The Park Bench (short story)

As promised, I have written a little short story to go with the picture of the park bench I found. I find short stories quite hard to write actually and so this was an interesting challenge. All I can say is, I hope you like it and do let me know what you think.

Sheri looked at the bench in shock. If she hadn’t stopped to tie the laces on her trainers and looked up, she would have missed it. Repeatedly, she read the inscription. It wasn’t the usual dedication to a departed loved on, it read:

Sheri, if you want to sing out, sing out

Rooted to the spot, Sheri knew the message was for her. Only one person in the world said that. Tear began to well in her eyes. The knee that she was leaning on began to hurt and it forced her to stand up. On shaky legs Sheri began to walk away, sobbing, causing the other people in the park to walk a safe distance around her.

So many questions whirled around her head. But the chief one was, how long had it been there? How often had she walked past and never noticed her father’s message.

Sheri completely forgot about the reason she had left her flat in the first place. She dragged her heavy body all the way back home. It had been three years since he had gone.

As she turned the key in the lock, a fresh wave of heavy tears escaped. It was uncontainable, this unexpected grief, like a tidal wave.

While she lay on her sofa and pulled the cover up to her ears, she paid no attention to how much time had passed. After a time, the deluge of tears ebbed away. Sheri wiped her eyes and sat up. Her breath came a little easier and she realised it was the shock of the unexpected that had got her. She had learned to live without his laughter and to stop expecting him to elbow her playfully. Sheri missed how he used to wind up her mum to the point of rage. She thought of the inscription and Sheri could hear his voice with every word, as if he was sitting right next to her.

Now that she could breath again, Sheri picked up her phone and called her mother.

“Hi Sheri. Everything ok?”

“Yes mum I…”

“Oo, have you got a cold?” Her mother interrupted.

“Um, no. I’ve been crying.”

“Oh sweetheart what’s the matter?”

Sheri took a deep breath and explained what she had seen. She expected her mother to also flood with tears, instead she chuckled.

“You finally saw it huh?” she asked.

Sheri felt a flash of anger and snapped, “What do you mean ‘you finally saw it?’ How long has it been there?”

Her mother answered her calmly, “Four years Sheri.”

After a long pause her mum asked, “Sheri? You still there?”

Sheri’s lip trembled, as she realised it had been there for so long and she didn’t even notice. She felt ashamed, hurt and little humiliated.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought about it, honestly I did, but your father made me swear to keep it a secret. He said when you were ready you would see it and learn to be brave again. Remember how he always used to say it when you were little and scared?”

“Yeah I do. He told me to sing loudly at the monster to frighten them away. And whenever there was school plays or whatever made me nervous. But four years mum, that he means he did it before he was sick.”

Her mother sighed, “That’s right. I even asked him if I could tell you when we found out about the tumour but he was convinced you would find it…he was right. Even now.”

Sheri could feel her mother’s sad smile in her tone.

“I walk past that bench almost everyday. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

Sheri smiled, “Be a little braver I suppose.”

“Good girl. How was your date?”

Sheri gasped. “Mum I have to go.”

That’s why she was heading into town. She grabbed her handbag and keys and ran out of the door.

She was glad that she was only officially thirty minutes late. She quick fired a poorly written message to Gavin:

Soz. late maki g way nw.

Sheri remembered how her day was supposed to go. She decided to do a little shopping in the farmers market before getting ready for her late lunch date. She had gotten to the park roughly around ten thirty and that’s when she nearly tripped on her laces, bent down to sort them out and looked up.

The thought of the inscription gave her comfort, that it had been there all this time, almost felt he had been there all this time, supporting her, cheering her on.

Sheri practically ran to the restaurant that she had agreed with Gavin. She flew in and everyone stopped to look at the wild woman in the doorway. Her braids were falling down and sticking out in places, her slogan t-shirt half tucked in and her cardigan was around her arms falling down. Ripped jeans and trainers completed the look.

Gavin smiled and raised his hand to get her attention. She walked over to him and he realised that this was not the well put together Sheri he knew. As she sat down, he noticed her red eyes.

“Everything ok?” He asked sincerely.

In that moment of quiet, Sheri felt tears coming back to the surface and without her conscious permission her mouth opened and told Gavin everything.

Gavin sat and listened to her. It was the most passionate and lovely he had ever seen her. She was cool and collected, pristine almost too much in the office. But now he could see her, really see her.

Once she had finished, he took her hand.

“I lost my dad a year ago. I would have loved a message like that from him. Shall we go see it?”

That made he stop still and remember she was supposed to be on a date.

“I’m sorry I realise that…”

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s go.”

Gavin stood up and went to pay for his drink and they walked out of the restaurant together.

Slowly, they walked back to the park and she led him sheepishly to the bench. They stood in front of it for a while and Gavin plucked up enough courage to put his arm around her. She welcomed his comfort.

Without looking at him she commented, “This is not what a date with me usually is like with me.”

Gavin chuckled, “Its definitely unexpected Sheri. But for some reason it’s the best date I have ever had.”

Sheri looked up at him and smiled and he returned her warmth.

“So, are you a singer?”

“Oh god no.” she exclaimed, “I was way to shy when I was a kid, he wanted me to use my voice more. He used to get me to sing loudly whenever I was frightened.”

“So now you are a lawyer.” He nodded.

Sheri looked at the bench again and she smiled warmly. It may have taken her four years to finally notice the message her father had left her, but she was as her mother described, a late bloomer.

Sheri was glad that this bench was here, she would visit it often.

Sheri turned to Gavin, “Can I buy you an ice cream? There is a little café just a little way into the park.”

Gavin smiled again, “I would love that.”

#shortstory #writing #outofcomfortzone #tryingsomethingnew

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