A short story

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Epiphany by Jane Turley

It was Epiphany.
            Later this evening Phillip would switch off the Christmas lights and the garden would be shrouded once more in the dark January night. On the weekend he’d return, remove the lights and place them safely back in the loft where they’d been stored for as long as he could remember. But for now, he gazed out of the window watching his mother sitting upon the patio bench, shoulders hunched, collar upturned, alone in the naked garden.
            Maybe it was time.
            He snapped open the clasps of his briefcase, the sound reverberating in the stillness of the room. His actions seemed magnified as he withdrew the creased envelope; his secret.
            “Maybe you should come on in, Mum. It’s freezing,” said Phillip, clasping the envelope as he walked down the garden path.
            “I was just thinking about your father,” replied his mother, her breath blossoming in the wintry air.
Phillip sat beside his mother, the cold, damp fingers of the night already penetrating his bones. “I know you were. You’ve been thinking about him for six whole years. Maybe it’s time to let him go.”
She turned towards him, the Christmas lights reflecting off her hair. “It hasn’t been easy since he died.”
            “I know. Anyhow, I’ve got something to show you,” said Phillip, gesturing with the envelope. “Come inside.”
“I will in a minute, but I’ve got something to tell you first. It can’t wait.”
“Off you go then,” said Phillip, relieved to be delaying the ordeal even for the briefest moment.
            His mother took a deep breath. “I’ve met someone else. There, I’ve said it.”
“You’ve met someone else?” repeated Phillip, trying to process the unexpected information.
 “His name’s Alan. I’ve been seeing him for about two months. I hope you’ll like him; I know how much you loved your father.”
Phillip looked at his mother’s anxious face; she was still worried about his happiness more than her own. He pulled her close. “Of course I’ll like him,” he said, reassuringly. “If you like him he must be pretty special.”
He kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her tighter. “Life moves on. It’ll be good to see you smile again.”
“It’s just I loved your father so much. His death seemed such a futile waste of life. I never even found out where he was going that night.”
            “Maybe that’s just as well. Having a focus or someone to blame might have made it even harder in the long run,” Phillip reasoned. “It was just a tragic accident.”
            “You’re probably right.” She patted his knee. “Now, what’s this you’ve got to show me? Something exciting?”
            “Oh, this is nothing special,” he said, waving the envelope nonchalantly. “Not compared to your news. It’ll wait. Let’s go inside and celebrate.”
“I’ll be there in a while. I just need a little longer.”
“I’ll stoke up the fire and break out the champagne then. I think we should toast the New Year and your new man,” Philip grinned. “Don’t be long.”
            Phillip threw another log on the fire and withdrew the letter from the envelope; the letter addressed to his mother which he’d accidentally opened the morning his father’s car had slid on the icy road. He remembered the panic, the pain in his chest as he’d read the request for a divorce citing irreconcilable differences.
            But he had known there was more to it than differences, especially when he'd seen the unknown woman standing apart from the other mourners at the funeral. His mother had been too upset to even notice. But he had seen her and when he’d walked by he had seen the loss, and the guilt, in her eyes. 
            Phillip tossed the letter and envelope into the fire. The flames leapt up. The paper curled, sizzled, and shrank into glowing embers and with it the burden that had taunted him for years. Because he knew now, that no matter what the future held, he would never break his mother’s heart.


Mike French said...

Love it Jane - and well timed on the 12th night of Xmas when the decorations have to come down. Mine are still glinting at me!

Stella said...

Nice one, Jane!

Mike - aren't you supposed to leave the lights on for months and months until the tree looks like it belongs in The Nightmare Before Christmas?

Jane Turley said...

Perhaps I ought to declare now that we once left our outside lights up for about 18 months (possibly longer!)

If only I'd bought that doughnut van I could have made some cash...

Susan said...

Beautiful JT! I love it.

kathleenmaher said...

Late for the party as usual--it's a beautiful story, Jane. An epiphany on epiphany, shining with love.

Paul said...

Lovely writing, Jane, in a completely different vein to what you've posted before and a great piece to start the year with. Hmm, does your versatility have something to do with chocolate addiction, I wonder? I must put that one to the test.

eve's lungs said...

Lovely story Mrs T. I hope there are more where that came from !

eddie said...

I crawled into this small work and was captured by the sentiment..

very good Jane...do more!


Jane Turley said...

Thank you everyone for those lovely compliments. I just wanted to try something a little different.

PB, I'm not sure that it does have anything to my chocolate addiction. However, I believe that it's a theory that requires my undivided attention. I made a start this morning by purchasing a "Maltesers" Easter Bunny. (Yes the Easter eggs are already out.) This was a new product on me... as yet I haven't had any desire to write a sequel to Peter Rabbit but unfortunately I now have an interesting pair of ears.

garydavison said...

Nice one, Jane, you captured the moment there so well in so few words. what he was getting before, she gets after and evens the score. I like it. After I'd looked up the title, that is!

Geoffrey said...

A great story, good atmosphere and very well told, Jane.

So you and me do critique of each other now, right? If I had any criticism it might be that I found some of the unattributed dialogue style a little awkward.

I got interrupted and found myself having to work backwards to work out who was saying what. It's a very small point but as you know I've been hacked to death by dialogue editors!

Otherwise, really beautiful. You convey so much is so few words. You really must do more!

Jane Turley said...


Thank you! And I do like it when a man admits he doesn't know everything! Sooo refreshing; it brings joy to my heart!

Ah Mr Geoffrey, Good morning! Now I don't why but I feel a strange and unatural desire to read your manuscript this morning......

Thank you for the praise and the constructive criticism Mr G - without the criticism it is impossible to improve. However, I was hoping a champion would come to my rescue overnight and we could have a duel with Parker pens, exercise books and rubbers! Alas no champion... And so Mr Geoffrey I fear you are right...Rats!