Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write a Coming OF AGE short story (11/20/14)
TITLE: That Monday
By Ellen Carr
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Sixteen was a good age and life was OK, even though she didn't have a boyfriend, even though Geoff Major didn't know she existed. She flipped over the fashion pages of 'Woman's Life' looking for ideas.
Carmel considered herself lucky. Reasonable parents, though a bit old-fashioned, two passable brothers, though annoying at times, and a big sister who left her alone. A pretty boring family when you think of it. In fact, nothing dramatic happened in their family.
Then the weekend was over and here she was in a typical Monday - school, then home on the bus. She wanted to sit next to Geoff Major but the only seat was next to Ron Whiley. Shudder! The bus pulled into her stop and she grabbed her bag, and jumped down the steps.
What was her mother doing here? She never waited for her at the bus stop. Carmel usually trudged the quarter-mile home alone. Something was up.
“I've got bad news, dear,” she began. Carmel felt the colour drain from her face. “Grandma died this morning, dear. It was very sudden. She was home with Grandpa and she didn't feel well. Grandpa went to get her a drink and when he came back she had gone.” She put her arm around Carmen.
Carmel sucked in her breath and felt her face tight and strange. “What was wrong with her? Why did she die?”
“Seems to have been a heart attack, Carmy. At least it was quick.” Mum took Carmel's bag and put it in the car and Carmel climbed in woodenly.
Shouldn't she be crying? Grandma had died and she wasn't even crying.
Dad was in the kitchen when they got home. He got up and grabbed Carmel's hands.
''Not the best news, Carmy. You OK?”
“Yes, Dad.” Carmel took herself to her room, flopped down on the bed and closed her eyes. She saw Grandma's face, smiling. This must all be a bad dream. Bad stuff didn't happen in their family. She still wasn't crying.
She lay there for a while, staring at the ceiling. Grandma was a bit of a kill-joy. Sometimes Carmel didn't even like her. But she mustn't think that; Grandma had just died. She was kind really, just so old-fashioned and fussy.
Her father called out. “I'm going down to Grandpa's, Carmy. Do you want to come with me?”
Should she go, and find Grandma really wasn't there? She wasn't sure that she wanted to.
“Yeah, I'll come,” she called back. She didn't bother changing out of her school clothes. Grandma was Dad's mother. She owed it to him to hurry up.
They didn't talk as they drove. The sun was getting low in the sky and the shadows stretched out across the road like dark pools. Cicadas chirped and starlings twittered, gathering in black rows on the telephone lines. Carmel thought of Grandma not seeing the sun set any more, not hearing the birds. A shiver passed down her back.
Grandpa was at the door as they pulled up. His hair was messy and he was wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Carmel gave him a kiss on the cheek; he smelled of sardines.
“Come in and sit down,” he said. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Dad, don't worry about us. We just want to make sure you're OK. And I thought Carmel might want to see Grandma with me.”
Carmel froze. See Grandma? Did people see dead people? That strange feeling went down her back again.
“It's up to you, Carmy. I'm going in to see Grandma. The coffin's in the spare room. You don't have to if you don't want to.”
Something about the way Dad looked made her say yes. She followed him, and there was the coffin with Grandma, still and pale. Carmen shut her eyes for a moment, and asked God to help her.
Then she heard a sound she had never heard before. Her father let out a deep sob. Her strong father was crying. She took his hand as her own tears gushed out.
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