should but decide that I won’t; that way I’ve always got the option to chicken out, turn round and leave things be. The roads are packed, vehicles bumper to bumper and going nowhere fast. I’ll go back to the flat, get some sleep, and head out in the early hours when I’ll actually be able to get somewhere.

 

So that’s what I do. Even in the early hours there’s other traffic around. I’m clearly not the only one to come up with the idea of journeying before dawn. It’s a long way, and in the half light it is kind of hypnotic. It’s a good job I thought to make myself a flask of strong coffee to bring with me. When I feel like I’m losing myself I pull over to the side and have a swig. I make much faster progress than I allowed for so I’m going to have to hang around a bit before walking up that path and knocking at that door.

 

It’s ages since I’ve seen this place. Really early on Christmas morning the entire town seems to be deserted. What better time than this to wander around and visit old haunts, looking at the ghosts of the past that come swarming at me.

 

The sports field! Oh, happy memories here, I don’t think. How many times I got to stand here and watch Jack receive congratulations after being on the winning team. My sporty brother, always willing to take his best shot.

 

The school is just across the road. Again, pictures of my brothers achievements wind there way through my head. He was popular, voted class captain one year. Me, I managed to finish there making virtually no friends and a good few enemies. These ghosts are not helping to make me feel any better at all. Perhaps having a walk around was a mistake as all I want to do now is take off and drive away, kicking up dust with the speed of my departure.

 

I take a quick glance at the time. Hell, while I’ve got my phone out I might as well take a couple of shots, just to remind me of what I left behind. I head back, walk past my car and on towards my old family home. As I walk along the road it suddenly hits me – I don’t even know if they still live there. A lot could have happened in almost four years.

 

I recognize the curtains that are hanging at the kitchen window, old but pristine as ever. Mom’s still here at least! She was always an early riser, every single day of the year, and as I carry my offerings up the path I can hear the radio playing some sappy Christmas tune.

My finger hovers over the doorbell. Even now I could just place the packages down by the door and make a retreat. It would save any awkwardness but remind them that I still exist.

 

As my mind tells me to do just that my Mom looks up, looks straight at me through the window and that option is no longer there. I lift my hand, give a slight wave of acknowledgement, but she has already gone from the window to open the door.

 

Keith? How are you?” No hug from Mom then but at least she hasn’t just told me to get lost.

 

Happy Christmas, Mom,” I say and hold out the wrapped packages. I feel awkward now my hands are empty so I stuff my hands quickly into the pocket of my hoodie.

 

You’d better come inside. I’ll make you a coffee, still no sugar, I take it; then I’ll give your Dad a call.” She ushers me through to the kitchen. “And Jack......” she adds.

 

The kitchen looks almost exactly as I remember it but as I am told to take a seat I am so conscious of the fact that I no longer live here. That I no longer belong. I’ve made a mistake, should never have come. I should have sent a card, a parcel, not just turned up.

 

Gordon! Jack! Get up!” Mom shouts up the stairs. “We’ve got a visitor.”

 

She doesn’t say who that visitor is though. Maybe she thinks that if they knew it was me they would not even bother to get out of bed.

 

She is back in the kitchen with me but things are tense between us. Too much time, too many resentments, are building a wall between us. The silence is excruciating.

 

So, Mom,” I clear my throat. “How are things?”

 

Oh, you know. Pretty much the same as ever. How’s your life? And where are you living? You never even sent us your address.”

 

I didn’t really think you’d want it, to be honest. But I’m fine. Still going from job to job.”

 

I stop talking. I can hear footsteps above the ceiling, feet coming down the stairs. And there’s my Dad, looking much older but otherwise the same. Strange, my Mom looks hardly a day older than when I left but my Dad could have aged ten years.

 

He looks at me, holds out his hand for a shake. “Keith.” That’s all. Nothing else. No questions, no welcomes, just a stating of my name.

 

The door opens again and in walks my brother. Jack is tall, slim, confident – very much the golden boy still, then. He looks at me, laughs and walks over to give me a slap on the back.

Long time no see, Keith. How’s life treating you, then?”

 

Oh, I’m fine.....” I start to say but then I’m interrupted. My father is telling me all about, not himself which I could take, but Jack! His further achievements, his outstanding success. I can feel the anger and betrayal, the hurt, building up ready to spill out all over again.

 

I bite back the words that want to come spilling out; I force myself to smile, to hide my feelings. “Look, I can’t stay. I just popped in to drop these off,” I look towards the gifts, still wrapped, that are on the table. “It was nice to see you all, perhaps.....”

 

I leave that sentence unfinished, suddenly desperate to go. I move towards the door, mutter my way through some goodbyes. I almost run down the path and back along the road to my car. Nobody calls me back. I can picture them, standing together, watching my retreating figure.

 

It is only as I drive away that I realise I have not given them my address. But I have made contact, have broken the silence......Maybe I’ll write in a while, let them know where I am.

But then again, maybe I won’t.

 

 


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