For the Love of a Child

The whiskey bottle that saved my life mocked me from its pulpit on the coffee table. My hand rose, ready to strike it off its perch, but froze at the sight of the stranger passed out on out threadbare couch. His swollen face promised a rough awakening. If he hadn’t knocked over Joe’s favorite drink when he did, that might have been me. Images of my husband standing over me flashed across my eyes, one hand on my throat, the other pulled back in a fist.

Fate — and the junkie on my sofa — had no small part in keeping me alive last night. The sound of the bottle flying into a wall, no matter how therapeutic it might feel, would wake Joe and bring him storming out of the bedroom. My hand rubbed across my ribs where the pain still flared when I moved. A little petty revenge might press my luck too far. I needed to be quick, but more importantly, I needed to be silent.

The pills had done a number on me. I woke up so late it would take some hustle to get to work on time. A double shift might put most nurses off, but today I relished it. It would give him enough time to cool off, maybe even forget. Especially if I brought work home with me.

A quick sniff of yesterday’s scrubs confirmed they’d work for a few more hours. There would be fresh ones at the hospital. I grabbed my purse, wincing at the soft jingling sounds, and headed for the door with my shoes in hand.

The telephone rang.

I leaped across the room and yanked the phone from its cradle, my senses focused on the bedroom. No one appeared in the doorway, no sounds reached me above the quiet drone of cars from outside.

“Hello? Mrs. Favrot?” The voice on the other end of the line was unfamiliar but insistent. “Betty Favrot?”

“Miller.” I kept my voice so low I wondered if the caller could even hear me. “Betty Miller, and it’s not a good time.” I started to hang up the phone.

“But you are the daughter of Vera Favrot?”

My hand froze at the sound of my mother’s name. I brought the phone back up as a dark cloud seemed to grow inside my lungs, making it harder to breathe.
“Yes.” An avalanche of questions popped into my head. “Did she ask you to call me?”

“Mrs. Fav — excuse me, Miller, my name’s Harry Forsythe.” His sigh echoed through the phone line. “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. I represent your mother’s estate.”

* * * * *

My hand shook as it placed the phone back in the cradle. I stared at the phone number scribbled on the palm of my other hand, not yet believing what I had heard.

Sometimes death brings rebirth, the end for one a beginning to another. And the anguish that gripped my heart a moment ago had already started to turn into something else. Something I hadn’t felt for a long time. Hope.

My eyes raced around the room, scouting for anything I absolutely needed to take with me.

Nothing.

A rather sad truth, but telling as well. After years together, fighting to keep our marriage from disintegrating, fighting to keep either one of us from heading down some dark path we couldn’t come back from, I couldn’t think of one thing in our whole apartment worth keeping. Pretty damn telling indeed. The sum of our entire time together turned out to be zero.

I slipped on my shoes and tiptoed towards the front door. The loose sole on my left foot made a slapping sound on each step that made me wince and glance towards the bedroom. I put my weight on my heel to keep it quiet.

On the way out I took one last look around the room. My eyes paused at the coffee table, traveled down to my broken left shoe, then back to the table.

Nothing I need, but one thing I sure as hell deserve.

I stuffed the whiskey bottle into my purse and slipped out the front door.

6 thoughts on “For the Love of a Child

  1. bruinsmap says:

    I don’t like the title, or the name Harry Forsythe (in British English that would likely be used as a satirical/comical name for someone upper class or expensively privately educated), but…

    …other than that it is a good start for certain. If you can keep that high quality up I would certainly read a draft.

  2. twiggy says:

    I really enjoyed your story! Well, I was horrified by what was happening, but I was really intrigued and rooting for the main character.

    I particularly liked much of the imagery and details, like when she smelled her scrubs for freshness. I could learn a lot of information about her and her situation from that one little detail. Her broken shoe was another detail that I liked. I could easily picture someone stepping awkwardly on a broken shoe to prevent it from making noise. It made the story feel more real and pulled me into the scene.

    The second paragraph threw me off a little. It’s understandable that the character would want to vent her frustrations by throwing things at walls, but I thought the phrasing and placement of the second sentence was a little awkward.

    Also, why is there a junkie on the couch? The character mentions he’s a stranger (to her? to both her and her husband?), but she doesn’t seem all that surprised by there being a strange junkie passed out on her couch. It would be nice to get a little bit of an explanation; e.g. does her husband have a habit of taking in strange junkies?

  3. Prerna B. says:

    Nice job! I like how you have a mix of short sentences and then longer ones – it makes the whole thing a lot less monotone. I really liked the way you introduced that she was a nurse, it blended it very well.

    The intro and a bit of the middle still leaves me a bit confused as to what is going on. Maybe try and blend in other information so it’s a bit clearer to the reader about where she is, why is there a random stranger on her couch and what happened last night.

    As well, I think you should add a bit more description to her reaction of her mother dying. I felt confused – was she happy? Or sad? How exactly did she feel?

    I really like the ending though! The fact that she is a nurse and stuffs a bottle of whiskey in her purse says a lot about the character.

  4. packoffeathers says:

    Even though I think you have a daring subject and you’re not a beginner writer, I didn’t get through this first page. Reason: your opening paragraph is confusing for me. From “The pills had done a number on me” it loses me again and I stopped.
    (Also I thought it was unrealistic that someone with bruised or broken ribs rubbed them.)

  5. writer33! says:

    I love your first line. I can picture her waking up after a rough night. And I too was confused as to why she wasn’t more worried about the random junkie on her couch but then she says her husband would be happy if she brought work home with her which I took as some kind of pills perhaps. She too is a bit of a junkie, a functioning one.

    I really like your writing style. It kept me reading. I think its tough to see where a story may be headed with only a few paragraphs but my guess is this one has some surprises.

  6. Jen (Full of Love) (@gluedwithgold) says:

    This has a good setup, and the opening line hooked me. The details you give work well to paint the picture of this woman’s life, without being overbearing. Your voice/style of writing is easy to read and flows well.

    As others have said, the stranger on the couch was confusing, both because of her nonchalant reaction to it, and because it threw me off that she wasn’t the one on the couch. In my mind when I hear coffee table, I immediately place it in front of a couch – so when she reaches for the bottle, I make the assumption that she’s on the couch. But then the stranger is on the couch, and it turns out I don’t know where she is – she hasn’t been placed in the setting.

    The structure of the second paragraph threw me. The first sentence seems out of place in relation to the remainder of the paragraph, and starting the second sentence with “The sound of the bottle flying into a wall” makes me think the sound is actually happening, and my brain has to backtrack when I realize she’s just considered it, and that it’s referencing her reaching for the bottle in the first paragraph.

    Just some tweaking for clarity would make this a solid opening.

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