Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FOLD (10/08/15)
TITLE: If Only
By Diane M. Bowman
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When did the gray hair and wrinkles appear? And how could a life filled with long, dreary days go by so quickly?
A worn, folded newspaper clipping at the edge of the mirror caught her eye. Holding it in her hand, she wondered what her life might have been like if it had never happened. For the first time in over sixty years, Mara let her mind drift back to that day so very long ago.
The sounds of memories began to wash over her. The screeching of tires, her husband's distressed cry, the dish in her hand crashing to the floor as she looked out the window and saw her tiny daughter lying in the driveway.
The funeral was two days later, a snowy Thursday in February. She winced at each shovelful of dirt that fell into her daughter's grave. Her resolve grew with every thud - she would never forgive her husband for killing their little girl.
That afternoon, she cut her daughter’s obituary out of the paper. Without reading it, she folded it in half and tucked it in the mirror. She closed her heart to the painful memory, resolving never to go back, never to forgive.
A few years later, Mara folded the clipping in half again. Her marriage was over. There would be no reconciliation. Jacob had tried to mend their relationship, pleading with her repeatedly to hear what had really happened that day, but she rebuffed every attempt. She knew he was to blame, even if no one else agreed.
She added another fold to the clipping when her bitter anger chased away her other children. Then another as she lost contact with the friends who defended her husband. And on it went, adding yet another fold each time she felt betrayed until the day came when she couldn't fold it anymore. The clipping was now no larger than her thumb and her life felt just as small. She had pushed away first one person, then another. Some days the loneliness nearly ate her up.
Could it be time for her to make a change?
With trembling hands, Mara unfolded the obituary. The first paragraph revealed the truth she'd refused to hear.
Tessa Sanders, 2, passed away at her home on February 10, 1948. Tessa was an active, curious girl. The morning of her death, she ran outside to tell her father goodbye as he left for work but a ball in the street attracted her attention. Her father placed his own life in jeopardy while attempting to rescue her from the path of an oncoming truck. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful and she sustained fatal injuries from the impact.
Mara stared at the paper in disbelief. All these years she thought he had backed over Tessa with his car. "If only I had listened. If only. If only. Oh God, forgive me." She cried as she fell to her knees and poured out her heart in repentance.
An hour later, she rose to her feet and smoothed the folds out of the now tear-stained clipping. She resolved that she would never hold a grudge again, no matter how small or large.
Her footsteps firm, she strode quickly to the phone.
"Jacob. It's Mara."
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