Sunday 25 – Tuesday 27 March 2012
A few strands of wispy hair fell across the old man’s brow. His brown eyes, once vibrant and alive, now barely glistened with any life at all. He was tired and done with what had become his existence, quite ready to close those eyes and never awaken again. It was too difficult, these days, to continue living. Everything was too hard to do alone, and he was still too proud to ask anyone for help. And those memories, the ones that had haunted him for decades . . .
He sat upright in the vinyl high back chair, as he did every day, just waiting for the moment when his life would be snuffed out like a dying candle. It was coming, of that he was sure. His mind wandered most days, freeing him from the prison that his old, time-ravaged body had become. He lived, these days, only in those memories that refused to let him go. One night stood out so brightly that if he approached the images head on, they practically blinded him despite only being portions of an horrific memory.
‘Pop, tell me again,’ Charlotte’s voice brought him back to the present.
‘Lotte, not again. I don’t want to go there today,’ he paused to catch his breath. Even breathing was a struggle to him. ‘I know you like hearing it, but not today.’
Charlotte vapidly smiled, trying her best to hold back the disappointment at his denying her request.
He hated when she smiled that way. It made him feel like a poor excuse for a great grandfather. But what was just an often told story to his Lotte, was a night of chaos, confusion and terror to him, and after all these years, whenever he retold the story it was as if he were living that one night over and over again. He was sure that Lotte didn’t understand the truth of it all. She was young, and only saw the excitement in the story, missing the complexities of life and death that it held, missing the injustice of the situation, missing the loss and guilt that riddled the survivors of that night.
She sighed. When Henry Thornton put his foot down, refusing to give in to a demand, there was little point in pushing him any farther. He simply would not relent, and Charlotte had inherited that stubbornness. But this time, Charlotte noticed something different in the old man’s eyes. He was about to give in.
‘Fine,’ he said to her, ‘but this is the last time. And I mean it.’
She clasped her hands together and giddily bounced on the only other chair in her great grandfather’s room.
‘Yay,’ she squealed in delight, ‘this is amazing. I love this story.’
‘You love it, Lotte, and I lived it. Believe me when I say there’s nothing to love about that night.’ Sadness crept into his voice. There would be no happy ending to this story; there never was.
‘It seems a lifetime ago, but it’s all so vivid in my memory. I was sixteen years old, and running away from a life that was filled with nothing but pain and misery.’
. . . To be continued . . .