This Great Society - Issue 6 - The Future

Creative Writing

Illustration by Shari-Anne Gibson

New Year by Sarah Gackle
New Year by Sarah Gackle

Lillian hated sharing her birthday with the world. She felt cheated seeing her new year carried along in the wave of Auld Lang Syne that rolled across the world time zone after time zone, like fans standing in sequence in a football arena. Long ago she had stopped watching the countdowns and attending New Year’s parties. This year she turned down every invitation, even her daughter Avery’s offer to take her out to dinner, and decided the extent of her celebration would be buying herself flowers.

That day, Lillian spent the morning getting papers together for the meeting she had scheduled with her attorney the following day. She had purchased the flowers—lilies—at the same shop her father used to buy them for her every year when he was alive. They looked peaceful spreading above the mess littering her kitchen table. They looked only up, oblivious to the shuffled pieces of life Lillian was trying to put in order so that she could put it behind her.

She wanted to finish the divorce as quickly as possible, and she attacked the paperwork and scheduled the appointments with her attorney at her typical feverish pace. She could sense that Rob felt pressured to keep up with her as they moved through the necessary steps. While they were married, he had always been the one telling her to relax: “Don’t work so hard today. You seem stressed already.” She shook her head as she thought back. The two of them were so different—she wasn’t stressed and she didn’t need to relax.

“Life is hard work, Rob. There's nothing wrong with working hard at it,” she said one afternoon, hoping to get him out of the room.

“Then why not go to law school?” he asked, bringing up a question he had posed many times before. “If you know you can work hard and you know you’re capable, which you do, then why hold back and become a legal secretary? It’s a waste.”

Lillian avoided Rob's hints, subtle or overt. She gave her usual shrug-as-response, and he left her to her current project. She felt confident when she could work hard at something, but law school could easily demand more than the 24 hours she had in a day. She knew she couldn't handle failure like that, that her understanding of herself would crumble. There are too many lawyers in the world already, she said to herself.

After twenty-five years of working at their marriage, Rob and Lillian were exhausted. They finally realized there was no promise that they would ever arrive at a marriage that did not need work. Without that, neither had the energy to keep at it any longer. When Avery, their only child and most helpful source of distraction, moved away to college, things quickly followed a natural course towards dissolution.

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