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L is For....

by Abi Alexander 4 months ago in Pride Month
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Chapter 1.

L is For....
Photo by Lawrence Aritao on Unsplash

The worn oak floorboard groaned as if in protest as the heavy wardrobe was pushed into its final resting place in the corner of the bare room.

“Yeah, you and me both.”

Puffing, Norah pushed back the stray hair that had escaped from the grip of the bun that had been holding it in place and slumped against the wardrobe. The beast finally defeated.

After a full day of moving, Norah looked around the studio apartment with a sense of defeat. She had been at it nonstop since sunrise and, yet, there were still a mountain of unpacked boxes that seemed to loom mockingly over her.

Sighing, she lay down on the floor and flung her arms out to her side. Why didn’t any of the boss-ladies she followed on social media, who preached about ‘knowing your worth’ and ‘letting go of the past’, ever mention the monotony and slog of getting to that point?

Lying flat on her back with her eyes closed, she could see the studio as she wanted it to be. Crazy art up on the walls; a broken-in Chesterfield sofa at the foot of her bed; one of those slow-drip coffee makers - not that she drank coffee but she would pretend to for the aesthetic - and a nook for Noodle, the rescue cat she had yet to rescue.

A monstrous gurgling from Norah’s stomach bought her back to the sad reality of the studio as it was. Opening her eyes, she wrinkled her nose in annoyance at having to feed herself and reluctantly sat up. As she did so, her sleeve caught on the edge of a floorboard, snagging the cuff.

Picking at the sleeve, she shot the boards a furious look and saw one was not quite as level as the rest. Her curiosity peaked. She grabbed the box cutter, which she’d become intimately acquainted with, and used the edge to pry up the board.

Dust filled the space as the floorboard popped out of place. Wafting it away from her face, she peered into the space in eager anticipation and let out a little whoop of delight when she saw a notebook lying amongst the dirt the words ‘Margot’s Diary’ just legible on the front.

Pulling the book out of the space it had lay hidden, Norah’s hungry stomach was all but forgotten as she was flooded with an excited energy. This was what the people in the future would feel like; those who would uncover the time capsule full of childhood memorabilia she had buried decades ago, along with her classmates to commemorate the new millennium.

Opening the cover, she heard a satisfying crack of the spine, as if it was stretching after a long time lying still. Where the writing on the cover was faded, the inside was in pristine condition as if the words had been written just days before. Whatever these pages contained, time had kept their secrets well.

The handwriting that flowed across the page was neat, small and very feminine. It reminded Norah of the writing on the shopping lists her grandma would spend every Sunday morning putting together ahead of their weekly outing.

After Norah’s eyes had scanned the page, she returned to the first line and her eyes widened in an almost comical was as she read neatly written at the top of the page:


My name is Margot Declate. The year is 1926. I am 29 years old. I am the wife of Ray and mother to Elise 3, and Thomas 5. And I have a secret.

With that, Norah abandoned what had anyway been a very loose idea of cooking herself something and picking herself up from the floor, she placed the diary gently on the bed, flung herself next to it and opened up her favourite take-away app. A creature of habit, she did not bother to look at what new possibilities in this part of the city and went straight to her favourites tab.

A sick feeling that hit her stomach when she realised, just before hitting the order button, that she had subconsciously added Paige’s order to her own. The feeling lasted only a few seconds and the ache she registered felt a little less than it had the previous week when she had done the same thing.

Norah grabbed the blanket from the end of the bed, tucked the diary under her arm, swiped her half-drunk can of blueberry soda from the counter and headed for the window bay by the apartment’s fire escape.

“Ok Margot” she mumbled to the empty room, “Let’s find out this secret of yours”.

“My name is Margot Declate. The year is 1926. I am 29 years old. I am the wife of Ray and mother to Elise 3, and Thomas 5. And I have a secret.

But I’ll get to that later on”

‘”Oh what?” Norah cried in outrage.

“First, dear diary or whomever might read these pages, I want to say this: I love my family. Let there be no doubt of that.

My children mean the world to me. Nothing brings me more joy than when Thomas marches in from the yard, brandishing his favourite stick, telling me at a hundred miles an hour what adventures he and his knights have just been on. Or when I wake Elise from her afternoon nap and she greets me, eyes half closed with arms out stretched, ready to nestle into my neck where I can breathe her in.

And Ray. I have heard stories from the ladies at the fate lunches of the harsh tones in which their husbands talk to them; the expectations they have of what should be done around the house and the reprimands if they are not.

Ray is none of that. He is a kind and caring man. He was a kind and caring boy, so it should come as no surprise. He was always found moving the storm-strewn worms that found themselves on the unknown sidewalk back to their grassy dwellings rather than pulling them apart as his counterparts were want to do.

He is everything I could and did dream of as a husband back when I was playing pretend with Frances, of what we wanted our lives as grown-ups to be and how fast we wanted to get there.

He goes out to work without complaint. He does more than his share of the work with the children and on the days he can see I’m struggling, he steps in, makes the dinner and ushers me into the bedroom to lie down. He loves me in a more complete way than I could have ever hoped for. And yet...

Something isn’t right. I’ve tried to force myself to feel it, to convince myself that I love him and our family the way they love me. But I don’t.

Writing those words brings a bile to the back of my throat that feels like it could choke me. This is the first time I’ve written these word., I would never speak them - it feels too much like a betrayal but writing them has freed something in me. I need more. I want more. Is there something wrong with me?”

Norah’s lap began buzzing as her phone vibrated incessantly. She swiped to answer expecting to hear the familiar dulcet tones of her favourite delivery driver. Instead there was silence.

“Uh, hello? Can you not find the buzzer? I’ll be right down” and she swung her legs onto the floor.

“Oh! Um! Norah?”

She froze in mid-movement. That was definitely not Hank’s throaty voice.

“Its Kayleigh. We went for a drink last week and… um… you stayed over? I hadn’t heard from you and I know you mentioned you were moving so I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.”

Norah’s mind flooded with panic. Desperately trying to put the face to the name. The short-haired brunette? No, that was Mina or Merrit or something. The red-head with the round glasses? Absolutely not. That was definitely a ‘T’ name, Terry? Besides after the night they had had together, it was very unlikely she’d be reaching out to do that again.

Eventually Norah realised she’d have to wing it. She wasn’t going to be able to remember this girl and, for the briefest of moments, she felt a flush of shame. Winging it had served her in pretty well so far in both her professional and personal lives and had gotten her out of more than one sticky situation.

“Right! Right! Kayleigh. Of course. I was absolutely meaning to call. I must have misplaced your number during the move” she lied smoothly as if numbers were something that were still given on pieces of paper and not typed straight into phone screens nowadays.

“It’s actually been a bit of a tricky time. My – er - grandpa had some health issues in the week so with the move it’s been a lot so I’m just taking some time. I absolutely will call you now I’ve got your number again.”

She made a mental note to not mention her grandpa in excuses again for a little while in case it triggered some sort of karmic event for him. Not that she know how his health was. He hadn’t spoken to her since she moved in with Paige six years before but the love she had for him from a childhood spent picking tomatoes in his garden meant she’d never wish him ill. However, it did make her feel less guilty about using his fictious illness to get her out of second dates – or, in this case first dates.

“Oh I’m so sorry. If you need anything, please just let me know, I can do groceries or whatever….’”

The flat intercom let out a low whine and the last of Norah’s attention that had been focused on the conversation vanished as she realised that she was mere minutes away from biting into her favourite bao buns.

“Sure, sure. Thanks, I… er… gotta go. Visiting hours and stuff.”

She hung up the phone and instantly, Kayleigh was gone from her mind as she raced towards the intercom and buzzed the door open.

With food securely in the flat, she peered into one of the open boxes and grabbed a mixing bowl in which to empty her food. The beauty of it being the first night in the new flat was that she felt justified in using the item for a different function. As if it wasn’t something she regularly did when she wasn’t living out of a box.

She climbed back into her window seat nest and opened up the diary once again, cursing as a small drop of sauce dripped onto the centre of the page.

Marked 3.5.26, the next entry began in stark contrast to the end of the first.

“Why won’t the children ever listen? Why must they go against me at every turn as if it is some kind of game? Now Thomas has his poor arm in a cast and won’t be able to do any of the tree climbing he loves so much.

And, I know it’s cruel – but, serves him right. I feel terrible writing that. What mother thinks that? But I do. I can’t say otherwise.

When his father speaks he listens to him instantly, even though we say the same things.

How many times have we both told him not to climb the tree when he is in the garden alone? How many times has he done so when his father is around? None. And yet, I may as well be speaking to the air for all the good it does me.

I saw the look that Ray gave me when he met us at the hospital. It was a look he rarely uses. Disappointment. As if I had pushed Tommy from the tree myself. As if I should have my eyes on him constantly. Instead of feeling shame or regret, I felt angry. Who was he to judge me? He swans home every night, reads them a story and kisses their eagerly waiting heads before bed. It’s me that gets every sullen mood; every “No” or “Won’t”. Even Elise is starting to pick up on it now and it’s just exhausting.

As his father cooed over Thomas in bed and promised him we would buy him the model plane he had swooned over in the shop window last week, I felt light-headed, I could feel the blood pounding in my head and I had to leave the room.

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even make it into one of the bathroom stalls before the tears came pouring out. I held onto the sides of the sink and tried to calm my breathing.

I heard the creak of the old hinges on the stall doors and suddenly a young nurse came into view in the mirror. Her golden curls framed high cheek bones and in three quick steps, she was there to comfort me.

“O,h there, there. You’re ok.”

Her soft voice came out almost as a lullaby.

She held my face tenderly in her hands and when our eyes met a blush began rising in my cheeks and I had to quickly excuse myself. It was such a brief moment but it felt so intimate and sent a tingle through my whole body that I was still feeling on the silent car ride home with Ray.

Now, when I should be thinking my poor Tommy or how to prove to Ray that I am an attentive mother, I’m thinking about that nurse’s touch on my face and how the pale skin on her collarbone was slightly exposed at the opening of her tunic.

Back in the chaotic-looking studio apartment, Norah stifled a yawn. Goddamit, why did she have to be so tired just when it was getting good? She read the same line three times her eyes closing a little more each time. The sudden echo of the diary hitting the wooden floor as it slipped from her hands jolted her awake and she admitted defeat.

Bringing the diary to bed with her, she placed it in the space next to her reluctant for some unknown reason to let it out of her sight. She checked her phone and felt a mixture of relief and irritation that none of her other previous week’s hook-ups had tried to get in contact with her.

Throwing back the covers, she settled into bed, bringing the duvet right up under her chin. Even after three months and multiple washes, it still seemed to hold on to Paige’s smell - like a fresh autumn day, with just a hint of spice. Norah felt a familiar sense of sadness threaten to settle in her stomach. She grabbed her phone and quickly opened up the first of several dating apps she had on there and smiled when she saw the flurry of unread messages that pinged onto the screen. The loneliness monster was caged for another evening as she began to make her way through them planning her outings for the coming week.

Pride Month

About the author

Abi Alexander

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