UPDATE: This short story has been accepted for publication by Chronicle Stories, you can check out their app here.
This weeks short story is inspired by the words rainbow, tractor, and iPad, as suggested by Sue A. Thanks very much for the challenge, I hope you enjoy it!
A Rural Revalation (reading time: 5 minutes)
‘He’ll be here soon. Boys, is everything ready?’ Martha fussed at her apron.
‘Yes, Mum, stop worrying,’ replied Adam, rolling his eyes in his brothers direction.
‘I saw that! Go on, get in the lounge out the way.’ She shoo’ed them out of the kitchen. Then tweaked her hair in a foggy antique mirror, although, she’d have been better off looking at the back of a spoon.
The back door clicked open.
‘Morning, Luv,’ said Ted, ‘that bloody bulls been at the gate again. I’ll ‘ave to get it sorted before it gets in to the girls.’
‘Morning, happy birthday!’ Martha walked over to her husband and gave him a big kiss. He was never one for overt displays of affection but she just put it down to the special breed of humans known as farmers.
‘Oh! My birthday is it?’
‘Yes, Ted, you’re 60! Now, I’ll finish sorting breakfast, you go and put your feet up in the lounge for a bit.’ She herded him out the door and waited.
She heard the surprise in Ted’s voice as he found their two boys waiting for him. She made up a tea-tray, gathered the toast, then leant down to a cupboard and retrieved a present she had stowed there. Ted was a traditional man, there was no risk of him finding the present in the cleaning cupboard. Tucking the present under her arm and then picking up the tea-tray she headed to the lounge.
‘Ouch!’ said Daniel, who was underneath his brother, his arm being twisted up his back. Adam was younger and more determined of the twins.
‘Get off him. Honestly, you two.’
’Sorry, Mmmuumpft.’ Daniels’s voice was muffled as Adam used his brothers face as leverage to stand up.
‘Right,’ she put the tray down, ‘this year, being a special year an’ all that, me an’ the boys thought we’d club together an’ get you this.’ She proffered the present to Ted.
Ted, wiping more dirt on to his hands than off on his ancient trousers, took the gift. ‘Thank you.’ He held it next to his ear and shook it. ‘Ooh, it’s got a bit of weight to it but it does rattle.’
‘Just open it, Dad,’ blurted Adam.
Taking his time, Ted ripped open the blue wrapping paper. It revealed a clean, white box, a silver apple emblazoned on the top. When the lid wouldn’t come off easily, Ted rummaged in his pocket and pulled out his flick-knife. It made short work of plastic sticky tabs holding the lid on. Giving the box a little shake, freeing the internal vacuum, Ted stared down at the present.
‘A computer?’ He looked up at his family.
‘Well, what do you think?’ Her smile and her eyes a telling request for more of a response.
‘It’s a computer.’
‘Not just any computer, Dad, it’s the latest Apple iPad. It’s got 64 gig of memory…’
Daniel cut in ‘…and we’ve set up the house with the internet and wifi. You can surf the web from anywhere in the house.’
‘Except the pantry, it’s not there. The wall’s too thick,’ said Adam.
‘It’s, er, its great but I’ve never used a computer.’
‘We’ll show you, it’s easy! We’ll have you surfin’ the web like a pro in no time.’ Adam beamed, confident in his web-prowess.
‘And I thought you could start doing your accounts on it. You know, make it easier,’ added Martha, by way of an explanation for her choice of gift.
‘Right, well I can’t do all that on an empty stomach now can I? Pass us the toast, Luv.’
Two months later…
‘Ted? Ted? I wished I’d not bought you that sodding thing, you’re on it more than your tractor!’ Martha peeled the iPad from Ted’s eye-line. ‘I said, Mrs Ellis called, their daughter’s had a little girl, called it “Peaches” they did. Can you imagine?’
‘That’s nice, Dear. Oh, is that the time, I said Jim could borrow the bailer. I’d better go and get it ready, he’ll be here in a minute. Ted left the iPad on the arm chair and walked out. Martha eyed suspiciously, then went to the kitchen and started making lunch.
She was cooking bacon but her mind was on the iPad. The temptation was too great, curiosity overcame her. Sensibly, she put the bacon to one side and then went in to the lounge. There it was, she bit her lower lip, she’d always respected Ted’s privacy but ever since he’d got the hang of using the blasted thing he was different. Distant even.
Looking toward the door, then out the window, to see if the coast was clear, she clicked the Ipad to life. The boys had shown her the basics but she’d hardly used it. She tapped on the web browser. At first she was relieved, she saw a picture of a rainbow and thought Ted had been looking up the weather reports. Then she read the text, then she became confused. An email notification popped up from a name she did not know. She tapped it open, her jawed dropped as she read the message and scrolled down to follow the thread. Tears began to well.
Voices came from the kitchen, ‘I’m sure our Martha will have plenty of lunch to go round.’
Clicking the Ipad off, Martha dabbed her eyes, she stood, straightened her apron and then headed for the kitchen.
‘Hello, Jim. How are you? How’s Sarah?’ Martha forced her upset to one side.
‘Oh, fine. Yeah, she’s fine, thank you.’
Martha had learned long ago that that was the best you’d get by way of news from a man. ’Did you want a bacon sandwich?’
‘If it’s not too much trouble?’
Well, it is actually, can’t you just piss off? Was what she wanted to say, what she actually said, in her best breezy voice was, ’No, it’s not bother at all. Sit yourself down.’
The two men sat at the table and scoffed the sandwiches like pigs at a trough. Martha’s inner turmoil ruined her appetite. She couldn’t sit down to be civil so she dithered around in the kitchen, occasionally eyeing her husband.
When the pair had finished eating, Jim got up to leave.
‘Right you are then. Thanks ever so for the sarnie, Martha. And thanks for the bailer, Ted.’
’No bother, I’ll see you out. I need to get on, there’s branch come down over at the top field. It took the fence with it n’all.’ Said Ted.
‘Not so fast, Ted. I need a word with you.’
‘Ooh, sounds ominous, Ted. You’d better stay!’ Joked Jim. ‘I’ll be seeing you, then.’ Jim closed the backdoor behind him.
If only you knew, Jim, thought Martha.
‘Right, well what’s this about Martha? I’ve got jobs to do.’
‘I borrowed the Ipad.’
The air prickled with the silence between them. Martha stared at the man she no longer knew. He was unable to meet her stare.
When Ted remained silent, tears began to roll down her face. ‘When were you going to tell me?’
‘I-I don’t know. I didn’t know myself until recently.’ Ted sat like a little boy being scolded by a fierce school teacher.
‘You didn’t know? Surely you’d know if you were gay? That bloody iPad. I wish I’d not brought the bloody thing!’
‘Have we being living a lie? All these sodding years, 35 sodding years and it’s all been a lie. My life’s been a lie! Did you ever love me? Oh and the boys, what about them… No, wait, I don’t think want to know… Well, say something! Say anything…’
‘Martha, I am gay.’