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

This is a story about depression, loss and falling apart.

A normal day at work. The typing on computers in the office, sitting on hard chairs as your patience wears thin. The tedious wait for the coffee break. The inability to concentrate. The staring at the clock with forlorn hope as you beg it to be the end of the day soon. The counting down of minutes and then, as you finally leave the building, the prayer the train journey back will last forever, and that you’ll never have to go home.

I cross the road out of the station and walk slowly down the pavement, trying to focus on getting home. But my thoughts wander. The woman with the bright handbag. The boy with the dog. The couple staring into the shop window. All catch my attention and I am forced to steady myself by holding the railings. But then there are more people and I argue with myself until, although I don’t want to, I cross back over the road and walk further down until I am opposite my street. I swallow and wait for the cars to stop at the zebra crossing, then walk slowly over the road and turn down my street. My footsteps become slower and slower, the nearer I become; I don’t want to go home. Emily will be doing homework, or cooking, or cleaning, or maybe she’ll be out shopping in which case I’d be free. Tom will have phoned earlier on in a hope to catch his sister and avoid me. He never speaks to me anymore.

I reach the door and try to focus while I search in my pockets for the keys. Are they there? Did I leave them at work? Did I forget to take them again? Maybe I’ll have lost them and Emily will be out and then I won’t have to go inside. Maybe I can just sit outside in the cold autumn air until somebody comes. Maybe I don’t even have to go home.

I hate home. I want to move away but I’m not allowed. I want to escape and find myself somewhere where I won’t be haunted and controlled and told what to do. I want to find somewhere where I can be free.

I hate home because she’s there.

I find the keys, and slip them into the lock, pushing myself in and closing the door quickly behind me. I’m tempted to shout out for Emily and see if she’s home; I want to.

But I can’t, and so instead I wander into the kitchen, and open the fridge, which is full of food; Emily must have been shopping. I’m not hungry though, just exhausted, so I leave the kitchen, unable to recall why I went in here in the first place, and begin to go upstairs.

However, upstairs is the worst place to be because it echoes with memories, so I stop, and turn around. I head back into the living room and sit down. Sighing, I consider watching television but everything nowadays bores me, so I decide against it. Instead I just stare at the wall opposite me and try to think about something sensible. I attempt to concentrate on tracing the lines of the wallpaper but it gets harder by the second and soon I can’t even see that opposite wall anymore; it’s become obstructed.


“Go away.”

I curl up on the sofa and turn away so I can’t see her. I close my eyes tightly, but I can smell her perfume and hear her breathing. She’s there, watching me.


Her voice is soft, calm, soothing. I turn slightly, and although I had no choice in the matter, when I see her, I smile. Her face lights up the entire room, shinning with beauty.

“Holly,” I begin, my voice quiet and almost croaking. “Holly, why are you here?”

Her smile fades to a frown that I know well. A cold, disapproving frown. “Where’s Emily?”

Reluctantly, I shrug. “I don’t know.”

“And Tom? How is he?”

I try to think of some reasonable excuse or answer, but I can’t concentrate long enough for one to appear in my head and so I am forced to shrug again instead.

“When was the last time you spoke to him?”

I can’t remember, so I try to turn away and bury myself in the sofa’s red leather, but she won’t let me. “Emily rang him yesterday.”

“Did you speak to him?”

“No,” I admit.

She moves, pacing up and down the room gently. I see where her bare feet sink into the carpet, and notice that she’s wearing what was always her favourite dress, a green summer frock with lace at the edges. With her hair down she reminds me of Emily. They have the same eyes, the same nose, the same smile – and the same frown. Maybe that’s why I am so keen to avoid Emily these days.

“You’re failing,” Holly comments, her voice lacking in emotion. She is not reproaching me, just stating the case, and yet I feel the guilt rise inside me.

“Are you testing me?” I ask, almost softly.

“You’re testing yourself.”

“When are you going to leave me alone?”

“I think the question is: when are you going to leave yourself alone?”

She’s so cunning; she plans everything out in her mind, I think, if she has one, and makes me say things to her advantage, so she can bend me to her will. But she cannot control me. Not yet. I won’t let her control me, no matter how hard she tries.

Holly sits down beside me, her hand reaching out to mine. She is so real that she has to be here. There is no way she can be otherwise. I can smell her, hear her, feel her hands in mine. I can see her too. She is real. Existence. Utterly there before me.

And yet she can’t be.

I know she can’t.

“Henry, Emily can’t work and cook and clean and look after you and pass her exams all at the same time. You can’t expect that of her, or ask it.”

“I never ask anything,” I mutter. I am still tired, I realise. I feel the urge to lean back and close my eyes and sleep, but I remember suddenly that she is here and she won’t let me sleep in peace until she has commented on everything I have done wrong and made me hate her almost as much as I hate myself.

“And yet she does it, because she cares.”

“Does she?”

“You really don’t know your own daughter at all, do you?”

I consider this. What do I know about Emily? I know she buries herself in books to distract herself from life. I know she does everything around the house that used to be done by her mother. I know she goes out on long runs and comes back freezing, and I know that she works too hard. I know she’s clever. I know she misses the other half of our small family and I know she’d rather talk to her brother Tom than me.

I try to remember other things about her but my minds wanders back to the fact that I am sitting in the living room with Holly next to me, and this is a situation I ought to take advantage of.

“Emily likes to be busy,” I mummer, finding the only excuse I know to be true. “She takes after you.”

“She’s only seventeen though; she can’t survive on her own.”

“Neither can I.”

Holly stares at me, and suddenly breaks out into a smile. She releases my hand, which I don’t like, and pushes her black hair behind her ears. It is so real a gesture, and so like her, that I am once more reminded of her blissful existence in front of me. “You’re meant to look after her, Henry. It’s your duty as a parent and you’re ignoring, avoiding and neglecting her.”

“She’s fine,” I argue.

“But you know she isn’t,” she presses, her voice louder this time.

I acknowledge in my mind that Holly is right, but I don’t do this out of choice. Emily is strong, and I know that. But I’m not, and I know that too.

“When did you last eat?” asks Holly suddenly.

“I had coffee at work.”

“But food, I mean.”

“This morning,” I reply, and then remember that I skipped breakfast because Emily was in the kitchen and I didn’t want to disturb her. Or maybe I didn’t want to see her – I can’t remember. “Or maybe yesterday morning,” I add, remembering that I went to bed as soon as I got back yesterday to avoid another run-in with Holly. It is so tempting to see her, and yet I hate it. She is so calming, and yet so distressing. Every time I see her reminds me how much her absence destroys me. Every time I hear her voice it reminds me that she isn’t here.

Only she is. She must be because I can see her, and yet she can’t be because it is impossible.

“You ought to take better care of yourself,” she says to me firmly.

“I can’t see why.”

“You have a daughter to survive for, and she has lost enough already.”

I stare into Holly’s wonderful eyes but am not sure what I’m looking for. Can’t she see I’m trying? This is too hard. Too tricky. Too impossible.

“I hate this,” I say suddenly, almost fiercely. “I hate waking up and feeling like this and being exhausted and unable to think straight and having to see you every time I walk in this wretched door.” I stand up suddenly, raising my voice from a mummer to a shout. “I hate that you won’t leave me alone and are constantly reproaching me for what I cannot help. I hate Emily for looking like you and I hate Tom for running away to university when we need him most. Families are supposed to stick together!” I’m shaking, unable to keep my hands still as I clench them into fists. Holly stares back at me, her mouth open and tears building in her eyes. She looks so beautiful. So real. So here. “You’ve left us – deserted us. It isn’t your business how I treat Emily when you’re gone and not coming back. How dare you try to control me when I have nothing anymore? Why? Why did you leave? How could you desert us? And you’re telling me that I have a daughter? Me? Don’t you too? Weren’t you supposed to live for her? Weren’t you supposed to live for me?”

I have been almost screaming, and so sink down to the floor, my legs unable to support me anymore.  

“I had no choice,” she mummers, staring at me solemnly.

My hands still shaking, I glance up at her, and her image blurs with tears. “But you’re my wife, and I need you and miss you, and you’re not here.” My voice is so quiet I can barely here it myself, but I can feel my mouth moving so I must be talking. “You have abandoned us.”


I look up, and Holly’s image on the sofa fades slowly away from me. I reach out but it is too late. My hand slips straight through her and she is gone. Instead I turn to the doorway of the door and see Emily there, staring at me with a mixture of horror, fear and sadness on her face.

I turn away, because I know that Emily has just seen and heard me shouting at no one, at nothing – at something that is so real to me that it is nonexistent to everyone else.

She walks into the room, and sits down beside me, wrapping her arm around my shoulders. I gaze up at her and her face is so like Holly’s that I can’t help but cry even more.


Submitted: May 21, 2009

© Copyright 2020 The Silver Scribe. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



Oh this is so sad.. But very well written!

Nice Work!

Angellynn :D

Thu, May 21st, 2009 9:37pm


Thank you! It was meant to be heart-moving... it was very sad to write too.

Fri, May 22nd, 2009 12:29am

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