Every Saturday night, Sheila and I heard the suitcase being dragged from the top of the wardrobe and flung onto our parents’ bed. We knew, from the sound of it being packed, which of them planned to leave.
Dad packed slowly and methodically. We listened to the clump of his shoes going in first. In the ensuing quietness we imagined him carefully folding his clothes. He padded to the bathroom to collect his toothbrush and shaving gear. The suitcase was snapped shut in a statement of intent from which there seemed no going back.
When Mum packed, coat hangers clattered as she snatched random clothes from the wardrobe. Taffeta crackled as she crammed in her evening gowns. The suitcase was never closed, but thrown across the room, hitting the wall that divided us and causing us to flinch, even though we had known it was coming. This was our cue to switch off our bedside lights. We knew what happened next.
On Sunday mornings, Mum massaged Dad’s shoulders as he read the newspaper. He pulled her onto his knee, and they kissed. We pushed away our breakfast plates.
By Wednesday, married bliss had lost its appeal. The countdown began with trivial fault-finding and sniping, building, by Saturday, to a crescendo of accusations.
“Who would you go with, if they split?” I asked Sheila. She smiled.
“We’d be stuck with whoever got left behind,” she said. I knew she was right and hated her for it.
“They won’t split,” she added. “Neither of them has the guts.”
Sheila left, as soon as she could, taking the suitcase, and the emergency cash from the tin in the kitchen cupboard.
My parents gazed, horror-stricken, at the space on top of the wardrobe. What, they must have wondered, would become of their ritual now?
Alison Wassell is a short story, flash and micro fiction writer from North West England. She has been published by Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, Bath Flash Fiction Award, NFFD, and The Cabinet of Heed. She can be found on Twitter @lilysslave
To enter a FFF Competition…https://freeflashfiction.com/current-competition/
Follow FFF on Twitter – @fffict
Join the FFF mailing list – form is on the home page
You donate – we purchase – an author gets a prize, a book gets a little publicity, the work of a flash fiction author gets read! Go to the Kofi page for more info…