Fixing Things

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Cover image: pixabay.com.

Fixing Things

Gilbert Hemmings sat for a moment. Things would work out; Sheila would give him a chance to explain and he’d find some way of fixing things between them. In his experience, everything that broke could in some way be repaired. Sometimes, it was true, the cracks still showed, but the repair was solid enough to last.

He had mended things since he was nine years old, starting with his brother Greg’s cherished model airplane. Okay, Gilbert thought, the only reason he had carried out the repairs had been because he had broken the model accidentally, and he couldn’t quite bring himself to face his brother’s wrath. And he’d got away with it too, for the glue held firm until Greg had grown tired of the thing and had thrown it away. If he had noticed the repair he had never mentioned it.

That had been the beginning of it. Gilbert had taken on more and more complex challenges. If he was faced with something that could not be restored in a way that would allow it to carry out its original function, he would find a new way of using it. Nothing had defeated him, not completely, until now.

Looking towards the house, Gilbert had to admit that the current fractured situation was entirely his fault. Twenty-two years of married life could not be allowed to fall apart because of an ill-considered action. Sheila was hurt, understandably so, but he could make it up to her if only she would allow him to try.

Climbing from his car, Gilbert walked self-consciously up the path that led to the house. Was it his imagination or did the curtains twitch in the house next door? Fiona and Clive had always loved a bit of gossip. No doubt the entire neighborhood had heard about the row by now, although he was pretty certain that Sheila would have stayed quiet and kept her hurt to herself.

The door remained closed. Gilbert felt in his pocket for the key, but then had second thoughts. There was the possibility that the locks had been changed, and that would be just too humiliating. Knocking would be better, for if things worked out the way he intended, he could always explain that he had mislaid his key.

Gilbert knocked once. Sheila was taking her time answering though. Conscious of each second passing, he was just about to knock again when the door opened a crack.

“What do you want, Dad?” Amy, nineteen years old, was clearly not too happy to find him on the doorstep.

“Hi, Amy. How are you?” She didn’t answer so he continued. “I just want to talk to your mother. It’s all been a big misunderstanding, you know.”

Amy laughed, a bitter sound that made his heart sink. “Sure, Dad. Mom doesn’t want to see you.”

“Oh, come on. Don’t make me stand out here and beg, Amy. At least let me do my grovelling inside.” Gilbert half expected his daughter to say no, to shut the door on him, but instead she stood back and opened up a gap wide enough for him to squeeze through.

Everything looked the same. But then, Gilbert reasoned, he had only been gone for two days. No matter how upset with him Sheila was, she’d not have packed his things up that fast.

“I’ll tell her you’re here, but no promises,” Amy said, ushering her father into the kitchen and closing the door firmly behind him.

What should he do while he waited? He could put the kettle on, or maybe even open a bottle of wine. In the end he decided to just sit and wait, for the last thing Gilbert wanted was to appear presumptuous. He had been in the wrong and it was up to him to find a way of repairing the damage.

The vase stood on the kitchen table, in exactly the same spot as it had stood for the last five years. Gilbert looked at it and remembered the day when Sheila’s precious possession had fallen, breaking on its impact with the lino. She had been so upset, but he had made things right, hadn’t he. It could not be mended, so instead he had smashed it that bit more and then had painstakingly rebuilt it in a mosaic of shards. Yes, that had been one of his biggest successes.

Amy opened the door enough to say, “She’ll be down in a few minutes.”

He had expected their daughter to join him, but she closed the door, left him to sit there and wait alone. What a fool he had been to put all this in danger for what was simply a slip of judgement, a moment of meaningless fun.

The minutes ticked by until finally the kitchen door opened again. Gilbert looked up, a smile on his face, but it did not stay there for long. Sheila walked in without glancing in his direction. She looked drained, weary, thin... How could his wife have changed so much in the space of two days?

He waited for her to sit, then waited for her to speak. Sheila stayed silent. It was up to him to make the first move, then, Gilbert decided. That was okay; he was used to mending things.

“I’m so sorry, Sheila. I... I never meant it to happen,” Gilbert began. He paused, took a quick glance at his wife’s face, but her stony expression gave nothing away. “Say something. Please!”

“What would you like me to say?” Sheila’s voice was controlled, but her hands shook. “She was not much older than your own daughter! How could you?”

Gilbert reached for Sheila’s hand but she pulled it away from him quickly. “I’m so sorry. It should never have happened. Does it make it any better that she meant nothing to me?”

Sheila’s laugh was bitter. “How could it? You’ve broken our marriage over someone that meant nothing? How is that going to help anything? And what about her? Are you sure it meant nothing to her?”

Gilbert took a deep breath. His efforts at repairing the damage seemed to be doing more harm than good. “It had never happened before, and I promise you this, Sheila... if you can find a way to forgive me, it will never happen again.”

Half anticipating that his wife would shout at him, or at least start crying, he was momentarily thrown when she remained silent. Perhaps it was a good sign, one that meant she was at least considering forgiving him.

“Do you remember how you always wanted to go to Italy? Well, let’s do it. Just you and me. Amy’s plenty old enough to be left on her own now. She’d probably love a bit of time away from the parents.” Again Gilbert let his eyes lift to examine Sheila’s face. Surely there was a softening in her expression.

Her sudden answer took him totally by surprise. “No, I don’t think so. What you don’t seem to understand is that you have broken my trust in you. Even if you stay faithful from now on there is always going to be that shadow of doubt waiting to loom up if you are even five minutes late.”

“But, Sheila... You can’t mean this! You can’t throw twenty-two years away like that.”

“It wasn’t me that threw them away, Gilbert. Now, please go. Let Amy know when you have somewhere that you are staying and I’ll get your stuff sent on.” Sheila stood stiffly, walked towards the door and pointedly held it open.

“Sheila, no!” Gilbert hated the way that he sounded so desperate. He was a fixer, a mender of things that were broken, she couldn’t mean it... could she?

Amy came down the hall, grabbed her father’s arm and pulled him from the kitchen to the front door. “Did you really expect anything else?” she said. “Trust isn’t something you can stick back together with a tube of glue.”

Accepting that he was defeated, Gilbert walked quickly to his car and drove away without once looking back. As the house disappeared from view he decided that he would return the next day, and the one after that. He would keep on trying until he managed to patch things up between them, for repairs were his speciality after all.

 

 


Submitted: March 13, 2021

© Copyright 2021 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Vance Currie

A credible story, Hully. I have never experienced this myself but I understand that a breach of faith can sometimes be repaired.

Sat, March 13th, 2021 8:44pm

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for reading, Vance. Nice to meet you - it's going to take a while to stop calling you Joe. Forgive me if I do so accidentally.

Sat, March 20th, 2021 6:52am

Mike S.

A fine long-short, Hull

Sat, March 13th, 2021 10:09pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Mike. One of my growing pile of rejects.

Sat, March 20th, 2021 6:50am

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