Melissa coveted that trophy. She worked. She trained. She sweated and she ached. For several years she strained every muscle, stretched every nerve. She deserved to win that trophy, and she did. She thought, now they will have to acknowledge me, maybe even admire my effort and persistence. So she phoned…
“Dad? Hey, Dad, I won the cup!” “Hold on, here’s your mother.” “Hello, Mom. I won the cup.” “Did you, dear. That’s very nice. We have to take Clare to the specialist tomorrow. Perhaps we can speak next week, and you can tell me all about it. ‘Bye, darling.”
Melissa put the phone down carefully. Clare, always Clare. It always had been Clare. It always would be Clare. During their schooldays Melissa and Arnold had looked out for each other. Clare needed constant attention. Arnold was a brilliant forager – he made sure that their school lunches were adequate and varied. Melissa made sure that their clothing was neat and clean. She early learned to darn and mend. A year younger than Melissa, Arnold was a quick learner and often helped his sister with the lessons she struggled to understand.
Arnold took an apprenticeship; Melissa went into an office. Together they joined a sports club. Moving away from home they shared a tiny flat. Their parents scarcely seemed to notice that they were no longer underfoot. When Arnold completed his apprenticeship he was offered an opportunity to take a position overseas for two or three years. He left with no acknowledgement from his parents. Melissa thought, “They don’t even realize he isn’t here.”
Melissa kept the flat, continued her training. Her work was responsible, but generally undemanding. Alone, her attention focused on her training. She ran easily and well, and she determined to build her speed, increase her distance. From time to time she heard from Arnold. From time to time she wrote. Three years had passed and he had said nothing about coming home. Life must be good wherever he was.
Now she thought of Arnold, wished she could share her triumph with him. He would understand. Triumph or tragedy, he would care, and he would make it special in some way. But Arnold was overseas…
Melissa poured herself a glass of milk. She lifted the cup and turned it in her hands. Engraved: her name, the date, the occasion and the race. The cup was heavy and it gleamed with a soft, bright light. So valuable, so attractive, and so empty. Melissa put it down and pushed it away from her. She had worked so hard to earn this accolade, and it was very beautiful, but what was it worth?
Her phone rang, startling her. Who could that be? Perhaps her parents had realized at last that they had a daughter Melissa, and that she had achieved her greatest goal. Perhaps….
‘Hello? Hello? Is that you, sis?” Could it be - it was! - Arnold. Where was he calling from?
“Arnie! Where are you? What’s wrong?”
“Whoa, there, Mel. Nothing is wrong. I’m on my way home – I wanted to surprise you but then I saw the papers, and I just couldn’t wait to congratulate my favorite runner. I’ll be with you at the weekend and we’ll celebrate, boy! how we’ll celebrate! By the by, Mel, you’ll have to get a bigger flat.”
“Arnie, this is great! How long will you be home? Are you back for good? Why will I need a bigger flat?” Suddenly Melissa realized what Arnold had said.
“I’m bringing a wife, Mel. Dee and I were married last Monday – couldn’t leave her behind. We’re home for good – at least that is the current plan. Must go. See you later.”
Melissa replaced the phone thoughtfully. She picked up the cup again. “Yes,” she said, “You’re beautiful, and you’re valuable, but not without someone to share you with.” She wondered what Dee would be like, whether Arnold would have changed during his time away. It wasn’t really so important. They were family, they’d work it out. They were together again, and that was all-important.
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