Better Late Than Never

I’ve been meeting weekly with a writer friend to play at writing. I have tea, she has a latte, and we write randomly for fifteen minute stretches. I’ll be posting these mini-stories weekly until I run out! Here’s today’s installment:

He had waited twenty years to return it. He had driven five hundred kilometres to return it. And now he sat in his car across the street from the house, summoning the courage to return it. The courage would not be summoned. He watched the street. Cars drove up and down it. People came out of houses and entered cars. An elderly couple pushed a stroller—presumably with their grandchildren in it. The stroller was wide and it scraped against the passenger side of the car. The old woman knocked on the window and he pressed the button.

“I’m so sorry,” she said through the open window.

He came out to look at the scratch. In his hand he held the item, because he figured that if he didn’t get out of the car with it, he would return home without having done what he came to do. “You can barely see it,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. The car is twenty years old.” He’d hung onto the car longer tha he should have. It wasn’t really road safe anymore. He’d planned to finish his business here, get someone to tow it away, and fly home.

“It’s ready to be junked anyway. I think this is my last trip with it.”

“Oh? Where are you from?”

“Here,” he said. “Not right here. I mean Montreal. But lately from Toronto.”

“Have a nice stay,” the old woman said. He stood outside his car, watching her and the old man push the stroller.

Now or never, he thought, and crossed the street to the suburban bungalow. It looked the same as it had twenty years ago when he was renting the upper unit in the duplex on this side of the street. The same red tulips were blooming, but surely they must be new bulbs. The other yards were landscaped, not this one. Still the same boring grass and two lines of flowers in the bed. But the maple tree in front of the house was bigger now, shading the cement porch.

He stood on the porch with the cup in his hand. She might not even live here anymore. She probably didn’t. And when the door was answered, he wondered how ridiculous he would feel.

Very, he discovered.

“Hello?” she said.

He stood for a moment without replying. She wore the same dark glasses, still self-conscious about her eyes.

“Hello?” she said again, her tone slightly more anxious.

“It’s me,” he said. “I owe you a cup of sugar. Remember?”

She smiled. Thank God, she smiled. He promised to go to mass every Sunday for the rest of his life, even though he wasn’t Catholic. He promised to go to synagogue every Saturday, even though he wasn’t Jewish. He promised to go to a mosque—what day would that be? Never mind, he promised. He promised the Hindu gods while he followed her into the house.

Everything was placed just as it had been twenty years ago, and she walked confidently, holding the cup of sugar in both hands. She held it like it was a golden chalice. She held it like it was a cup of plutonium. Beautiful, costly, dangerous.

She didn’t ask him where he’d been or why he was late.

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Categories Mini-FictionTags

4 thoughts on “Better Late Than Never

  1. A perfect little gem, Lilian! Full of compassion and love!

    1. Thank you! I’ve wanted to do this for years, ie free write weekly. It’s a bit like exercise, easier with a friend!

  2. I love this sweet little story! What a fun way to sneak in some free-writing time, and to visit with your friend.

  3. Thank you! And it is! We meet early on Sunday morning, which means I lose a bit of lie-in, but that way, I can spare the time from my family. We have tea/coffee and catch up at a great little coffee shop away from the main street, tucked into a residential neighbourhood, that is still walking distance for both of us.

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