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by Katerina Charisi
2016-07-31 10:17:15
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Bradford was almost done with the car, when he felt a sharp bite on his back. God, not again, please. Not now. Last time he tried to lift an engine on his own and put it in a car, he heard something stretching and creaking (or at least that’s what he thought he heard) and a hellish hot stream of pain flew through his nerves and muscles and cells, from the lowest part of his waist, down to his left heel. He clinched his fists and felt the tiny burning explosions in his body, sweat running on his temples, tears escaping from his eyes. “Is everything ok, son?” Sam asked cautiously. He didn’t need an answer, though. He knew what Bradford refused to admit. There was something wrong; A nerve, a hip, a vertebra, something had been hurt. It was expected to happen, since Bradford worked too hard and always on his own. Bradford tried to breathe and find his voice, but Sam just said he was going to call Michael to give a hand. When Michael came that day, Bradford swallowed his pain and didn’t let his brother see anything wrong about him. Michael had enough already to add him on his list of the things-to-do.

 And now the same thing happened again. Bradford’s thoughts ran straight away to Marianne than anywhere else; His own problem for example, that could be serious. He stayed still and breathed, keeping his left leg stretched, trying not to put any of his weight on it or at his back. He felt like a stork. He wasn’t sure he could take it with Marianne’s nagging if he had to stop working for a while and money didn’t flow to finish the house and move out. After a while, when he thought everything was okay and felt his nerves relaxing, he slowly walked to the house, wiped his sweat on his face and got inside.

kater01_400“Where is my mother?” he asked his grandma in the kitchen. Cornelia nailed him with her wet eyes, knowing already that something was wrong.

“She is coming. She went to the coop to get some eggs”, she said without taking her eyes from him. Bradford knew that she probably knew and wished she didn’t say anything, but Cornelia never said anything, unless she decided it was time to tell everything. He sat on a chair and grabbed an apple from the bowl, turned it on his hand and put it back. He felt a cramp coming to his left leg and tried to stay calm. No! Please, no.

“Are you alright?” Cornelia asked.

“Everything is fine, grandma. I just wish that... Forget it”.

“It’s hard to start a family. You need a place to do it first, and you happen to want to repair a house that I’m not even sure it is worth the effort. And cost.”

“I can’t let the house collapse. It’s the house my father was born. I have to keep it alive.”

Cornelia chortled. “Alive? It is just bricks and mud. People keep a house alive. Families. Life itself. There are perfect houses, with life sucked out of them. This house is alive. We all keep it barely in shape all these years. You don’t have to do it. There is plenty of room here.”

Bradford sighed. “It’s too late now. I am almost done. Marianne wouldn’t stay here, anyway. You know that.”

“Marianne wouldn’t stay anywhere”.

Frances came in the kitchen, carrying a cool breeze with her, interrupting any other conversation about it.

“Oh, hello darling. Hungry?” she showed him the eggs.

“No, I just came to ask Michael for a hand and had a talk with grandma”.

Frances half closed her eyes. “Why don’t you go upstairs and knock his door?”

Bradford swallowed and grabbed the apple from the bowl and bit it, to gain time. He stood up and felt his left leg acting weird, he turned his back and left the kitchen.

“I’m going now”, he mumbled. He looked at the stairs and a knot blocked his throat. He carefully put one feet up. Then Michael showed up and dashed the stairs.

“Hey”, Bradford sounded relieved. “Are you on a rush? I could use a hand with the engine back there”.

“Hey. Sure. I’m just starving. I need a few bites of anything”, he said and ran to the kitchen, grabbed a slice of bread and an apple and left.

“Hello there, dear”, Frances chirped. “Eggs are boiling”.

“No, thanks. Hi grandma. I have to run.”

“Where to?”

“The agronomist is in town. I called him the other day and told him about the burned part of our field, he said it should be fertile again after all these years, but I told him that nothing grows yet and he asked me if he can see it. I’m going to meet him and have a talk, then I’ll bring him here. Where’s Jenny? I thought she would like to come, I could leave her to Manon’s and have a coffee”, he said in a single breath, between munching.

“Jenny is out again. I didn’t ask where to, but I don’t have to. I know she has something with the swamp. You still believe there’s a hope? I gave up on this part of the field”, Frances said.

“I have to have a hope. The rest of the field is enough to support only our needs, not to give us income. So far Bradford is the only one who has a stable money flowing in the house. This has to stop. He has his own house to worry about and I have a woman that I need to take care of”.

Frances took a slightly sour face but didn’t say a word.

“Good luck with that”, she said.

“Come, let’s go”, he said to Bradford and they left.

The two women looked at each other. Cornelia shook her head. “Don’t, mother”, Frances said. “Let him do what he has to do.”

“You know nothing is going to change.”

“I need my children close to me, okay? You can’t blame me for that. You have me. I only have Michael. Mary left years ago, Bradford is about to leave too, this place will fall apart and we will die alone if Michael leaves. I can’t live like that. I will not allow it”.

“And you prefer to ruin your son’s life?”

“I am not ruining anything! They will be more than happy here. I will raise their children, giving them space and time to live their life, as you helped with my children and I had a good life with my husband”.

“That was your life, Fran. This is their life. And maybe they don’t want to live as you lived. There is the other thing too. How long do you think it’s going to remain a secret? Even if no one tells, she will.”

She? I forbid you to even mention her again. She is gone. Never was. Forget it.” Frances leaned and whispered. “There are no ghosts, mother! She is gone and that’s it”.



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