Is it morning already? It really is, isn’t it? The sun is up and everything. I lie there for a moment with my eyes closed. I need to get up, I know that, but my body aches. My back isn’t what it used to be anymore. Still, there really is no time to waste. I take a deep breath and get out of bed. Walk slowly to the bathroom.
I just stand there looking at myself in the mirror. All the wrinkles that have dug their way through my face. When did I get so old? I really can’t say, it just crept up on me, and then suddenly I just wasn’t young anymore.
I always do the same thing. Every morning. Go into the bathroom. Splash some water on my face and dry it off. Brush my teeth a little too quickly and then I’m done. It’s been a long time since I’ve stopped using makeup. It just doesn’t seem like much of a point. I have gotten old. I have. Not very beautiful too be honest. Plain, normal, old-looking face. Grey. Made a point of it, I think. That I wasn’t afraid. So what if I’m old, fuck the world and all that. No turning back now.
“It doesn’t matter,” I say it out loud, as if to make it true, “He’ll recognize you.” Of course he will. At least that is what I want to think, but 29 years is a long time. A very long time. 29 years ago I looked different. I still wore makeup. Fixed my hair every day, and it wasn’t grey back then. It was brown, this warm, beautiful colour. Was I pretty? Maybe. Men used to like me. He liked me. “31+ 29,” I probably sound like a crazy, old lady. “A good 60,” I have to smile after having said it. A good 60. Really? That is what he’ll think? I sigh. I remember myself at 31, all boobs and skirt, walking around trying to be this person that I don’t really remember anymore. He liked me. Liked the way I looked, but she is gone now. I don’t look like an old version of her. Not even close. It is like she never existed.
I was 51 the first time I really felt old. You know the bad kind. Until then I was always tough. Unafraid of everything, but that day I felt it for real. It happened in a funeral. I remember sitting there in that church. It was one of my friends that had just died from cancer. I don’t even remember which one anymore. Maybe it was Agatha? I think so. Agatha or Birdie. Anyway, I sat there and watched all those people who cried. Who cried for whoever lay in that coffin, and it was really sad. I just finally got it. That is where I would end up. In a wooden coffin by myself, and people would cry in my funeral, some would miss me, but in the bigger picture it really wouldn’t matter. I would be gone, and no one would really care whether I had been beautiful or looked young for my age, or any of those shit things that I used time on. So the next day I decided that I was done. Done with makeup, done with pretending, done with dresses that really didn’t fit anymore. I was going to be old. I was going to not give a fuck anymore. Just like that. I made a big deal about it as well. Said that I would want to die the normal way. Old, in my bed at home, didn’t want any fancy shit to happen to me. I remember. Not that it really matters. People say all kinds of shit.
Should I clean up in the kitchen? I stand there looking at it. Something feels wrong. I should clean up more, shouldn’t I? Not that he really used to care that much about everything being clean. Mostly I would say that he didn’t notice.
I go to the back door instead. I’ll get some flowers from the garden. That makes sense. Some beautiful flowers for the kitchen table and maybe some for the living room as well. That feels right. Feels like something the old me would have done. The me that he remembers from 29 years ago.
I can hear her right away, but then I really can’t turn and go in again. Of course she would be there, probably been waiting for me out here since she heard the news.
“You’re getting flowers?”
I nod. Try to hurry down the stairs towards the flower bed. “But you never get flowers anymore,” Gabby says smiling, leaning over the fence.
“No, I know,” I mumble, “but Thomas is …” she interrupts me, “Oh no, really?” We have been neighbours for too long, I really can’t stand her voice anymore. “So it is true what they say,” she is smiling a little to widely, “he is finally coming home.” 29 years ago I even think we were friends. I used to make an effort. Smile and make small talk every time we met, even invite her over. She would sit in my kitchen and talk for hours about all kinds of things that didn’t really matter to me, and I would listen. I didn’t like her then either, I just made that kind of effort anyway. I might have been a nicer person back then, could waste time for just anyone. Young and stupid, right? As if time is something we can afford to waste.
“Well, you must be very happy,” she says still leaning over the fence, as I grab the first yellow flower I see. I only need a small bouquet for the kitchen table, no need to have flowers in the living room as well. Thomas will probably want to watch TV and they’ll just be in the way. “You know Madeline is in town,” she says. I pretend like I don’t hear her. Madeline is her youngest daughter. I used to watch her kids when they were small, but it seems so long ago now, can’t say they were my favorites back then either. “Not to be forward, but I always liked Thomas and Madeline isn’t really seeing anyone these days.”
“Oh,” I just say.
“I didn’t mean it like that, Kaitlyn,” she says, but of course she meant it like that. How else could she have meant it? “It is just that, well you have gotten old, and you know how it is,” she says the word old as if it is some kind of disease I have gotten. So maybe I don’t wear makeup anymore or care that much about how I look, but people change. People do get old.
“I’m sorry Gabby,” I even try to smile, “there is just so much to fix before Thomas gets here,” I say as I hurry back up the stairs again.
I can hear the doorbell ring, but I just sit there looking at the yellow flowers at my kitchen table. They are too yellow, aren’t they? I shouldn’t have chosen them. He isn’t going to like them, for a moment I almost think it is better to throw them away, but there really should be flowers on the table. After all he always liked flowers. I shake my head, as if I hope that the stupid thoughts will just fall out. Of course they won’t, nothing is that simple. I get up, take a deep breath and walk slowly to the front door. Reach for it without hesitation. This just needs to happen now.
“Mrs. Wilson?” the smiling man says.
I nod. I can’t see Thomas.
“You’re prepared?” he says, still smiling.
I don’t get this. Where is Thomas?
“Of course,” I try to seem confident.
“Good, Mrs. Wilson,” the young man says. Turns towards the white car standing in the street. I can see the door open and a young woman is helping Thomas to get out.
“Your husband has been through a lot,” the young man, who I guess haven’t bothered to introduce himself says, “He will need all your patience if this is going to work.”
I nod, for a moment it feels hard to breathe. He looks the same. Exactly the same. His brown hair, a little too long. It always was. Those brown eyes that all the girls always seemed to like a little too much. He smiles now as he sees me. They must have prepared him good, or maybe he thinks I’m my mother. I don’t know. He looks happy though. He loosens the young woman’s grip on his arm and hurry towards me. I can see that he is limping. I don’t move. It is really him. It is Thomas. Just like that. 29 years later.
“Kaitlyn,” he says, as he puts his arms around me and hugs me a little harder than what is comfortable. “I never thought I would see you again.”
“I know,” I try to smile, but I can feel myself grow weak in his arms, “I never thought I would see you again either.”
Oh, I stayed the night but they told me I should have gone
“Where have I heard this song before?” he turns towards me. I didn’t think I would be able to find the old cassette, but I found it in one of the boxes at the attic.
“It’s the song they played in our wedding.”
They said you didn’t really want me around
He seems to be thinking about something. “It’s kind of a sad song for a wedding.” He is right about that. It is.
Oh, I know how it feels when people get you down
“Why did we choose this song?”
“To piss your family off, I think,” I try to smile. I look at him as he sits there pushing his food around the plate, not seeming to know what to do with it.
“Oh,” he smiles back at me, “well, that seem like a good enough reason.”
I just never thought it would be you this time around
“They didn’t want us to marry?”
“No not really.”
“Oh, you know,” I probably should have worn makeup, maybe I should have coloured my hair. Tried. I just couldn’t let myself try like that, “I wasn’t really good enough for you,” I try to make it sound like a joke, but I wasn’t really. Don’t think I even believed it back then.
“Are they coming to visit?”
But the stars aren’t shining down on us tonight
“Do we have any kids?”
I nod. “Many?”
“Two,” I hesitate, “A boy and a girl. You don’ remember them?”
“I remember some things,” he seems insecure again, “I was almost sure that we had kids,” he talks slowly, seems so focused, as if he is trying to untangle everything.
“Well, Debbie is 35 in a couple of days and Carter is 37.”
“Oh, how strange,” he says and I can see that his hands are shaking for a moment.
And the things we said have all been said before
“I almost wish that they were younger,” he says, looks suddenly so worried, “at least younger than me.” He puts the fork down. Stops trying to eat. They told me eating probably wouldn’t be easy in the beginning, but as long as I get him to take his vitamins he should be fine.
But I still think that you are the only one
I press the stop button on the old cassette player.
“Are they coming to visit?”
“No, I told them to wait until tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” he still looks so worried, looking down on his shaking hands, “probably a good idea.”
“Don’t you worry,” I try to sound confident, “I’ll be here until you feel like yourself again.”
They said that it could take a couple of months, but then he should be fine. Things get normal faster than you think. Shit changes all the time and then you just get used to it. I know.
“And then what?” he looks up at me. Looks at me like I know everything, like I get how everything will become right again.
“I’ll move out, find myself a new place,” I say the words quickly, “You can stay in the house.”
“I’ll stay in the house?” he looks around the room as if he is confused, as if he doesn’t even know this house. “All alone?” We lived here for five years together, not that long a time, but they said that it was important for him to live in a place that he had felt connected to before. I think we were happy here, at least that is how I remember it.
“Oh, probably not for long.”
“What do you mean?”
He looks confused again. My Thomas. I used to think of him like my Thomas.
“You’ll probably find someone new quite quickly,” I say as I walk to the kitchen. Need to do the dishes.
I can hear him, but I don’t answer. He will, or someone will find him, either way. I don’t want it to be that Madeline girl. I have seen her, with that long, blonde hair of hers, those big breasts and that sour expression on her face. No, it will have to be someone else. Someone nice at least. Maybe someone that reminds me of myself, you know, when I was younger.
He is knocking on my bedroom door. I have locked it. Not that I thought it was necessary, but they told me that it would probably be a good idea in the beginning. Apparently, he can be more unpredictable at night, get easily confused. To be honest I think they said I probably should lock him in his room, but I just couldn’t make myself do that. He has never liked small rooms, always been a bit claustrophobic.
“Kaitlyn, are you awake?”
I don’t answer. “I can’t sleep.”
I get up. Turn on the light, but don’t open the door.
“Did you take your pills?”
Now he is the one that doesn’t say anything. He probably hasn’t taken those pills. I know him. Doesn’t like pills much either. “You know, you can’t sleep without them.”
“Maybe I could sleep in there with you?”
I can feel my heart beating a little too fast.
“No,” I hesitate, “I don’t think that is a good idea.” I struggle to find the words “Just go to sleep, Thomas.” I turn off the light. “We’ll talk in the morning.”
The night goes so quickly, like I can’t wait for it to be morning again. Something feels different somehow. I get up. Put on some clothes without really thinking. Unlock the door. His pillow and blanket is lying in the middle of the hallway, but he is already up. Standing there looking at one of the paintings.
“Did you sleep here?”
He nods. “Yeah,” he shrugs, his hair is all messy. Must have just woken up as well. “Did you paint this?”
“I didn’t know that you could paint.” He didn’t know that. Probably because I didn’t know that I could back then.
“When did you paint this?”
He looks surprised, looks at the painting again.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I do. Remember how I would sit and listen to that song. Listen, cry and paint. In the beginning that was all I could do. Mum had to come and take care of the kids. It was like I couldn’t think back then. Took a while to get my head straight again, for a while I just painted.
“What is it called?”
“Like the song?”
“It’s very good,” he says smiling.
I don’t say anything. I just don’t know what to say. “Did you ever think of putting it on display?” Too many years have gone by, too many pictures have been painted. Some even of other men. Feeling the colours blend into each other. Still that first painting, I guess I wanted to keep it for myself.
“No not that one, but the others.”
“There are others?” he smiles, has this expression of amazement on his face.
“There are many.”
“So, you are a painter,” he shakes his head, still smiling, “I guess something good came from it then.”
“I don’t know what to say to them,” he is standing there looking out the window. I can see that he is biting his lip. He always did that when he was nervous.
“You don’t need to say anything special,” I brush some dust of his shirt. “Just be yourself,” It sounds like a stupid advice. I know.
“I have grandkids?”
“You do, but they’re not coming today.”
I can see Carter get out of the car. Debbie seems to need a moment or something. She is at least not coming out of the car yet. “What did they say when you told them?”
He looks at them as Debbie finally opens the door. Carter looks like he could be his brother. I know. They are similar. Debbie has so many of his features as well.
“They were very happy,” I say, trying to smile. They weren’t happy. They said that it was wrong. Dead people need to stay dead, Debbie said that, sounded so hard when she said it, even if she had loved her father so much when she was a kid. Mum, I can’t believe that you of all people, who say that you want things to be natural, can do this, I remember it well. That’s my Debbie. She was disappointed with me. They wouldn’t talk to me for months after I had decided. Until one day when they finally gave in. Came over to the house, wanted to know what was going to happen. I told them I didn’t know. Because that always was the truth. I didn’t know. I can feel his hand reach for mine. Hold on to it a little too hard.
“It’s going to be fine,” I whisper, “everything will be fine.”
When they called and asked for my permission I didn’t say yes right away. I said I had to think about it. I sat there in that kitchen listening to that song. Over and over again. The whole night until the morning, and then I called them. Said that they should do it. That I was prepared. Just bring him back, I said, I’ll figure out the rest.
I hope you have enjoyed “Sunday Morning”, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories
About the song:
Vocals/lyrics/guitar: Therese J(Me)
Mixing: Holger Vocke
If you like the images that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com. All the photos have been edited, but the first photo is by doctor_bob, the second photo(SoundCloud) and third photo is by pippalou, the fourth photo is by mzacha, the fifth photo is by cremersniels, the sixth photo is by cohdra, the seventh photo is by TheBrassGlass and the last photo is by hvpinkle.
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