(nobody, not even the rain, has such small ) hands

(in response to the weekly writing challenge)

William felt their tiny hands, warm and sticky, clutching his own – one on his left, the other one on his right (nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands, Edward whispers into the sky). They were waiting for William’s sister to come and pick them up. She was never on time. They knew as much and they loved her (her big laugh, her exaggerated demeanor, the way she winked and squeezed one’s shoulder) so they usually didn’t mind. That day, however, when she finally arrived 15 minutes late, William snapped at her and no one said a word during the drive. His sister and her husband sat up front, he sat in the back of the car with the children. They were still squeezing his hands.

Emma, the younger one, had always been very attached to her father: when he left for work, she’d cling to his coat until he stepped out of the house and when he came home, she’d greet him with an impatient hug at the front door, no matter how late. She refused to go to bed unless he tucked her in, unless he stroked her hair until she fell asleep: eyes closed, breathing calmly, steadily – a metronome’s breath. She had gotten more and more difficult the last couple of months. Every night as he was about to get up from her bedside, she grasped his hand – much like she did now – and commanded him to stay. Just a couple more minutes. Or maybe until the grandfather clock struck again. Or maybe until it was bedtime for Mason too. Or even better yet: until the next morning. Often she woke up in the middle of the night, find him gone, and scream and cry until he came back into her room with the promise not to leave.

It was a bright and clear morning. The three of them had been up early: washing their faces, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, having breakfast (trying not to spill anything because they were wearing their good clothes). They seemed to be in an awful rush. They thought, maybe, if they went faster, the day would go by faster as well. Yet, of course, it didn’t. It turned out to be one of the longest days they’ve ever had (even longer than the day before your birthday, even longer than New Year’s). Emma and Mason were sure if they let go of their father’s hands, it would never end.

Mason’s hand felt strange – he was not like his sister at all. Not only because he was older, not even because he was a boy. In fact, he was much like his mother: collected and cool, too proud (or too timid) to show any sign of emotion (she’d even refused to call him Will instead of William – whimsical nonsense, she’d said, I’ll call you by the name your parents carefully picked out for you, by nothing else). Although he, too, craved his father’s attention. He was always looking for ways to impress him: bringing home good grades, showing interest in the same things he was interested in (politics, Dizzy Gillespie, car races, Russian novels, E.E. Cummings). Now, however, his small fingers (he was the older one of the two children, but in the end, he was only 11) were so tightly wrapped around his. His mouth was dry and he thought he could feel his son’s hand tremble. Then he realized that it must be his own. Actually, that it must be nothing but her trembling that’s slowly become his as he held her hand night after day after night after day – until there was no more hand to hold, just the blood-stained handkerchief with the small embroidery in the upper right corner: Sophie (nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands, Edward mutters under his breath).

When they arrived at the cemetery, there was already a small gathering of people. Some of them had to make an effort not to look too upset. Others tried to make an effort to look somewhat saddened. Most of them nodded at the family pitifully. They shook their heads behind William’s back (how was he going to raise the children on his own? his sister, surely, can’t be of any help. the neighbors heard her cough so loudly, they knew it wasn’t going to be much longer) because they couldn’t shake his hand (because still, one was holding Emma’s, the other one was holding Mason’s).

The night Sophie died, he found himself in the living room all of a sudden. He couldn’t really remember how he’d gotten there or what he’d meant to do. The entire night was a blur: coughs, doctors, the smell of morphine, condolences (hushed: don’t wake the children), helplessness, darknesses (in all shades of night). He rubbed his eyes and sat down in the big, red wingback chair. He tried to think and quickly decided to try and not think instead (think of her). He reached for his pipe that lay on the end table to his right, filled and lit it. He sat there an hour or two, smoking, not thinking (or trying not to), gazing at the rocking chair on the other side of the room that still held the two balls of wool and the knitting needles she’d left there (socks for Emma and a hat for Mason). When it was 3am Emma woke up as usually and called for him. He’d left her bedroom door open so he would hear her: a voice, high and distant as a cloud, echoing in the hallway. As he was about to leave the room, he paused and leaned against the doorframe. He glanced at the unfinished hat and the one sock in the rocking chair another time and pictured her porcelain hands, knitting through the nights (when she couldn’t sleep). He’d fallen for her hands the first time he’d seen them (nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands, Edward says in a woman’s voice, forever echoing in the hallway).

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4 responses

  1. Haunting and beautiful and sad. And I really love that poem. Lovely imagery, too, and I like how you sometimes contrast things, like how William is never angry at his sister for being late but snaps at her that day.

    Just a suggestion: Keep a watchful eye on those pesky tenses. They like getting mixed up, I know. 🙂

    1. Oh tenses, tenses…they get me quite tense sometimes – thanks for the advice! 😉

  2. Beautiful, but now I want the rest of the story! More please!

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