Sunday 15 December 2013

Moving Out - a short story

This story was written in 1995 and was originally to be included in my short story collection, Nine Lives, but I rejected it.  It would've need a complete rewrite to bring it up to date and sharpen it up, but I thought it was worthy of a blog appearance!
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a story about leaving home and growing up....

Time to go.
She zips up her suitcase and takes a last look around the bedroom, a pretty, frilly room, decorated in a style she has long outgrown.  Then, turning to gaze out of the window, she pictures the flat she hopes to buy once she has found her feet.  A flat furnished to her own taste, with dramatic splashes of colour.  In this flat she will laugh and cry and live, she will find a social life and entertain her friends, all by herself.  In this flat she will grow up.  For nineteen years she has lived according to someone else’s rules, but now it is time to break free.
She lights a cigarette and watches the stream of grey smoke drift across the room.  He doesn’t like her to smoke.  Well, that’s too bad.  He seems almost pleased when he catches her, so that he can tell her off, as if she is still a child.
He.  Him.  Victorian Father.  That’s what he is.  The restrictive, demanding, nagging presence who wants to stunt her development.  Enough is enough.  She feels guilty about planning her departure with such secrecy, but there is no other way. 
When did the rot begin to set in?  Two years ago, she thinks, when she wanted to enrol on a college course - and he used every one of his persuasive powers to prevent her from doing so.
“Why on earth do you want to mix with a crowd of silly students?” he’d demanded, rustling his newspaper and lighting his pipe (that pipe!  How she hates it!).  “Think of all that studying!” he said.  “You’ll never cope with it!”
She has read articles in women’s magazines like Cosmo and Company, and is beginning to understand the male ego.  She hides these magazines in the same way as men hide porn, reading only her innocent romance novels with alpha male heroes and ditzy heroines when he is around, but her secret stash has taught her a lot.  She knows about men, now, all men.  He likes her to feel helpless so that she can see him as the Great Provider.  Big Daddy.  He is scared of losing her, so he wants her to believe she cannot cope on her own. 
She has had enough of their quiet, closed, stifling existence.  Just the two of them.  It used to be enough, but now it isn’t.  He discourages her from making friends.  Doesn’t he provide her with all she needs?  If she wants something she only has to ask!  Yes, she can have anything she wants – apart from the freedom to express her own personality.  Maybe she should blame the generation gap, she thinks, and laughs to herself.  Men of his generation don’t acknowledge such a thing exists.  They think it’s just an excuse for younger people’s lack of respect, but it’s not.
She opens a cupboard and looks, without regret, at the few possessions she is leaving behind.  She doesn’t feel they are truly hers, because she chose so few of them herself, not even the clothes.  He likes her to dress like her mother did.  She wants to wear jeans and funky tops, not pretty frocks.  His little girl.
“But I’m not a girl, I’m a woman!” she says, out loud, to the reflection in the wardrobe mirror.  A girl would stay put, safe, unchallenged, cared for, but the emerging woman in her head dares to break free.  She feels sad because she loves him, of course she does, but she is more frightened of the consequences of staying than of the big, bad world outside. 
She lifts the handle on her case and, on impulse, leaves her cigarettes and lighter on the dressing table.  She will give up smoking, because she won’t need it anymore.  She won’t feel frustrated and hemmed in, in her new life.  She walks out onto the landing.  Before closing the bedroom door behind her she glances in one last time.  She is shutting the door on her childhood.  This makes her smile, and she hopes many more things will make her smile when she steps out into her brave new world.
Down the stairs, out onto the street.  She breathes in the air and feels spring-like, despite the cold November drizzle.  Now she must walk; wisely, she has decided not to splash out on a taxi to take her to the station.  Managing her own finances will be another thing she will have to learn, but learn it she must.  Better to be poor but independent than shielded from the world by those overpowering arms. 
She walks down to the bus stop, her hand closed tightly around the train ticket in her pocket.  Her ticket to freedom, and life as a fully-fledged adult.  She is scared but happy, and proud of herself. 
She should have listened to her mother after all. 
Marrying a man twenty-five years older than herself was never going to work, long-term; finally, at the age of thirty-seven, she has found the courage to grow up.

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  1. I've never read any of your stuff fault,,, and I really enjoyed this. I liked the spare style, and the personal perspective. You don't waste words...and descriptions are just enough to set the scene and help the reader to picture it. Nice.

    1. Thanks, pet! I actually wrote this about 16 years ago though edited it lately; I'm usually a bit more lively than this, but I do write in a rather 'spare' style, I have to say. If you look in July, there is 'a short story about schadendfreude' which is one I wrote this year. Moving Out is more of a sketch than a story, almost, I think; but thanks for reading and glad you liked! xx

    2. I meant schadenfreude; that was a typo, not a SPELLING ERROR!!

  2. Ooh! Nice twist, I didn't see that coming! Lovely story. Thanks for posting, Terry :)

    1. Thank YOU for reading, Maria - I'm pleased you liked it xxx

  3. Love this and I didn't see the twist at the end either!

  4. I really enjoyed this, thanks. Loved the twist too! x

    1. Thanks, Christine - really appreciate you reading!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hello, Katherine
      You have my full permission to use this story; I feel most honoured, thank you!
      Would you be so kind as to give me a credit, so that students know whose story they're reading? Spreading the word about one's work is so hard, and it all helps.
      Again, thank you; I hope it makes for an interesting exam ~ perhaps you might let me know?
      Best Regards

    3. PS. I'm removing the original comment because of confidentiality regarding the exam.

    4. Dear Terry!
      Absolutely, you will be credited!
      Thank You so much!
      Best Wishes
      PS I'm removing the inquiry above for exam confidentiality

    5. Thanks, Katherine :) I look forward to hearing how it's received.