This story was accepted for publication by Chronicle Stories – on the 9th July 2018 – if you don’t have the app you should go get it!
The Gift
Margaret sat by the window on the train and began thinking about the last time she saw her sister, the angry words they’d exchanged and the years that had drifted between them since. She was also worried about the funeral, her mother was never a very pleasant person, well not to her anyway.
She didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of loss when Vivian, her sister, called to tell her the news. Their conversation had been stilted and brief and it was a relief when the conversation ended.
The gift in her handbag, although small, felt like a heavy burden. The small trinket box that was once was their Grandmothers, seemed to represent more than she could ever express to Vivian.
It had a blue oriental elephant on it with cherry blossom orchards around the edge, the chip on rim a reminder of the time they’d fought over it and dropped it. She hoped that this little gesture would help to bridge the gap between them.
Margaret had planned on staying in a hotel the night before the funeral but her sister suggested she stayed at their mum’s house. The funeral procession was starting from there and as she didn’t have a car it made sense.
She was dreading it, spending the night alone in her mother’s house, their childhood home didn’t hold many happy memories for her and she didn’t relish the idea of her sister meeting her there either.
Margaret’s stomach churned as she stepped off the train, the familiar site of Willington station and the looming cooling towers served only to alienate her further from the family and childhood she had once longed to forget.
As she walked up the road, past the Chinese takeaway, the old house came into view. Unlatching the gate she spotted the curtain twitch. Vivian was there. Dread filled her, what should she say, how would she feel after all this time, what would Vivian have to say.
The front door opened before she had the chance to knock.
‘Hello,’ said Vivian.
‘Hello,’ replied Margaret. The two women stared at each other unsure if the fight was over or was about to begin again.
‘Well, you’d better come in.’ Vivian said, moving aside to allow her sister through. Their arms brushed against each other and Margaret’s skin prickled, the air between them seemed to buzz with tension. ‘I’ve made up the spare room for you and there’s milk in the fridge.’
‘T-thank you.’ God, Margaret wanted this to be over and thought probably God wanted this to be over too. ‘So, er, how’ve you been?’ Margaret asked while she put her bags down and began unpacking, desperately avoiding eye contact.
‘Well, you’d know that if you‘d called, not even once in nine years. Nine years, Margaret.’
‘If you want an apology you’ll have to whistle for it. It takes two you know. You could have called me!’ Margaret had been waiting for this, she was a loaded gun, the anger, the anxiety spilled out of her. ‘But no, you’re the good one, the martyr, you looked after dad and of course no one cares more than you, only you could look after mum and nothing I did was good enough!’
‘You stole her money!’
‘Borrowed, there’s a difference.’
‘Margaret,’ Vivian sighed, ‘this isn’t going the way I’d hoped.’
‘Oh, there you go again, being all moral high roadie.’
’Margaret, are you telling me you came all the way here to rekindle this argument?’
‘Yes!’
‘Really?’ Vivian tilted her head to one side, ‘I’m going to put the kettle on.’ Margaret sighed and sat down at the dinning table. She took the trinket out of her handbag and felt the ridges of ink as she rubbed her thumb over it.
‘I was going to pay it back.’ She called to her sister in the kitchen. Vivian’s silence was reply enough, there was no more to be said. ‘I’ve bought you a present, well, it’s err, not so much a present but lets just say it’s your turn to have it.’
‘Oh, what is it?’ Vivian asked, returning to the room accompanied by the clinking of a teaspoon on fine bone china.
’This.’ Margaret held out the trinket as though it were a new born baby.
’You still have it, I can’t believe you’ve kept it after all this time.’
‘Yes, it’s been on my dresser. Do you remember how Grandma would go mad if she caught us playing with it?’
’Yes,’ giggled Vivian, ‘and I remember when we dropped it! I thought she was going to explode.’ Both women laughed at the shared memory.
’I’ve missed you,’ said Vivian.
‘I’ve missed you too, but I don’t think you know how hard it was for me. I was never good enough, nothing I did was good enough for her.’
‘Margaret, she hasn’t stopped talking about you since the day you left. She’s always talking about you, she never bloody stops.’
‘What, she told people what a waster I am.’
‘No, you could do no wrong in her eyes. Apple of her eye she’d say.’ Vivian sighed. ‘Look, I didn’t tell her about the money.’
‘She never knew?’
‘No. Couldn’t bring myself to tell her.’
‘Oh Vivian.’ The two women embraced with love, all tension evaporated.
‘I wish I’d known, I wish I could tell her I’m sorry for leaving.’
‘Good. You can tell her yourself, she’ll be here in a minute.’
‘What?’
‘Oh, she’s not dead, Margaret, we just told you that to get you here.’
‘What! Vivian, wait, what?’
‘Yeah, it was her idea, she wanted to see you.’
‘VIVIAN!’ She was about to start shouting when the front door opened, it was only marginally wider than Margaret’s mouth when her mother walked into the room.
’Hello, Mum.’
                                  ***
It’s with thanks to Debs B for providing the inspiration for this one. Her three words were present, elephant and train.
I hope you enjoyed it, please feel free to leave your feedback. I’m always looking to improve.