‘Free to begin again’ – Short Story

Worker Not a Lover

Elsa’s silence continued to arouse her husband’s frustration. She, however, remained as cool as always waiting for the finale. It wasn’t long before it arrived.

*       You don’t need me! Your job’s your lover!

He yelled at the top of his lungs and then, as was his custom, stormed out of the house slamming the door behind. To onlookers, this regular slamming sound was a rather obvious sign of marital issues which caused their concern. Elsa, however, sighed with relief as though she’d just heard the sound of a starting pistol. She set off, immediately, like an athlete – losing herself within her work, all night long.

It wasn’t about the money. They had plenty of it. John, a well-known heart surgeon, could easily provide for a village of people. From day one, he offered to take care of her and their children. They both wanted kids until, somewhere along the way, Elsa’s job became a calling much higher than changing dippers. Her journalistic mission and its ambiguous quest for truth were all-consuming and seemed nobler than bringing lives into ‘this over-crowded and troubled world’ as she called it. Moreover, they needed to make love to conceive a child – traditionally at least.

She would not be able to recall their last time together even if her life depended on it. Simultaneously, the memory of their first time could be found engraved on her heart. He loved her with passion appreciating each and every part of her curvaceous frame. She was a size 14 at the time, but has shrunk to a size 8 over time. That didn’t matter to him. He cherished his woman. Only attention-wise, John insisted on a much bigger piece.

Two weeks later, having ignored her husband’s wishes, Elsa found herself in Mexico. The plan was to uncover the truth about a notorious Mexican group and their links with corrupt politicians. She was on their territory – in the middle of dangerous criminal activities, but felt no fear. Armed with a camera,  Elsa basked in the sensation of adrenaline caressing her veins.  Yet, the scene was about to change…

These men were strong and at arm’s length. She could smell their sweat. The story would provide for an amazing headline, but she had to ask herself: ‘Will I live long enough to tell it?’ There was no time left to consider what the answer might be.

The camera, having captured her colleague’s execution, got dropped and abandoned in the foreign soil. It was too late to fear, so she run… faster than ever, but not fast enough…

-         ‘Tengo la perra!’ were the last words she’d heard before her face hit the ground.

Within seconds, her mouth was filled with hot Mexican sand. Yet, even if she could talk, there was no negotiating with this blood thirsty Mob. They killed daily to guard their territory, to protect the establishment’s fearsome reputation and for enjoyment too. Remembering graphic images of their merciless acts, Elsa prayed to God pleading that He’d let her die fast. No man could help her now.

In the midst of abuse and violent questioning, she kept longing for an argument with John. Time stopped for Elsa. Pain was her constant companion – changeable were only the faces of her abusers. One after another after another after another – they took turns.  Her days turned to nights.

This face was different. He walked in gently and looked at her with care in his eyes. He looked like John. Then, with stretched out arms he carefully lifted her off the ground where she had been dumped. She fell down weakened. He helped her up again, and with a firm but gentle gesture instructed to follow.  “The Sun”, Elsa whispered while being escorted out of an ugly shed which had been her prison. Her savior pointed to a helicopter preparing to take off.  “You are free to begin again”, he said and then left.

She didn’t believe his words until her city’s familiar features appeared on the horizon. Bursting into tears of gratitude, she whispered softly “London, I missed you”. Echoes of the past kept calling. She saw herself in the little girl without a dad, but with a mum who had a dream to give her the world. Yet, Elsa remembered how helpless she felt hearing her mum complain about the job she hated. Mama craved old age as though it was an angel bringing the prospect of retirement with it. Elsa had fears after all. She was afraid she’d share her mother’s fate. Still, those few days at death’s door were enough to cause a radical shift in pursuits. This wife missed her husband’s embrace…

He wasn’t there when she landed. She rushed to the hospital where John has worked for twenty good years, and demanded to see him at once. Tom, John’s friend and colleague, rushed out to meet her. Having embraced Elsa’s frail body he suggested a check-up, despite knowing that she wasn’t going to accept one just yet.

*  “Tom! Where is John? Where is he?” she pleaded.

The friend sighed, and hesitated:

* “He… he had a stroke…” Tom choked up.

He took Elsa’s hand in his. She pulled it out instinctively and countered in disbelief.

* “Stroke? That’s ridiculous! He’s 45. He’s… he’s a heart doctor! Where is he?”

* “He’s…”

Tom, overcome with emotion, paused again before he concluded.

* “He’s gone…”

The newly widowed survivor dropped to her knees, held up by the arms of the bad news bearer, and whispered:

* “John, no. I’m ready… for us.”

Elsa, so used to reporting the bad news, struggled with placing Tom’s words in her mind. For a moment, she stared at him puzzled, as if hoping he’d say something else – something that made more sense. She was the one who kept putting herself in harm’s way. She was the one who should have been killed! She has just been snatched out of death’s hand, at the very last minute! Tom’s words made no sense, but he continued with tears in his eyes:

* “He pulled every string to bring you back. He hasn’t rested since you were taken.”

* “He hasn’t rested since he met me!”  Elsa averted her sad eyes, still confused.

Standing by his unresponsive body, the widow noticed her husband’s freckles, for the first time. They were tiny and barely visible – to notice them one had to come real close…

* ‘I wish I had seen these before’ Elsa thought, while caressing her husband’s cold face.

She wept.

In spite of it all, John’s face looked calm. It reminded the face of the stranger who helped her. In this solemn moment, Elsa decided to hold on to the last words he said to her.

She would get through the pain. She had to begin again. ♥

Published by

Monika Ribeiro (writer/poet)

I write because I have to & love to… Writing helps me organize thoughts, understand life & address vital matters in a constructive way. I hope this blog satisfies your intellect & your soul at the same. Be inspired...

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