A Big Mistake {a short story}



{a short story}

I turned down our street.  Even over the roar and grinding of our pathetic van, I could hear myself let out a deep sigh.  The kind of sigh that comes from the deepest part the soul, forcing out frustration and disappointment with it, but the force of polluted air didn’t ease my anxious mind.

For months, we’ve lived in this anguish between love and hate.  We started our story off as a fairy tale, but now, it’s more like a horror flick, complete with blood curdling screams.  Lately, Emmitt leaves for work before I even wake up, not because he’s a workaholic, but because he wants to avoid me.  Our evenings are spent in separate rooms and any communication is sure to end in a screaming match.  I know the kids are tormented by our angry home.  Just this week, I’ve received two phone calls from their school because of their out of control behavior.  I’m sure Emmitt’s mother, Victoria, who picks them up from school, will report her frustration with their lack of control, then, follow it with, “I just don’t know how much longer I can handle taking care of them, but however long you need me”, as she pats my arm.  We all know there’s no other option, because she’s the only one who will take care of them for free.

I don’t know when things changed, because, like I said, it started as a fairy tale.  Emmitt was beautiful, young and athletic with a contagious laugh.  I was quiet and scared with a steel trap around my heart.  A steel trap that Emmitt was determined to find the key.  He was wild and free and when I was with him, I was wild and free.  He called me his “cup of hot tea”.  My name is Teagan, but he only ever called me Tea.  Anything was possible when I was with him, and in so many ways he saved me from myself.  After nine months of a spirited courtship, we were married with a breath and a dream.

After eleven years, the breaths became painful and the dreams out of reach, and like rabid dogs, diseased and afraid, we turned on each other, devouring each other’s soul.

The vice around my chest tighten as I pulled into the driveway.  I clicked the button to raise the garage door, but nothing.  I stabbed the button again and again, then yanked the device from the visor and slammed it into the front window.  It ricochetted in pieces around the front of the van and I could feel hot tears sting my face.

Now the garage isn’t working!  How long must I endure this hell?!

I gripped the steering wheel and lowered my head onto my hands as I caught a sob in my throat.  I had to get control of myself before I walked into the house.  The last thing I needed was for Victoria to see me out of sorts and give her another reason to pity our misery.  I focused on my breaths, slow and deep.  In and out.  In and out.  Once I calmed down, I did a quick fix up in the mirror and grabbed my bag from the passenger’s seat.

I rounded the van and headed toward the front door, then stopped short.  Emmitt’s two year project to replace the walkway was finished.  The muddy trail was gone.  The dirty pile of bricks, over-grown with weeds was gone.  Both were replaced with a walkway leading up to the front porch.  I stood, baffled at the sight.  It took me a minute to process it, but there is was neat and manicured.  Had Emmitt come home early today and finished the walkway?  Surely Victoria hadn’t called her husband to do it.   I smiled, maybe tonight would be a good night after all.  I quickened my steps to the front door and in one fluid motion inserted the key and opened the front door.  I stepped in and announced, “I’m HOOOO-“.   My words stopped short.

I just stood there, staring.  I could feel the pounding drum in my chest.  My breaths were short and dry, and I began to tremble as I screamed, “EMMITT”!  Nothing.  I couldn’t move.  All I could do was stand there and stare – stare at an empty house.  Everything was gone.  The furniture, pictures and curtains were gone.  The carpet was clean and vacuumed.  Even the wine stain where I knocked over my glass during one of our arguments last week was gone.  It looked like no one had been here in days.  I finally discovered my feet and took off running through the house screaming everyone’s names, but all that came back to me was the echos of my own panic.  I ran through every room.  Every room was the same, empty and clean.

Coming back down the stairs I skipped the last two stairs and landed on my knees.  I scrambled across the floor without even getting up.  I grabbed my purse and shook it’s contents onto the floor until I found my phone.  It took me three attempts, but I finally completed a call to Emmitt.  I’m sorry you’ve reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service.  What is happening?  I knew things were bad, but this is beyond Emmitt.  When I had mentioned divorce, Emmitt said he wasn’t ready to break up our family, so how could he possibly do something like this with no warning?  And take our kids?

I could feel my breaths get shorter and faster.  My head began to spin and I couldn’t control the barking sobs escaping from my throat.  I half stumbled, half ran to the kitchen.  I needed water.  I needed something to keep me connected to reality.  Whatever that may be.  The water faucet sputter and sprayed like it was just coming to life for the first time.  I splashed water on my face and gulped from my hand.  Without turning off the water or drying off my hands, I turned and slumped to the floor.

Victoria would know what was going on.  She knew everything.  I crawled back into the living room where I had left my heap of personal belongings.  I picked up my phone and dialed my mother-in-law’s cellphone.  After two rings, her smooth voice answered,


“Oh, thank God, Victoria, it’s Tea.  What in the world is going on”?

“Teagan Ray?  Emmitt’s girlfriend from college?  Honey, you sound hysterical.  What ever is the matter”?

“Emmitt’s girlfriend? Victoria, why are you acting like I haven’t been Emmitt’s wife for the past eleven years?  Where is he and our kids?  He’s cleaned out our house and I need to know where he is”.

I could hear Victoria rustle around and her voice was clearly flustered when she spoke, “Honey, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.  Emmitt, his wife, Amy, and their daughter have been living in Nashville for the past six years.  You sound hysterical.  Is everything ok”?

“What am I talking about?  What are YOU talking about?  I’m married to Emmitt and I need to talk to him RIGHT NOW”!  I screamed at the phone in my hand.

“Teagan, I don’t feel comfortable giving you his phone number.  You sound hysterical and not making any sense.  Do you have someone who can help you”?

I couldn’t believe how this conversation was going.  What had happened?  Nothing was making sense.  A wave of nausea swept over me and my head began to spin again.


“I’m sorry to bother you, Victoria”.

I hung up the phone and collapsed on the floor.  I curled up into a ball, my mind stunned.  I don’t know how long I laid there, but finally I opened my eyes and stared out the window.  It’s then that I noticed a picture sitting on the window sill.  In my earlier panic I had missed it.  It was a familiar picture, I could tell it was our family picture we took last spring.  It was my favorite picture, because it made us look happy, and that made me happy.  Except, as I picked it up, I realized I was the only one in the picture.  There I stood in the picture smiling, holding an imaginary toddler, and my other arm around an imaginary husband.  Shaking, I turned over the picture, and in perfect handwriting, it said, “You said it was all a big mistake, so I fixed it for you”.

9 thoughts on “A Big Mistake {a short story}

  1. Julie says:

    WOW! That was intense and I love the ending. I love the phone calls and the pieces all clicking together. So many people think that they want a do-over and fail to realize how decisions we make create the world we love even if it’s not perfect. Thank you so much for joining our prompt this week. I hope we’ll see you next week, too.

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