After the Wake by Gayle Marien
Len died on Thursday and I buried him on Tuesday.† In the days between, I meant to cry but my tears, packed dense with sorrow, were stuck in their ducts.† My time was eaten along with my biscuits, by visitors and relatives who came to sip tea from my best china and tut tut their sorries in hushed voices.† Helen flew down from Sydney to bid her father farewell and then on Tuesday evening, departed along with everyone else when the cakes and stories ran out.
Afterwards I sit alone in the dark wondering what the use of me is.† I have been daughter, wife, mother and carer.† All of you, you were the markers upon which I measured my worth.††† You have cut me adrift and I float, borne along by a tide bound for unknown foreign shores.
In the morning, I make tea and toast, one serve.† I collect the newspaper and lay it flat.† Today I am the first to read it.† I dwell on the ordered crispness of its new pages, the way they feel, the way they fall, the way they smell.† I pause at the crossword, its random checkerboard beckoning pristine.† I read the cartoon strips and decide for myself if they are funny.
The emptiness of mid-morning hunts me out of the house.† At the bank, a very patient young man explains that I have to wait for a death certificate to finalise our affairs.† He helps me open my own account and orders me an EFTPOS card.
When the card arrives in the mail, I stare at it for a long time, at my name stamped in sharp relief, a singular bold statement.† I close my eyes and run my finger over it, savouring the feel of it, this beautiful EFTPOS Braille.† For two days following, I watch eagerly for the postman from behind lace curtains, anticipating the arrival of my Personal Identification Number.
At the supermarket I buy what I want, I donít check my cash first, I donít keep a tally as I go.† A charming young lady at the checkout shows me how to use the card and enrolls me in their loyalty program.†† My trolley in tow, I go to the food court and sit joyfully sipping a cup of tea I havenít made myself.
Sometimes in the evenings, I watch movies Iíve seen before just because I liked them so much the first time.† Sometimes I knit or read with the room lights up high and go to bed when Iím tired no matter how early or late.
One afternoon I go into a gift shop and spend over an hour admiring the delicate treasures for sale.† With my EFTPOS card I buy a little statuette, a beautiful cream skinned young girl in an elegant flowing gown.† I name her Cinderella.
At home, I place Cinderella on the mantle at the end of a line of photos. My parents, Len, Helen, Cinderella.† Daughter.† Wife.† Mother.† Me.
Winning Entry: Countdown
Third Place: The Prisoner