Wednesday, 13 March 2013

317: Living On My Own

George and Enid married when he was twenty two and she was nineteen.  There had been nobody else, for either of them.  First love was destined to also be last love.  And they were happy together, even when money was scarce and Enid had to boil the same bones for soup for days.

The only sadness in their lives was baby Jack.  Enid tried so hard but her small body seemed to find carrying babies too hard.  Over the years she lost more than she wanted to count, some even before she knew she had caught.  Then there was baby Jack.  He came early and was a wee lad, but he was a fighter.  After weeks of worry and tests, Enid was able to bring baby Jack home.

Jack grew into the sweetest natured boy but being born so early made bits of his brain struggle with life.  He needed extra love and care and because he was so sweet, everybody helped George and Enid.  Children from the street played with him, parents kept watch on him as closely as they did on their own children and shopkeepers slipped him his favourite gobstoppers so often he nearly always had a bulge in his cheek.

When he was seven Jack went out to play and never came back.  It was a scorching summer’s day and the children decided to visit the river.  They took turns on an old rope swing and when Jack climbed on, nobody noticed the rope was almost worn through.  They all said how happy he looked as he swung out across the water and back, and then the rope finally snapped.  He tumbled into the water and hit his head on a rock on the riverbed.  By the time one of the bigger boys dragged him to the bank, it was too late.

So George and Enid were alone again.

Now George was eighty five and Enid was eighty two.  They still lived in their home and still took an afternoon walk when the weather was fine.  George had his heart and Enid had her memory, though.  Neither would be able to do it forever.  Neither wanted to do it without the other.  There was this one thing they could be sure to do together.

On what would have been Jack’s fiftieth birthday, they visited the river.  They found a bench to sit and rest, and watched the water.  On the surface it was almost still but deeper down it pulled strongly at plants and branches and stones.  At anything that sunk below the ripples.

Slowly, arm in arm, George and Enid walked into the river, as close to the spot that Jack was last seen as they could manage.  The current knocked first one, then the other from their feet, and they slipped beneath the water still happy together.

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