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Short Story (May 12)

The R Word by Norah Jansen

The packers have arrived. I rush to get to the door before Leo has a chance to moan at them for the breakages hes convinced were going to have. Typical Leo. Always worrying about what might happen. It doesnt take long to organise our possessions into two groups; those were taking to our new place and the rest thats going into storage.

The middle-aged supervisor gives my shoulder a sympathetic squeeze when we finish our short tour through the house. He tells me hes had quite a few customers in the same situation as us recently. He instructs his two assistants in accordance with my list and as they pass by me with the hall mirror I see my reflection and shudder. My dark curly hair has lost its bounce and sits forlornly around my head, its colour reflected in the craters under my eyes. My mouth droops at the corners as if it has forgotten how to smile and I quickly turn away before self-pity consumes me.

I grab my handbag and go outside to sit in the car until Leo has gone through the house and his precious shed again. Im agitated as I wait. Id really like to leave now. Curtains twitch across the road and I resist the impulse to lean on the car horn. Finally, I see Leo appear. Hes pulling weeds from the path at the side of the house, as if it matters now. His shoulders are drooping and he seems smaller - thinner for sure, but shorter too. In the spirit of the new life were going to, hes wearing a lumberjack shirt hanging loose over jeans. It doesnt quite work. From the tip of his blonde head to his work boots brightly polished, the effect is too neat and tidy to be convincing.

Tears, those tears that never seem far away recently, rush to my eyes and I swallow with the effort of not allowing them to fall. I pretend to look for something on the back seat so that I can surreptitiously wipe my eyes and blow my nose. I cant manage a smile as he climbs into the car, but at least Im not crying.

Leo sits with his hands on the wheel, staring straight ahead until the curtains twitch again and he takes a deep breath. He turns the ignition key and we pull quickly away from the house weve called home for the past seven years.

Dont mention the R word, my ten- year-old nephew had begged me the day I told my sister we were going to lose our house. Jason thought the Recession with a capital R was a plan to curtail his enjoyment. He wasnt completely wrong either. Jill confided that she did occasionally use the Recession as an excuse not to buy him some useless fad that he swore he couldnt live without.

In the real world though, the Recession is another way to spell despair for an increasing number of people. Leo and Betty Berkley included. Wed been made redundant within six weeks of each other and it had only taken three months for us to miss a mortgage repayment.

During the past week, as wed packed and labeled, I sometimes found it hard to believe that only one year ago wed been talking about where wed go on holiday. How quickly life can change. This time next week well be housekeeper and handyman on a farm three hundred miles away.

As Leo indicates to leave our street, I feel deep within myself a tiny bud of something that could be excitement. Yes, everything changes. Good times change to bad and bad times change to good. Our lives had actually become quite boring and we hadnt had the will to do anything about it. Having this momentous change forced upon us ensured we had no choice other than to make changes.

I look over to Leo and he glances quickly at me.

Are you okay Bets?

I lay a hand on his knee and say I think I am. I think I will be.

Leo takes a hand off the steering wheel to cover mine and he squeezes it tightly.

Thats all I need he says and I can hear the truth of that in his voice and see it in his suddenly squarer shoulders. I lean over to him and for a few moments as he puts his arm around my shoulders its as if were teenagers again. A blast of a hydraulic horn startles us and we look sheepishly at the burly truck driver whos shaking his head at us in mock despair. I wave at him and he grins and I feel the corners of my mouth lift and a giggle forms in my throat.

I settle back in my seat and gaze out the window as the familiar streets give way to suburban sprawl. Its not long before cornfields and summer meadows begin to appear and I know that even though this situation was never what we wanted, maybe it will turn out to be what we needed. Only time will tell, but at least we still have time. The R word didnt take that away from us.

On 15 Jul 12 liz wrote...
Really enjoyed that, lovely story
On 3 Jun 12 teebee wrote...
Nice piece. Keep at it!
On 2 Jun 12 xjenny06x wrote...
Very good short story :)