I originally issued a challenge to Kerrianne Coombes who was fighting with her writing. I gave her the word Parsnips and told her to write a 3k story, hopefully it would blossom into something more and for her it has. She gave me Brussels Sprouts and told me to do the same. I wrote some of it tonight and I have a vague clue to where it’s going but I thought I’d post the prologue here.
By Ella Grey
If there was an award for uncomfortable silences that they would get one. Alicia looked down at her plate and bit back a sigh. They’d been married for ten years and she still loved him. It wasn’t even a question of that. Ian had called her at work and told her that he’d be cooking tea. He rarely did it and Alicia had never faulted him for it. Ian used to work long hours before he lost his job a few months. Their roles had effectively been reversed. Alicia now worked longer hours and Ian was at home. She knew that he didn’t like it. He felt useless. A spare part and no coaxing from her had managed to get him out of the funk. She took cooking dinner as a good sign. She should have known better.
Six green round balls mocked her. Ten years. Ten very long years and he forgot? She put her fork down, closed her eyes and rested her forehead against her hand.
“What’s wrong with you?”
A part of her wanted to bite her tongue and lie. It was going to be the proverb kicked in the nuts. It would probably have him spirally into a deep depression that he’d never get out of and it would be her fault. Alicia opened her eyes and studied her husband. There were laughter lines at the corner of his eyes, ones that she’d put there when times had been happier. There were flecks of grey peppering his black hair, still thick enough that she could run her hands through it. She glanced back to her plate, then to him, hoping that he caught on.
There was nothing, just a blank look of confusion.
“I can’t eat this Ian.”
“What do you mean, you can’t eat it?” He put his cutlery down. “What’s wrong with it?”
“I’m allergic to brussel sprouts.” Alicia pushed her plate away and got to her feet. It had been a hellish day at the hospital and she didn’t need an argument. She wanted to take a deep breath, kick off her clothes and crawl into bed.
“Can’t you eat the rest?”
“No Ian, if those sprouts touched anything else and I eat it, I’m going to have one hell of a migraine. I’m sorry, it does look nice and I appreciate the effort.” She hated the way the apology slipped from her lips as if on autopilot. She didn’t have any real reason to say sorry. It wasn’t her fault and it wasn’t like he hadn’t known. He’d just forgotten.
“For God Sake, I can’t do anything right.” The sound of a plate shattering brought tears to her eyes as she jumped in surprise. Where was the man she loved?
Alicia stopped; turning around to see Ian slumped over the table. The remains of the plate decorated the floor. “I can’t do this anymore.” She barely whispered the words but Ian glanced up. For the first time in a long time, he looked surprised.
“What are you saying?”
She wiped tears away. “I’ve been patient, but it’s obvious that you don’t care about anyone but you and your self-pity. I need my husband back. I need you to shoulder the burden with me instead of dragging me down with you.”
“I didn’t want it to come to this.” The words left her as a whisper. “I fought for you. I held your hand and told you everything is going to be alright. Then you cooked me something that will make my skin come up in blisters and would mean a trip to the hospital.”
Ian got to his feet but Alicia held her hand up. “It was a mistake, sweetheart.”
She slipped her feet back into her shoes and collected her keys. If she thought about it at all, the decision she’d made, her whole body would shake apart. How could she stay, when all he saw was him? She wrapped her arms around her waist and glanced back into the kitchen. Ian stood in the doorway, an archway that he’d built a lifetime ago. He didn’t go to her and she was desperate for him to do that. It wouldn’t be enough to make her stay but it would be enough to know he cared, that they weren’t lost. “I love you Ian. Don’t forget that. We need some space to figure out what we want. I’m going to stay with my sister. Please don’t come for me and stay safe. I’ll call you in the morning.”
What the hell was wrong with him? He’d let her walk out of the door and hadn’t fought for her. He’d let her go. Ian walked to the cabinet underneath the sink and pulled out the dustpan and brush. A part of him just wanted to curl up on the floor but there was no way he could leave it there. Everything had changed when he lost his job and Alicia had been a star, taking on more hours and had been there for him.
In the end he lost everything, even his wife.
He chucked the remains of the plate into the bin and threw the dustpan and brush back where they belonged. What kind of man forgot the foods that could make his wife ill? He opened the fridge and grabbed the six pack of beer he’d gotten earlier. Everything felt so heavy, like concrete replaced the bones in his body. He slipped to the floor and opened the first bottle, taking a long slug from it.
He didn’t blame her for walking out. There was only so much a person could take. He needed to think, he needed to be the man his wife fell in love with and not the one who drove her away. He pulled himself back to his feet and poured the bottles of beer down the sink, watching the amber liquid disappear down the plug.