Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GOING HOME (from vacation) (09/03/15)
- TITLE: How Much Worse Could it Get?
By Noel Mitaxa
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She had news for her parents, but how she could break it to them, when she knew how much they had sacrificed to put her through her legal studies?
It had not been easy for her to face up to living a two-day train ride from home.
Everything had been so new and so fast-paced; compared to how Millie grew up in the open sky, the open spaces and the relentless but reassuring slowness of life on the family wheat farm. Working through the seasons―ploughing, sowing and eventually harvesting the crops―took special levels of faith to persist in the face of early or late rain, heat waves, or storms that swept in with levels of destruction that were a direct contrast to the warning signs they provided. These vagaries all had to be endured, while the crops were in the ground, for waiting was the name of the game.
But back to here and now. Her parents were surely used to handling bad news. But how would they handle her news?
The news had broken for her during a two-week break with after her first year of university studies. She could have phoned her folks, but she wanted to tell them face to face.
Reaching for the newspaper that another passenger had left on the train, Millie began scanning its stories and pictures for some inspiration. None came. Brief diversions to the adverts had her wondering how their claims and testimonials might stand up in court. But she had to ask herself if the journalists trying to outdo each other for the most depressing story; as she scanned pages filled with violence, political intrigues and international distrust.
A blast on the whistle accompanied the train’s slowing; and familiar trees, houses, roads and shops declared their shared welcome home to her. Yes, it was her small home town, and her folks would be waiting, but why did rail travel always seem to show the untidiest aspects of every town?
The train was slowing. Was her strain showing? She stood to retrieve her cases from the baggage rack, before moving towards the coach door.
Stepping down onto the platform, she heard her parents calling. Up close. She turned to force a smile, but there was nothing forced about the love that encased her in their group hug.
With more questions than answers, the trio made for the relaxed ambience of a nearby coffee lounge. More questions as they placed their orders, before Millie raised her hands and forced the kind of smile that had always melted her dad’s heart.
“I have some bad news, but it could be worse!”
Her parents exchanged concerned looks.
“I’ve got engaged to a wonderful guy. He couldn’t come with me because he’s still inside for drug trafficking and assault. His HIV is under control, and as soon as he’s out he’s promised a big wedding. His other girlfriends have all agreed to be bridesmaids. Isn’t that so thoughtful of them?
This could be worse?―thought her parents…
“I’d hoped that we might be married before I started to show, but it seems like he’s broken parole several times before; and my legal studies indicate that the authorities rarely show any flexibility in cases like ours.”
Her parents gasped and clutched each other, bewildered that their progeny could have sunk so far―so suddenly.
“Your news, ah, could be, ah, even worse? How much worse?” Her father gasped hoarsely, finally catching his breath.
“Oh yes, my news is bad. But I’m not engaged. Or pregnant. And I haven’t fallen in with criminals…
“I learned during my break that I failed Comparative Constitutional Law, and Tax and Crime. I was devastated at first, but then I realised that it could have been much worse. I know that you loved me, and I’ve found that I can pick these subjects up through special tutorials next semester while I forego one second year subject.
“It’s disappointing, but it could be much worse,” she said, reaching across the table with a hug that waited for them to regain their composure.
And to relax over their coffee.
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