Wednesday, October 11, 2006

'Every Single Day' - a short story (first time published)

“Tania this is the last suitcase I will carry for the rest of my life!” Said an exhausted Jeremy, while he was holding another suitcase and, in parallel, his back with an expression of pain on his face. Their old grey station-wagon was already stuffed with old and new suitcases, carton boxes and plastic bags. They have done this kind of transfer of things numerous times, till now, he couldn’t even remember how many times! And today was eventually the last day! Tania smiled and tried to encourage him. “Don’t worry honey! This is the last one, I promise! Everything else is already at our new cottage house!” Said Tania, while, she was waving ‘goodbye’ to her house for the last twenty-two years. She was really moved and the tears were too obvious to hide when she went into the car. “Let’s go Jeremy!” She said sadly and he smiled at her mechanically. She was not able to turn and see again their old house.

Lately everything was new and unusual compared to what she had used to be her real routine life, in which she was feeling comfortable and relaxed. Many things happened which changed her life for good, if not forever. Her recent retirement, her husband’s retirement in six months time and the wedding of their only daughter, Suzanne, just a month ago ware the first strike. They both had decided many years ago to move and leave the city and reside to a tiny village. They were waiting to find a suitable new house years now and this opportunity arrived out of the blue. And this happened now, along with all the other changes! The estate agent suggested to check it and voila! It was their dream house! Jeremy always loved nature and now was the time to enjoy it. Suddenly, Tania’s world, with the way she knew it, changed dramatically within days. What happened? She couldn’t believe it! All the stable parameters in her life were disappeared! Everything was brand new and ready to be explored ahead of her! She was not sure if she wanted to change anything…

She was a nurse for as long as she can remember herself and the fact that she won’t be able to work and offer to the public anymore, made her feel uncomfortable. “Don’t worry Tania! You will be just fine in the country. Fresh air and relaxation do wonders!” Replied Jeremy when Tania said that she was feeling very frustrated and that she was not able to leave her work. He knew she had worked extremely hard and for many difficult years and it was her well deserved time for relaxation. They raised together their only child, with long hours at work and sacrifices, it was their turn, for as long as God wanted to relax and enjoy what life has given to them.

They arrived. Fortunately there was no traffic this time. It was almost spring time and the green grass created such a beautiful landscape around their home, as if it was in a painting. The country was welcoming them to their new ‘hide out’, as Jeremy called it. The house was beautiful, of course nothing fancy or expensive, they would never afford such cost, but it was a nice, new, two bedroom cosy cottage. The house was at the edge of the village, so the neighbourhood was almost empty. They were told that a lonely man was staying next door but they have never seen him, so far.

For almost one and half months, after their arrival, Tania was extremely busy. In fact she was busy decorating her house, visiting car boot sales in the nearby town to find precious little decorations for her house at the lowest cost, since she had to be extremely careful with her finances, after the purchase of their house. She was buying plants and flowers for her garden, redecorating the kitchen, re-upholstering/changing fabric to the living room sofas… She even decided to re-paint and re-decorate, again, the entire main bathroom with white and blue colours, since it was, by mistake, painted pink and she hated pink in a bathroom. And then she started throwing and giving away useless things she had with her all her life. Her closets and their contents were almost perfect with the fresh lavender smells. She even decided to plant a vegetables garden. One day she thought that somebody was watching her from the house across the street. She felt terrified and said it to the Jeremy who started to tease her.

“Come on Tania! Casper the ghost stays there! haha!” Jeremy loved to tease her.

She was convinced that she had just imagined the face behind the curtain.

Actually she did many things she thought she would never find the time ever, but she did it now. She was in a constant buzz and rush. She was continuing organizing things and she was continuing thinking how to improve issues in their house. From eight o’clock in the morning, till eight o’clock in the evening, after their dinner she was there, cleaning, arranging and organizing.

She couldn’t stop thinking how lucky she was now that she had the time to do whatever she wanted to without any guilty feelings or regrets. But this over-reaction leaded to exhaustion. Jeremy was there, next to her, advising Tania to relax a little, to take some rest. He didn’t want her to work harder than she did when she was still a nurse and was busy with all the housework, her daughter and him years ago!

The weather was much warmer that evening and they decided to have dinner in the veranda. Tania did an excellent vegetables soup and a great apple pie. But she had no appetite; she didn’t eat anything, not even apple pie with ice cream, her favourite sweet. Jeremy looked at her with anxiety. He noticed her weakness.

“You look a little pale Tania. You work day and night, more than I do! Come on honey? Why are you doing this? Nobody asks for anything more or less dear… Why?” He asked her one evening after an excellent dinner in their veranda. He appeared troubled with her actions.

She looked him and smiled. “I just do whatever I need to make our home comfortable. That’s all!” She said. She didn’t wish to create any fuss around this topic.

“I’m only saying that nobody asks you to do more than needed, that’s all dear! I know that you worked really hard with our daughter’s move to their downtown apartment; you helped her with their wedding and now our house… I’m just suggesting you to take it a little easy. Nobody rushes you!” He was worried about her.

And Tania had no replies to his questions and his suggestions… She quickly took the plates in the kitchen. She needed urgently an aspirin.

The next weekend, her newly wed daughter and her husband, Johnny, arrived. “Mum you did miracles here!” Said her daughter Suzanne, full of excitement. “You created a wonderful house full of atmospheric corners… Is so beautiful… And the garden! You did miracles in such short period of time!” She said and kissed her.

They stayed all together, enjoyed their meals and dinners in the veranda with the wonderful views of the village, they enjoyed themselves, ate, drunk; it was a great relaxing weekend. Early Sunday, Jeremy looked at the opposite house and said to Tania. “Finally, I saw a figure; looked like a man! Do you think that he is a killer? Why he never appears during daylight?! This is his first time! He might be a vampire!” Said to his company and burst into laughs.

But Tania worried. “You laugh, but I am the one here who is next to a scary man all day long! In fact, I saw him one day! He had a long beard.” She didn’t finish her sentence and her thought. Her company started to laugh with her thoughts.

Days passed and she was not feeling very well. She was weak and she had lost her appetite. Still, she was trying to do her best with the house, the garden, the cooking… non stop. This sunny morning she was in the frond garden, watering the roses. And then… a terrible headache and suddenly… she fainted.

Blank and then a light… She thought she had died.

“Where am I?” She asked, wishing to be in paradise. There was a long shadow in frond of her. She wanted to scream and to react, but she couldn’t she was very weak for this.

“Don’t be afraid! You just fainted. You were lucky I was just parking my car outside my house this only time!” the man said seriously.

“It was the scary man! The tall, thin, serious man, whom nobody was able to see all these days!” Thought Tania. In fact, his appearance was a little scary.

This scary man took her inside the house, gave her fresh water, a nice orange-juice and called her husband.

“You are not as scary and spooky as I thought you were, Tom!” Said Tania, after the typical introductions, with the spontaneity of a little child and she immediately regretted it. He was over seventy years old and his eyes were kind and polite.

He looked tranquil, despite her stupid observation. “Why are you working so hard? What are you trying to avoid?” He asked her and his question was directed to her soul. Nobody was able to ask her such an essential question.

“Why are you asking this question?” Replied Tania.

“Since day one here you are running like crazy around the house, in and out of the house, you look like a frantic, lunatic horse! And my question is simple. Why? What are you trying to avoid?” He asked her again.

Tania felt weak. He realized more than she allowed her self to understand. And she started crying. “I feel useless. That’s why! I don’t work, my husband still does and my daughter is married. I have no idea what to do with my free time. I feel depressed. And the worse, instead of feeling grateful for having such life, I feel lonely and still sad. I cannot accept my life as it evolves. I am useless; I am doing nothing but being useless.” Her secret was no longer a secret. And her tears were there, unstoppable.

Tom was standing next to her, listening, drinking peacefully the Earl Grey tea he had prepared himself, then after a while he decided to speak.

“Tania, you should feel really lucky… I am all alone in the world. I have lost my beloved wife ten years ago, I have no children and still each day for me is another adventure! Is not easy and especially the first years of my loneliness I was ready to commit suicide, but I did found the strength to fight and confront life, after being alcoholic for three whole years! Don’t give up!

”How am I doing it? Simple! I am grateful for what God or life is giving to me! Every Single Day! No complaints, no useless problems in my mind. I work for the community, we have an excellent shelter centre here in the village, for children and elder people, so I spend most of my day there assisting, since I am a carpenter, and enjoying the company of other people. I do have excellent friends there who are next to me… We should never give up… We have to try to be our best every day, otherwise, we loose the game with life, trust me… I’ve been there and it was really hard for me to return. I was lucky to be back…” He said to her and smiled.

Tania looked at him with admiration. She felt relaxed and at ease after months of self-torture and self-guilt. Jeremy was already outside their house. He seemed anxious and troubled.

“What is going on here?” Asked Tania and looked at Tom with gratefulness. And continued.

“I would like to thank you Sir for being so supportive to an unknown person. So kind of you. I will never forget it! Now it’s time to call a doctor!” Jeremy said with relief.

“Glad that Tania is and will be just fine in a few days!” Foretold Tom. “Now, it's my time to leave. You are safe now!” He said and smiled at her.

Tania just said “Thank you for saving my life and soul! How can I ever assist you?”

Tom returned looked her straight into her eyes and said “There is a shelter here in the village, which needs a kind, caring Nurse Tania, whenever she is available, of course… ”

Tania smiled. She knew what she was supposed to do Every Single Day (from now on to fill in her heart)!

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