Thanks again for checking out another one of my short stories. I wrote this one during a Creative Writing course in university, so hopefully it’s a little more polished than my usual ramblings. Or maybe not, it was written back in 2014 after all. This one was long so I’ve decided to split it in two. Stay tuned for the next part in a few weeks!
Any and all comments and critiques are welcome (but please be gentle), and I hope you enjoy!
My Father’s Eyes, Part 1
When the taxi pulled up to the corner and lurched to a shaky stop in front of my parents’ bungalow, the last thing I wanted to do was get out. I sat, blankly staring out the smudged window, squinting through my glasses, and ignored the polite hurrying of the driver as I tried to examine the one-level brick house I’d grown up in. I tried to find a crack in the pavement, some loose plastic shingle on the leaf covered roof, a fallen beam forcing it to come crashing down, or a colony of weeds staging a coup d’état of the flower garden by the doorway.
There was nothing; of course, there wouldn’t be yet. Mom had only died two days ago.
The knot in my stomach tangled deeper into my gut. It had been pulling on my insides ever since I arrived at the airport forty-five minutes ahead of schedule, and only grew tighter with every green light the cab passed until we’d reached the familiar wide roads and tree dappled lawns of my old neighbourhood.
Somehow I’d expected everything would have gone to ruins the minute I’d gotten the call saying she’d passed suddenly, peacefully, in her sleep. But there were barely a handful of leaves scattered on the lawn, only the slightest edging of the grass creeping onto the pavement.
Even the worn little ring of plastic pine needles, tied with pink ribbon and dotted with red Styrofoam balls, still hung on the door. It had been a Christmas gift, made in school when I was seven, and Mom had loved it.
“My boy, David, he’s so clever!” She’d glowed as she told the story, every time she’d had the chance. “He did it all by himself, you know. I’ll bet he stayed up late just to make sure it was right, didn’t you sweetheart? Look, even the ribbon is my favourite colour!”
The neighbours had joked that someday I’d be a famous artist and that messy bundle of plastic, squished together with glue and thread, would be worth a fortune.
I hadn’t become an artist though, not even one who wasn’t famous. I’d become a lawyer and the most artistic thing I’d done in fifteen years was helping my wife paint the baby’s room when we moved into our new place. Mom had hung the wreath on the front door anyway for all to see, pink and green against the rustic red, and put it up every Christmas for almost twenty five years. She must have only just put it up a few days ago.
The knot dug just a little bit deeper.
Then the driver knocked three times on the window. He’d taken my bags from the trunk and set them on the driveway without me noticing, but there was no missing the polite distain on his sweaty face as he leaned against the door, eager to have his passenger out so he could continue on his route.
I glared in return, opened the door to thrust the exact fare in his hands and went to inspect my luggage. The crisp November air quickly pricked at my lungs: a vast improvement over the smell of sweat that engulfed the car I’d forced myself to endure for the half hour trip to my parents’ house. Mom had always been at the airport, greeting me with a smile and a ride, to the hotel when I could afford, or to the house when I could not.
With the new mortgage, the hotel wasn’t an option right now. I’d checked to make sure; twice.
Distantly, I heard the cabbie grumble before the car door slammed and he took off down the street. My gaze was fixed on the house.
I could still picture, as a child, running up the sidewalk after school and bursting into the house to be enveloped in my mother’s arms. Still remember standing in the driveway, holding back tears as I packed for university when I’d never been away from home for more than a day, only to have Mom soothe my worries with nothing but a smile. Coming back that Christmas and feeling more relaxed amid the classic rushed disaster of the season than I had in the cold silence of my residence.
For more than thirty years, coming back to this house, to Mom, had been a constant in my life. She’d made coming here feel bright and comforting. She made it feel like home. Now without her the house was dark and foreboding and I felt bitterly cold.
I don’t belong here, the thought echoed sharply across my mind, ricocheting off the raw edges of my grief. But that was alright, I was used to it. I’d known it was true for a long time after all; now more than ever.
I took a long, shaky breath and grabbed my briefcase and travel bag with one hand, walked up to the door, and knocked three times. There was the sound of shuffling behind the door before the entrance swung open. Mrs. Jensen, the live-in nurse, stood in the doorway, peering queerly at my form behind her owlish glasses.
I’d forgotten she was here, taking care of Frank all alone ever since… it happened. I swallowed a lump in my throat.
“Oh David, you’re here!” She gave a smile that deepened the growing wrinkles around her eyes and shuffled back to let me through the door. “How have you been, dear? It’s been a long time!”
“Yeah, I guess so,” I said, trying to sound friendly.
“Have you and Zoey settled in alright?” I nodded and stepped inside. She smiled, “Good, good. You two take it easy now. I hear there’s a little one on the way!”
“Yeah,” I said, absently. Being in the house now felt so normal, so every day. It was almost enough to make me forget.
Mrs. Jensen caught on quickly enough and gave me a quick, gentle pat on the arm. “I’m so sorry, David.”
She sounded so sincere.
After a moment, she stepped aside and led me into the house. “Let’s get you settled in and then you can go sit down with your father. I know he’s been anxious to see you.”
I winced, wishing she hadn’t said that when I knew it wasn’t true.
Frank had never wanted to see me. How could he? He wasn’t my real father.