This is a short story that I wrote as an assignment on the Open University, A363 Advanced creative writing. Enjoy.
‘You’re up early Vicki.’
‘What you doing up Mum you should be in bed.’
‘And so should you, it’s 4 in the morning.’
‘I couldn’t sleep, I’m just getting a tea, I’m fine I promise.’
Vicki took a mug down from the shelf, not her favourite pink mug that she had being using for well over five years, but a plain white mug, the first one her hand touched as she reached her heavy arms up. She could feel her mothers eyes boring into her back, as she turned the lid on the silver canister. She was shaking, her hands, her arms her entire body was shaking.
‘Here let me help.’ Her Mum said putting the coffee canister back on the side and picking up the tea bag one.
‘I don’t need any help, I’m fine.’
Vicki left the half made mug of tea on the side and walked out of the kitchen. She could hear her Mum opening and closing the cupboard doors, checking that nothing was missing as she pounded up the stairs toward her bedroom. As she reached the top stair she heard the faint sizzling of the kettle boiling and paused. Her mum had left the door to her bedroom open in the rush to get down stairs to check on her. She tip toed, her heart frantically beating in her chest, and the blood drumming in her ears. She knew where to look, the same place it always was. On the bedside cabinet taunting her every time her mum called her into the room for medication. She sat on her mothers side of the bed and picked up the small tin safe. She pushed the lid up, felt it move beneath her fingers. She could hear her mums footsteps along the hallway, her slippers flicking on each step against her mums bare skin. Thirteen flicks, Vicki thought till she reaches the top step and see’s me. One, two, three Vicki pushed at the lid, four, five, six she scrambled under her mums pillow searching for the key, seven eight, nine, she accepted defeat and put the safe back on the side, ten, eleven and twelve Vicki counted as her mum reached for the top step carrying a pink mug of tea.
‘Thanks mum. I think I’m going to try and get some sleep now.’
Vicki walked into her bedroom and pushed the door closed behind her. She heard it slam into the frame and bounce back the way it had done for months since her mum had been forced to remove the door handles. She climbed back into bed and pulled the covers high over her head. She would have cried, had there been any tears left to cry. Instead she lay listening to her rapid heart beat, feeling the vibrations of fatigue rattle through her heavy body.
Vicki left the front door open behind her as she stepped out into the fine rain. It was still early, the dark night sky was still lingering as the morning sun pushed through. As she walked along the dark streets in silence, she didn’t think about those people still wrapped up in their warm beds, or the children that were stirring, or even the milkman on his early morning rounds. She didn’t think about anything.
She walked, pulling her legs through every step, willing herself to keep moving forwards. Her mind buzzing with so many thoughts, they danced around in chaos. Vicki just wanted them to stop. For it all to stop.
She stopped walking and sat on the cold, wet concrete wall and let her legs dangle over the edge. A soft rumble of thunder in the distance forewarned of an incoming storm as the rain became heavier and the clouds above turned a dark peachy grey. Straightening her back, Vicki tried to take a deep breath, she pulled in the crisp spring morning air, and pulled it down into her lungs willing it to fill them, willing her body to respond, searching for that satisfying feeling when your lungs accept the air. It didn’t come.
Vicki tilted her head toward the sky and let the cool rain wash over her face. She felt each drop hitting against her skin, taking the last of her breath away as it rushed down onto her, cleansing away the dirt, the pain. She didn’t hear footsteps or the rustling of clothes, or even the sound of him breathing. But she knew he was there, beside her, watching her. Vicki wiped the rain away from her face. Then she heard him speak, his voice low and warm. She tucked her chin down into her chest and turned her body away from him.
‘Morning dear.’ he said.
Vicki looked down at her dark blue jeans, they were dirty, but it didn’t matter and she didn‘t care. She found a stray piece of cotton and twirled it around her finger.
‘You waiting for train dear?’ he asked, raising his voice ever so slightly.
Vicki looked up at man. Older than his voice had suggested, his white hair framed his face, and his blue eyes reminded her of the deep blue skies of summer. She looked around, as if wondering how she had got here.
‘Is there a train coming?’ she asked.
‘Yep, should be one here soon, I reckon.’
A train, Vicki thought, the first straight thought she’d had in months. A train, of course. She stood up from the wall and walked a few feet down the platform. She was alone, with just this unknown man for company.
Vicki’s mum, Julie, heard the click of the front door opening and forced her eye lids to open. This was the third time tonight she had gotten up to Vicki. She reluctantly pulled back the covers and for a moment just laid there. Her heart heavy and lonely she wondered when all of this would stop.
‘Vicki.’ she called. ‘Is that you?’ The house fell silent, the bedside clock a ticking reminder that time was passing by.
Julie stood by Vicki’s open door, the bed empty, her shoes still lined up perfectly beneath the window. Vicki, she called, a little louder, but still no answer. Her heart was thumping whilst she called out to her lost child. Only Vicki wasn’t a child, she was an adult, twenty nine years old, to be precise. As she came down the stairs she was suddenly aware of the loud tapping rain and the cold breeze that wrapped itself around her ankles.
‘Vicki.’ she called again, her voice hoarse and desperate.
Vicki stood at the edge of the platform her toes dangling over. She turned her head to the right and searched for an oncoming train. The two single tracks led of into the distance in perfect symmetry.
‘Got ten more minutes yet love, won’t be long.’ the man said.
Vicki heard his voice in the distance, muffled, she tried to listen through the sound of her blood thumping through her ears. The sky was beginning to lighten as the rain clouds dispersed. A few lonely stars could still be seen as the moon finished its slow descent behind the village. She could see sun light creeping through the vast woodland at the end of the track. Burning through the morning mist with its pale yellow rays of warmth.
‘Can I ask you dear, what brings you out at such an early hour?’
‘Death.’ Vicki said without thought, or effort.
The man stood beside her at the platform edge. He too followed the tracks into the distance.
‘Answer ain’t along those tracks.’ he said.
‘The answers aren’t anywhere.’ Vicki said.
‘You wanna try looking for the questions instead.’
Vicki stepped back from the edge of the platform and looked up at the man. He was taller than her, by maybe a foot she thought. His face was slightly wrinkled, laughter lines firmly etched out on his pale skin. She looked past him. Past his eyes, his all too familiar, pitiful stare. Past his voice with its tell tale tone of failure. She walked past him, careful to not let there bodies touch. She walked along the edge of the platform, toe to heel, toe too heel. She kept on walking toward the sun.
Julie put the crumpled piece of paper back into her pocket along with her phone. She knew the drill, make the phone calls, then search for her. Vicki had three places that she returned to time after time. Julie had often pondered how a person can be so predictable and yet, so unpredictable. She was past wondering if this was her fault, past speculating what things could have, and should been done differently. Vicki didn’t take drugs, or drink alcohol, she wasn’t abused as a youngster or broken hearted. They had all the answers, Vicki was mentally unstable, she was clinically depressed, her mind had taken all it could take and it was fracturing into small unrecognisable pieces. She stood at the corner of their road and looked up the road toward the train station. The hardest decision was always where to start looking. She decided to go right, toward the sun, toward the trees where Vicki had played as a child.
‘What kind of questions should I ask?’ Vicki said as she came to the end of the platform.
‘Whatever ones you feel is right I suppose, and even the ones you feel are wrong.’ he said, walking beside her.
‘Why does it hurt so much?’
Vicki looked toward the old man and wondered whether he could answer her question. Did he know why it hurt to breath? To see, to eat, to laugh? Could he tell her why her body forced her to stay awake, until her eyes stung and her body shook from exhaustion. She wanted to believe that somewhere in those warm eyes he did have the answers, that he white hair was a symbol of wisdom, his wrinkles the fights he had survived. But she knew he didn’t have the answer, no one did, they pretended to know how it felt, they had read the books, did the work got the grades, but they had never felt this low, they had never looked to death for the answer, over and over again.
‘I don’t know. A genetasist would say it’s in your genes. A pychiatrist, in your mind. Perhaps a philosphist would ask, how to stop the pain. The way I see it, so long as your still searching for the answer then it ain’t the end.’
Vicki felt the faint stir of vibrations beneath her feet as the train got closer. She looked toward the trees, the sun bursting between the leaves.
‘We’ve a couple of minutes.’
‘What if this is the answer?’ Vicki asked.
She walked to the edge of the platform where a small ray of sun had managed to fight through the branches, and was shining down onto the ground warming it, ready for a spring day. She let the sun fall onto her feet, and realised only now that she wasn’t wearing shoes. The vibrations beneath her feet were getting stronger
‘Well I guess for some it is. You gotta ask yourself, if its your answer.’
What other answer was there thought Vicki.
Julie reached the recreational ground at the side of the woods. She called out to Vicki, and listened intently in the dark for any signs of life around the park. She pressed feebly at the buttons on her mobile phone and shone the small amount of light into the dark corners, it barely penetrated the shadow, but was just enough to see that no body was laying there. This was always the hardest bit, discovering you made the wrong choice, knowing that she was somewhere else, hurting, falling apart and there was nothing you could do to ease the pain. Just as she reached the park gate, her phone beeped. The soft tinkling bells rattled through her as butterflies fluttered wildly in her stomach. Her hands shook as she pressed the read message button. She put her hand over the phone and looked up to skies, she used to pray that Vicki would be found safe and unharmed. Now though, now she prayed for peace, for Vicki, she prayed to whichever god was listening for her daughter to find peace in whatever form it took.
Her legs were running before her brain had a chance to read the message. The train station was at least five minutes away. She ran back through the message, train station, hurry, train due in 4 min. She must have been picked up on the CCTV cameras at the station Julie thought as she ran. Nobody manned the station, hadn’t done for years. There was no one to call, no one closer.
Julie heard the train approaching as she got to the stairs that led to the station. No, no, no please she thought as she took two steps at a time. As Julie reached the platform the sun had finally broken out from behind the trees and was shining down on the station. She wasn’t sure what she find, or what she should be looking for, the train had whizzed through without a second thought of stopping. She put her hand over her mouth to stop the cries of despair.
‘You didn’t jump?’
‘I, I wanted to, so much, I just wanted to step forward to end everything.’
‘So why didn‘t ya?’
‘I don’t know.’ Vicki said wiping the tears away from her eyes. ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.’
‘Vicki, Vicki.’ Julie called down the platform suddenly aware that her daughter was there, alive at the end of the platform. She ran toward her and wrapped her arms tightly around Vicki’s sobbing body.
‘Shhhh, it’s ok, it’s ok, I’m here now. Let’s get you home.’ Julie said.
‘One moment mum.’ Vicki said turning to the old man.
‘Sweetheart, who are you thanking, there’s no one there.’
Karen Hayward ©2016