Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Things Will Be Different Now By Ben Howels

THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT NOW



He’s resting in his little pine bed; face calm, eyes shut, and mind elsewhere. Both of you are dressed for church. You’ll have to leave soon, but you don’t want to disturb him.

Every moment since his birth has been a moment of love gained, but you’ve wasted so many of them. You’ve managed only snapshots of parenthood, the transformation from mewling lump to stumbling personality remaining out of focus.

Why?

You weren’t home often, you know that. Working late, working weekends, working away. Then there were the parties you went to for work, and the parties you went to for getting work out of your head. Never mind letting your son into it.

He was in your heart though, of course he was. Sometimes the love felt suffocating, overwhelming. Was that why you rarely let it show?

No. Don’t make love the scapegoat. You are the reason you missed his first steps, his first words. You are the reason he played alone with the toys you bought him. The toys he loved more than anything. Except you.

Of course you wanted things to be different; just never enough to make it happen. You’d drive away before he woke up, and then – day done – you’d pay off the babysitter, look in on him, not wake him, and whisper your favourite lie:

“Things will be different.”

Then, suddenly, things were different. The headaches started, then his balance became erratic. It was the babysitter that told you. There was a doctor, then a specialist, then a bed. The prognosis made you quit your job, and soon you were sat next to him, days at a time.

The hardest part? It wasn’t watching him suffer – though Lord knows, that was hard. No. It was realising how happy he was. Despite the drugs, the needles and the pain, he was overjoyed at having you around so much. He thought life had improved.

Suddenly you were doing the things you should have done for years – talking with him, playing with him, watching over him – and when he slept, you whispered your favourite lie again, over and over.

This time it betrayed you.

You watch as some black suits slide a lid over his little pine bed, and a shadow eclipses that beautiful smile.

Things will be different now.


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