Discovery – short story

Justine lazed across her bed with her phone in her hand and scrolled through her facebook wall. She sighed as she navigated the status updates and photo posts her friends were uploading from their various summer holidays. Justine heard the front door unlock and the click-clack of her mother’s footsteps down the hall.

“I’m home.”

Justine rolled her eyes and turned in her bed to face the window. She opened her instagram app and clicked like on her best friend’s latest post from her holiday in the Gold Coast.

The home phone rang. Justine didn’t move.

“That’s fine, I’ll get it.” she heard her mother call out from somewhere in the house.

Justine groaned and sat up in her bed, she rubbed her face with her hands and scooted to the edge of the bed to grab her shoes. A quiet walk to the park was preferable to the guilt and charade of pretending to spend family time together.

“No!” Justine’s mother cried out and a loud thump could be heard.

Justine furrowed her brow and hobbled to the hallway with a single shoe on her left foot. Justine peeked her head around the corner and saw her mother slumped against the wall on the floor. She had her right foot tucked under as her other leg was splayed out. She was cradling the phone to her chest and had her other hand against her stomach, trying to control her heaving breaths.

Justine bit her lip and took a couple of hesitant steps towards her mother. She stood there, staring at her mother on the floor. Justine just held her shoe and stood there. Her face began to contort into a cringe as she waited for her mother to do something – anything.

Justine’s mother held the phone with both hands as she raised it to the side of her head.

“No,” she whimpered. “No.” She lifted her shirt and used it to wipe her face.

“I… I guess. I understand. I,” she leaned back her head and knocked it against the wall, using her free hand to cover her eyes. “I will get it sorted. I just can’t right now.” Justine’s mother ran her hand over her hair to smooth it and noticed Justine standing in the hall way.

Justine raised an eyebrow at her mother. Her mother just looked to the floor and covered her eyes again.

“I’ll talk to Mr Mackey. I’ve got to go now.” After a few seconds she hung up and waved her hand to Justine in a dismissive fashion as she tried to get up off the floor.

Justine ran over and put her hands under her mother’s arms to help her.

“What’s going on?”

Justine’s mother’s eyes were red and swollen. Her mascara had run down her face and watery mucus dripped from her nose. She turned those eyes to focus on Justine and shook her head almost imperceptibly.

“Your father is dead.” She pushed Justine away and stomped down the hall to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Justine stood there and looked around her. Her eyes darted across the photograph covered walls and the laminate floor. She opened her mouth as if to say something then closed it again. She shambled back to her room and sat on the bed. She could hear wailing and screams. Justine realised she was still holding her shoe. She put it on and stood up.

Justine gritted her teeth and grimaced as she walked to the front door. With her hand on the door knob she looked to her mother’s bedroom door. A quiet walk to the park was preferable to the guilt and charade of pretending to spend family time together.

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