School of Thought
Mary rushed inside the house, locked the door behind her and shuffled slowly to the kitchen. The kitchen, that’s where it was, waiting for her. Going for a walk was supposed to make one feel better, not so in this case. Entering the kitchen, her eyes fixed on the letter resting on the bench by the sink, it was from her mother. Daring not go any closer she parked herself at the dining table and stared at the envelope. Her name in beautiful cursive writing, the address so formal but decorated with little pink hearts, sickening really.
How long had it been, seven, maybe eight years? It mattered not, Mary had moved on with life and it was sweet. All the pain of the past was well and truly behind her, she sighed and dropped her head into her chest. Her breath was back to normal but her heart was still beating loudly. Perhaps she was wrong, gasp! Maybe she was still upset with her mother despite the comforting words she would tell herself. Mary never understood why it had come to this, her mother’s logic was so flawed and irrational and selfish, it was beyond hope. It all started with two simple words shared from an innocent heart seeking support, “We’re homeschooling.”
The vitriol response was outrageous. It flowed ceaselessly like an erupting volcano, the lava was filled with condemnation, anger and judgement. Mary was dumbfounded. The unexpected attack left her speechless. Bearing the hot wounds of disappointment and shame, she had fled. Mary took a deep breath in an attempt to restrain the emotions rising from the pit of her stomach, it was no use. A small tear escaped demanding immediate attention. Her index finger would have to do. She looked at the droplet as it trickled along her skin. Imagine what she would see inside via an emotional microscope. Closing her eyes, Mary remembered the benefits reaped from the price she paid. Her children thrived in every metric, at least the ones she truly cared about. Their relationships were strengthened, their learning a joy and their true identities discovered along the way. They were not necessarily top of the class academically but they were flourishing. They carried an emotional maturity and confidence that will open the world to them. For that, Mary was proud.
For six excruciating months, Mary regularly engaged her mother. Her gentle approach and solid reasoning gained her nothing but a mockery of her own identity. The woman would not listen, a hard-hearted creature who knew best. No amount of addressing her concerns, most of which were poor assumptions and judgements, could pierce the wall she had erected around herself. Her mother was incapable of seeing her point of view. Mary had finally concluded that somehow her mother decided it was a personal attack on her. Since Mary chose not to follow in her mother’s footsteps, she must have unwittingly declared war. Addressing that issue made no difference either. Her mother was relentless in her desire to not only cross Mary’s boundaries but utterly destroy them. Perhaps her mother was simply embarrassed? Homeschooling is a bit out there and many people dislike different. The idea of having to tell her family and friends of her daughter’s decision was going to reflect negatively on her, it made no sense.
Mary had tried so hard to settle the issues, reassuring her mother the decision was based on many solid foundations. It didn’t matter so Mary eventually stopped caring. She’d had enough and decided to cut the relationship. Her well-being and that of the children was in peril. She cut swiftly, like ripping off a bandaid. The anguish that followed lasted way longer than Mary had expected. Nevertheless, her resolve was stronger. Her mother made many attempts to reconnect and Mary told her the conditions that must be met. The woman still wouldn’t budge. As more time passed, they both accepted the new reality. It was all water under the bridge now, her mind was finally free of the worthless war with her mother, until this morning! Mary had checked the mail oblivious to what lurked within. She lifted her gaze to the white envelope by the sink once again. The possibilities came rushing in. Was it a trap, new condemnation, a death or someone dying? Was it possible it contained the ingredients of reconciliation? Her hope had been dashed so many times that she let that one go immediately. It was surely another trap.
Standing tall, Mary marched into the kitchen. She wanted to grab the letter and shred it but instead went right to the kettle and switched it on. She grabbed a mug and prepped everything needed to brew a coffee. She raced back to the dining table and sat. Do I even want her back in my life? Mary was able to conjure up some positive memories which birthed the briefest smile. She found herself drawn back to the envelope, attracted to it. Then she noticed the piece of cake sitting on the bench next to the envelope. Certainly, that was the cause of the attraction. Maybe, in some strange way, she did hope the letter would be delicious and satisfying to her soul like she knew the cake would be. She had to blurt it out, “I want the cake and the letter but I know they’re not good for me.” She chuckled at herself.
Enjoying her lighter mood Mary went back to the bench and prepared her coffee. It looked and smelled fabulous but needed one more thing. She filled a teaspoon with raw sugar and paused just before she let it slip into the mug. As it is now, this coffee reflects our relationship, it’s bitter. If we could be reconciled then the sugar will be added and it’ll be sweet. Mary let the sugar drop slowly into the coffee. She watched each grain as if in slow motion rain down into the waiting coffee. Each grain represented a good memory and hope for the future which the coffee warmly welcomed, enriching itself in the process. Mary smiled and stirred the coffee. Returning the spoon to the sink she noticed her left shoelace was untied. Like a crying child, that demanded immediate attention. She knelt and grabbed the two ends of the lace. Again she paused and looked at the two separate ends. When untied, shoelaces can be dangerous, they can trip you up. Mary brought the laces together ready to cross them but stopped again. To unite the laces, they have to get real close and both need to give a little so they can become one when pulled together. Mary giggled, “Okay brain, that’s enough of that, I’m trying to think.”
Mary placed her coffee, cake and the letter on the dining table and sat down slowly. She took another deep, hopeful breath and picked up the letter. She dropped it quickly and sipped her coffee instead, delicious. Her hand went to the letter but passed it by for the spoon, using it to smash out a piece of the cake. Into her mouth it went, sweet and satisfying. Finally, she picked up the letter, briefly studied it and then addressed it. “This all started with two words. It can all end with two words. Just two sincere words spoken in true humility is all it will take.” Mary knew how hard it was for people to say those words, she understood because she was not immune. She always wondered why people can be so stubborn though? If talking again, she would have to say them to her mother too. She may stand by her decision but she did say things she shouldn’t have for sure. Enough delaying. Mary ripped it open, unfolded the letter and couldn’t miss the first enlarged words, I’M SORRY!
This short story was inspired by a prompt provided by Reedsy.com. If you're interested in participating or would like to read other short stories, you can find the Reedsy Weekly Writing Prompts by clicking here.
Prompt Used: Your main character is approached by their long-estranged parent who wants to reconnect. How do they react?