The title of this short story – and the writing prompt – comes thanks to:
Regina sat on her hotel bed, holding her pillow tightly against her chest, burrowing her face into it as she cried. The frustration and anger pouring out of her freely.
Her overnight bag lay on the floor next to the bed, waiting for any final items that she would add to it tomorrow. The suitcase was carefully stored close to the door. All of her personal items were already in storage or shipped to Hong Kong, waiting for her to arrive there on Wednesday.
She punched the bed in anger.
How dare they?
She’d been ambushed today! Mum had called and invited her over for tea, and she had reluctantly agreed. Her going away party had been on Friday, and she was leaving on the 5.00 am flight in the morning. It made sense for a final goodbye to her mum before she left, even if she didn’t really want to see the tears.
As she’d parked her silver rental on the street, she’d noticed a car further up that looked somewhat like her sister’s car, but since it was 4 houses up and there were empty spaces on the driveway and the road, she hadn’t thought to double-check.
It hadn’t occurred to her everyone would be lurking and lying in wait for her!
The house seemed strangely silent as she’d rung the doorbell, waiting for her mum to answer. She was surprised when her ex answered the door. Her right hand trembled slightly, but she kept her gaze steely as she walked in.
Resting bitch face came in handy some days! This was one of those days – but she had no idea how bad it was going to get.
As she walked into the lounge room, she stopped in her tracks. Seated were her mum, dad, sister and brother-in-law, best friend — now ex-best-friend – ex-mother-in-law, and Jared was now taking a seat. They all looked at her expectantly – as if this were normal. Her two children, Max and Georgina, looked at her wide-eyed, like deers caught in the headlights. They looked terrified.
She swallowed deeply, pushing her warm brown hair back off her face and sitting down uncomfortably on the arm of the sofa where Max and Georgina nervously sat. It felt like the only remotely safe place in the room.
“No”, said her dad. “Let me get you a more comfortable chair.”
“I don’t need a more comfortable chair”, she retorted. “I won’t be staying long.”
“Oh, but we need to talk”, said George.
“Talk about what?”, Regina demanded from her brother-in-law. “And why to you, anyway?”
Sylvia, who she hadn’t dared to admit to herself was no longer really her best friend, started in “We just don’t think you should be moving to Hong Kong. I mean, you obviously haven’t thought things through and you’re making decisions that you will regret.”
Regina looked around the room in awe. Amazed at these people who she suddenly could no longer relate to. They truly did not know her. They had no idea who she was any more. Unaware that her mouth had dropped open as she looked around, she gazed at her mother with sorrow and swallowed.
“This”, she thought to herself. “Where do I even begin to explain?”
She stood up, once more, pulled her shoulders back and looked at each one of them slowly and intentionally, allowing the silence to speak for her.
Taking in another deep breath, she finally spoke,
“This is not negotiable — I’ve been thinking about and planning this move to Hong Kong for over two years. I only waited because I needed to be sure that Max and Georgina were settled in University and were confident of their choices and paths.
“I worked my ass off to get this job! I’ve spent months working on my presentations and the interview process.
“This is not some whim or escape plan! This is the life I am choosing to build for myself!
“I am so sorry that it’s not the life you would choose for me. I’m sorry if it upsets your plans and expectations. But guess what — I don’t care!
“I’ve done my duty! I did dutiful wife and mother. I raised my children and gave them everything they needed.
“I put everything I wanted aside for more than 20 years — but now my children have flown the nest. My nest is empty — and that means that I get to go and choose my next steps!
“I’m 43 years old – maybe entering the best part of my life — and I have the opportunity of a lifetime to work in the job of my dreams.
“So, I’m sorry – but screw all of you and your small minds and narrow views of what my life should be now.”
She drew in another deep breath to a stunned silence, and then continued:
“Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on that airplane and I’m going to go and do what I’ve always dreamed of doing.
“If any of you had been listening to me at all over the past 8 years, as I finished my undergraduate degree and Masters… if you had bothered to come to my presentations or cheered me on when I was getting accolades and prizes for the work I was doing, you might have noticed that I was growing and changing.
“I’m sorry you missed the signs that have been there all along.
“I guess you just don’t know me anymore.”
By this stage, there were tears running down her face — all the tears of the detachment of the last eight years. The recognition that these relationships were broken and they hadn’t even noticed.
Her sister stammered out a “but…”, while she was fetching her keys out of her purse, and murmuring to Max and Georgina how sorry she was that they had been needlessly put through this.
Her ex-mother-in-law stood up to block the doorway and insist that she at least hear them out as they apologised.
Regina turned to face the room and said “This is me saying goodbye — I’m moving to live in Hong Kong”, and proceeded to push past her and leave.
As she sat in the car, she started to giggle, almost hysterically — seven unwanted apologies that she hadn’t bothered to stick around for. “I need that like I need a hole in the head”.
As she headed back to her hotel room, she’d stopped for the last pumpkin spice latte before leaving California, not feeling overly nostalgic that life would change. But as she drove back to the hotel room, the tears had truly started to pour — not for the life that she was leaving for, but the realisation that those who supposedly loved and cared about her, didn’t really know her any more.
And today they had set themselves up to show the true state of affairs!
So here she sat on the hotel bed, hugging her pillow and holding the last dregs of her pumpkin spice latte. The last remains of a life that was and the future opening up before her.
As she drank down the last gulp, she realised this wasn’t worth crying over. What they say is true – the truth will set you free.
She was free to choose to be whoever she wanted to be.