Reka Hall - Stories on the shelf

If Only...

If only… Molly woke up that morning feeling relieved. She went to wash her face to wake herself up from this terrible state. When she looked in the mirror her face was pale, and her breathing was heavy her heart was beating fast. She kept slapping herself saying - ‘It was just a dream’. The phone rang, it was Gary… Molly lived on her own in a flat in London. Her parents bought it for her when she turned 18, so she didn’t have to pay rent while she was studying. Her parents moved to the country. She had a very normal life. She worked 5 days a week in an office. She went to the gym every day. She went out with her friends couple of times a week to discuss what they had achieved, usually they talked about work, relationships, what was going on in the world, what they did in the gym, who got married, who got divorced, who is pregnant next; the usual topics. Gary, her boyfriend lived at the other end of town. Most of the time she didn’t think what she had was enough. She envied her friends and colleagues. The angels were listening every day. Molly remembered her dream; she still remembered the details. It was the next morning. She went to take out the rubbish when she had seen the neighbours while they were leaving to work giggling. She thought - ‘If only my boyfriend lived with me, so we could giggle like them.’ She had a funny butterfly feeling in her stomach. A week later the Gary called, the owners put the flat he was renting on the market for sale. He had nowhere to live, nowhere else to go. He asked if he could move in with her until he finds another place to live in. She happily agreed and wrapped her arm around him. She thought ‘Wow, my wish came true, I am so ecstatic right now I could jump’. Once Gary moved in, they emptied all the boxes, Molly made sure he felt welcomed. She cooked for him every evening and they watched movies he picked most of the evenings. One day Molly received an invitation to a wedding. She took Gary as her plus one for the occasion and they enjoyed themselves. She stared at the happy couple, they looked so joyful it was like a fairy tale, she thought - ‘If only Gary proposed to me so we could be married and end up as happy as them.’ She had the butterflies again, but she didn’t pay any attention to it, she thought it was just the joy while Gary asked her to dance with him. The next week he had seen tons of emails about lovely holiday places in his inbox. He tried to imagine how much fun it would be to go away for a week to show his appreciation to Molly. She was thrilled when she heard that he booked a week holiday with her to Cape Verde. They had fun, laughter, romance, watching sunsets on the sandy beach walking holding hands. Gary felt mesmerised by her, the way her eyes lit up every time he kissed her or held her hands. Gary decided to propose to Molly after the holiday. When they came back life returned to the normal pace. He found the perfect ring. He took Molly to Hyde Park for a surprise romantic picnic. They had champagne, sandwiches and cupcakes for dessert. She was sitting on the terracotta blanket feeling blessed. He proposed and she happily said yes. When they finally decided to pick a date and the venue, Molly asked her two best friends to help her planning the wedding. One of them announced she was pregnant. Molly couldn’t believe she would announce this while they were planning her wedding. She felt she was behind, all she ever wanted is to be a mother. She saw the glow in her friend’s eyes, and she thought ‘If only I could fall pregnant, so I could experience the wonderful motherhood like she did.’ A shiver went through Molly with the butterflies. 6 months later Molly and Garry got married, and on their honeymoon she announced she fell pregnant. After 9 months of waiting their baby boy arrived. They called him Jack. That moment was unforgettable to her. She didn't sleep much for a year and they got agitated and sleep deprived. Her friends never told her about how hard it is to raise a child. Molly’s parents lived too far from London to commute and they had no space for them to satay and help. She had to go back to work and her husband worked extra hours to have more money saved. One day the Molly’s friends came for a tea and to meet her little boy. Her friends announced they bought a house with a garden. She was shocked at first but started thinking. A house would give more space and a garden would be just what my little boy needed. She wouldn't have to trace with a buggy to the parks, her husband could sleep better with the extra room for their baby boy. ‘If only we had a big house like them’ she thought. The shiver and the butterflies again hit Molly. Gary came home from work that day and Molly explained to him that she knew everything went so fast, but she really thought a house would solve their problems. Gary was happy to hear the news and said ‘Guess what, darling. My friend put his house on the market, we could get a good deal on it.’ This was the best news ever. They made an offer and it got accepted. Molly and Gary packed up what they had and moved in the house they bought within 3 months. They spent there 15 years. Little did they know back then about mortgages and school tuition fees. In that 15 years she had to work in 2 jobs and her husband had to do night shifts to be able to pay the mortgage. Jack started to feel disconnected as he barely seen his mum and dad. He decided to apply for a scholarship in a boarding school. Molly and Garry got separated while she was dealing with the fact her little boy wanted to move away. Molly felt devastated. She had seen all these couples living the dream while she lost almost everything. One of her friends came over for dinner and she announced that she was pregnant again and that this was her last chance for her to be able to carry a baby being 45. Molly got jealous that her friend didn't have to work for a year, knowing she had to go to 2 workplaces most of the time with long hours. She thought ‘If only I could spend more time at home like she does, so I could build my bond again with my little boy’ she said. Once her friend left, Molly went to the living room put on the television and just sat there on the sofa shivering. She tried with all her heart to imagine how great it would be if everything turned back to normal again. She got news in a week that she was made redundant. She didn’t know what to think, she was sad to leave all that behind but happy at the same time as she could finally start working on putting her family back together starting with her son. Her phone rang. Her best friend called her explaining how she freed herself from a bad marriage. How she found herself again and that you need to listen to our inner voice. Molly thought - ‘If only I could turn time back when everything was great again’. The angels heard her wish and decided it was time she woke up from this dream. They whispered - ‘Remember to listen to your inner voice – it will help you to find out what you want. Envy is not the way to go.’ Molly’s alarm went off. She opened her eyes and felt relieved. She appreciated everything in her flat. She opened the windows to let some fresh air in, enjoyed the sunshine on her face. She had her morning coffee and got ready to leave to work. Her phone rang it was Gary asking her to meet him before she started working that morning as he had to talk to her. She saw the neighbours leaving their flat giggling and she remembered her dream. Instead of wishing for what her neighbours had she thought – ‘Thank you for this beautiful day. From this day on I will listen to my inner voice. I will only make decisions based on what my heart says and will be more patient and will pursue my dreams when I am ready.’ She walked off while the angels giggled. Molly and Gary moved in together and got married and within 3 years they had a beautiful son, called Jack. They appreciated everything they had and lived happily not wanting more than what they could handle. They travelled around the world together and built a very close bond with Jack. They lived in a big family house for generations. They appreciated every moment of their life.

The rest will fall into place...

Sarah was 17 years old lived with her mum in a small town called Gosport. She had to make a big decision this year. She couldn’t make up her mind which subjects to choose for her A levels. She always loved photography, but she wanted to earn a decent salary, so she could afford to buy a house, and she could start a family. She never believed in herself enough to rely on photography, she didn’t think she was good enough. She wanted to travel before she had to leave the nest and start her studies at university. Little did she knew back then. It was a difficult time for her, she was only fourteen her dad, Peter passed away. He always said to her, “you need to choose a profession that makes you happy, one that doesn’t make you feel forced to go to work every day, the rest will fall into place.” Her dad's words were always powerful and made her think from a different angle. She missed her dad every day. She had a close relationship with her mum, but what she had with her dad was special. Peter understood her even when things seemed very confusing. Josie had to work long hours to be able to pay for the bills, mortgage, food and Sarah's afterschool activities. This meant that she barely had any quality time to spend with her daughter. Sarah learnt to cope with her mum not being around, but at times like this, when she had to make big decisions, she needed her to be there. She sat down and started a pro and con list about her dream professions, and the salary brackets, she also made a list of places she wanted to see before starting the university. She narrowed down the list to two professions sales executive or business analyst. She was always good with numbers and she thought she it was essential for her happiness to have a respectable career, in order to build her future. It was dark outside, she sat at the table with the light on for ages going through different aspects of her research. Josie woke Sarah up the next day as she found her daughter’s notes open with her lying next to them on the kitchen table. She asked her to reveal her big decision while they had breakfast. Sarah was very tired and moody after a sleepless night, but she agreed in the end. She explained to her mum that she still loved photography but as an amateur it would be hard to make a living out of it, so she decided to keep it as a hobby and focus on the real deal. Josie didn’t say anything. Josie had a doctor’s appointment that week. She had to go as her last blood test showed an indication of having cancer. The doctor explained she had to have an MRI to confirm where the tumour might be located. She managed to get a hospital appointment the following day. The MRI confirmed she had a tumour in her ovaries. She needed a biopsy to confirm it was cancerous. They scheduled a biopsy for the next month. It didn’t feel right to tell Sarah at this stage, when she had so much on her plate already. Not only did she have A levels in a year’ time, in the summer she was going away to America to be an intern at a newspaper as a photography intern. They offered her a place in a project studying poverty in Mexico. Sarah had already accepted the placement and made it clear how important it was to her to have a break before tying herself for the next 3 years in studies again. A month later it was confirmed. Josie’s biopsy came back positive for cancer. They agreed that as it was at an early stage and they would try six months of radiotherapy first and rule out chemotherapy for now. She decided it still wasn’t the right time to say anything to Sarah, her best friend helped her to figure out a cover story for the appointments. “The length mums go to protect their children”, she thought. Sarah spent the next year studying hard to prepare for her A levels and was looking forward to the trip to America. She was in a very good mood as she finally got her flight tickets. While she went through the post, she noticed a letter from the hospital addressed to her mum. She waited till her mum got home that day and asked what that letter was about. She got her mum off guard, so she finally told Sarah that she had been diagnosed with ovaries cancer and had numerous radiotherapies, but it didn’t really work so now she needed chemotherapy. Sarah was in shock and she ran off to her room and slammed the door. “How could she”, she thought. Her dreams were about to fall apart. Josie was crying in the other room feeling guilty for not telling her daughter the truth, for not trusting her to handle such big news, and trust her to be able to make her own decisions. They both looked up the sky thinking of Peter as the moonlight shined on their faces. When they finally settled down, they slowly drifted off to sleep dreaming. Peter was sitting on a bench. Sarah sat down next to him. “Dad, I don’t understand why mum kept this from me”, she said, “I had the right to know”. “My dear Sarah, I know it is hard to understand sometimes why grownups do silly things, but please try and put yourself in her shoes for a second. She knew how important this trip was to you. She knew how much you loved photography, and that you were willing to give this up just to have a job that you might hate. She believed in you and she always imagined you doing something with your passion. She was worried you might regret your decision. She knew you would probably cancel your trip had she told you, so she decided to keep it from you, in a way giving you a chance to live your dream even for a short while” explained Peter. “I missed you Dad. I know mum always wants what’s best for me, but I should be there for her too. She is all I have. I am worried if I went away now and something happened then I would blame myself for the rest of my life.”, continued Sarah. “I think there is only one thing you can do to resolve this. You must sit down and talk to each other honestly. That would be the best way to be there for each other. As to your future, make sure you choose wisely, trust me when I say this, life is too short, and you need to have some fun in life, trust me the rest will fall into place.”, said Peter. ‘Thank you, Dad. Thank you for explaining me this I think you are right; I must speak to her.”, said Sarah and slowly put her head on his shoulder. They sat there for hours looking at the clouds passing. Josie looked at the bench, and she noticed it was Peter sitting there. She sat down next to him. At first, they were just looking at each other trying to take in the moment. Peter broke the silence. “My dear Josie, I am so sorry, I know about your condition. It must have been tough going through this on your own. Please know I am always with you and guard you from above. I know Sarah can be very fiery sometimes, just give her some time to process all of this.”, he said. “I missed you, my darling Peter, I miss you every day since you left us. I wish you were here with me. I am scared, you know, I don’t want Sarah to be left on her own. I just wanted what’s best for her. I am so worried that she would make a mistake, not following her dreams and end up unhappy for the rest of her life. She is so stubborn, but life is too short to work long hours and not have any fun, she doesn’t know it yet, she is still young. I want to be there for her until I can.”, she burst out in tears. “Now, now. I think you know it too, to resolve this you must talk to her. Woman to woman, you need to tell her everything.”, he smiled reassuringly at Josie whilst he wiped her tears away, and continued, “She is a mature girl and you must trust her to be able to absorb this and make her own choices. If she decided to go through with studying business and sales, it’s her decision, but for sure she would learn from it. At the end of the day she needs to know how you really feel and what you really think.” They paused, Josie was just looking into his eyes and felt whole again. “You are right my darling. Thank you for once again for being here for us. I will miss you as always, every day.”, she said, sobbing. Peter held her hands tightly. “Before you go, there was one more thing I wanted to tell you. Once you recover from this horrible disease, because you will; please cherish the moments, like they were your last, make them count, open up to the world. Please go and do all the things you couldn’t because of looking after me or Sarah. She is about to go to university one way or another, so please have some fun, try and live a little. The money you earn will not give you joy but will pay you for flight tickets to have new memories and some adventure - so do it while you can. I will be with you the whole time.”, said Peter with teary eyes. “I will try my best, my dear Peter. I will do it for you, I will do it for us.”, she promised whilst wrapping her arms around Peter and held him sitting there. The time stopped for a moment. She didn’t want to wake up, she wanted to hold him forever. The next morning, they went to the kitchen and decided to have the day for themselves. They shared their dreams to the littlest details, they talked through all their doubts and they made a promise to live their life from that day onwards with full of joy. Sarah went to America for the summer and became an established photographer, people approached her with all sorts of assignments. Soon she started a small business as a wedding planner and photographer. She took a leap year and signed up to photo competitions and won some of them. She started a photography and design degree at the university the year after. She took out a student loan, so her mum could use the money saved up for her studies towards the trips she always wanted to do. Josie recovered from cancer and travelled to many places like India, New Zealand, Australia. She also retired early and helped Sarah with her wedding business baking wedding cakes. Mum and daughter were closer than ever and travelled to many places together. They learnt that if they believed in and made steps towards their dreams anything could happen, and the rest fell into place. New memories filled their life, they didn’t take things for granted and finally they lived.