Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)
TITLE: Zero Hour
By Catrina Bradley
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Marta pressed her palms onto the worn wood of the rocker’s arms and heaved herself out of the chair. The despair weighing down her soul infected her body as well, making the simplest task seem insurmountable.
Most of the brilliant red and gold outside Marta’s windows had faded and withered to drab, dying shades of tan and brown. Like her spirit. Like her life.
This was supposed to be their view. Their cabin. Their dream.
They had come so close.
How could she enjoy their dream without him?
What was the use in trying?
Getting out of the rocking chair was only the second effort she’d expended today, the first being dragging her unwilling body out of bed and shuffling to this rocker…his rocker. The one he insisted make the move to their retirement home with them. Settling into the hollow he left behind felt like sinking into him. She spent most of her days sitting here now, staring out at the tree-draped pond.
Marta plodded across the room and stood before the wall of windows, arms crossed over her chest.
“It’s not fair, God. He was supposed to be here. This is his house, his master bedroom on the main-floor so he wouldn’t have to climb steps when he was old, his pond so he could go fishing every day of his retirement.
“This was all for him. I mean for us.
“And where is he now? With you. And here I am, left behind.
Marta stifled the curses she wanted to shout at her Lord, and swiped at the tears and muck running down her face. She rubbed fiercely at her face, smearing snot and tears into her hair with her fingers as she grabbed hold with both fists and pulled.
“No more, God. I’m sorry, but your timing stinks.”
Marta yanked at the handle on the French door, her slimy palm slipping on the brass. She opened the door and strode across the deck, over the gravel lane, and onto the tiny private beach designed for secluded afternoon “siestas” but now a solitary sanctuary of loneliness.
Not hesitating at the icy bite of the water at her ankles, Marta kept going until only her head was above the surface of the pond. There she paused, threw her head back, and thrust a fist at the heavens, sending up a shower of droplets that rained back down on her face.
She started at the crunch of tires on gravel, and turned to see a green minivan pull up and her two grandsons pile out of the passenger side and run toward her.
“Grammy! Hi Grammy! Are you swimming? Can we go swimming too?” Ethan’s sweet voice carried across the water to her ears.
Nick was older than Ethan by two years, but at seven was still the grandbaby she remembered. “Hi Grammy, we saw you from the car! We want to swim with you.”
Tears streamed down Marta’s cheeks as she watched their mother, her only daughter, her beloved Alana, round the front of the van and corral the boys. She couldn’t move, just stood neck deep in frigid water and sobbed and shivered.
“Guys, go on into Grammy’s house and see if you can find her cookie jar.” Alana shushed their questions and complaints and herded them toward the cabin. Once the screen door had slammed behind them, she ran to the water’s edge and trudged through the icy pond until she reached Marta. Alana pulled her shaking mother into her arms and held her close.
“Hi, Mom,” she murmured. “We thought you could use some company.”
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