unravelled by LydiaJayne

14 Mar

Getting ready for the annual Easter gathering was difficult at the best of times, but Julia was finding it more stressful than usual.  That wasn’t entirely unexpected in the months since her divorce, most things were but even choosing what to wear seemed to be more challenging this year.

The only bright side, one which made her almost grateful for the divorce, was that if she were still married, her husband would have been haranguing her about her inability to be punctual.

She glanced at the clock and finally grabbed at a sweater in her closet. No, he wouldn’t be, she corrected herself, since there was no way I’d be this late if he were here.

When they’d started dating, she’d been teased about the trouble that would come of dating a man whose professional slogan demanded punctuality.  She should have taken the hint.

“Erica! Jason! Hurry up!” She checked her reflection quickly, relieved to discover that her clothes did, in fact, match.

The sweater she’d instinctively chosen was not new she was certain she’d worn it to a previous open house, as a matter of fact but she loved it, felt good in it, and armour would be necessary.

She didn’t see either of her children as she passed their rooms and wondered where they had wandered now. “Kids! We should have left twenty minutes ago! Let’s go!”

Intending to retrieve the dessert she’d prepared, she stopped short when Erica appeared in front of her, holding Julia’s coat open for her.

“I made sure the dog is inside, and Jason’s taken everything out to the car.” She helped her mother into the coat.  “We‘ve been ready for ages.”  The emphasis was slight, teasing rather than whining, and Julia was confronted, not for the first time, with twin facts: Erica was her father’s daughter, and she was growing was up far too quickly.

“Happy Easter, Ju Ju.” Her brother’s wife was the only person on the planet who called her by that ridiculous nickname, and Julia worked hard to keep her already forced smile from becoming a grimace.

The malicious light that glinted from the other woman’s eyes suggested Julia hadn’t been entirely successful.

“And to you, Angela.”  Jelly. One of these years, Julia would actually call her that to her face.  Maybe when their daughters were in college.

That thought got her through the next few hours.

“That’s a beautiful sweater.”

“Thank you.”  The reply was automatic; Julia’s sweaters were a source of envy amongst those who knew her.  Her attention was fully captured, however, by Angela’s voice behind her.

“I’ve seen that one before, though, haven’t I, Ju Ju?  It’s lovely, of course, but you usually oh! I am sorry!”  If Julia had any doubt the apology was insincere, the hand her sister-in-law had clasped to her bosom would have dispelled it. “Dear Hammy used to give you a new one for your birthday each year, didn’t he?”

“Yes, he did,” she replied tightly.

“He’s not dead, Angela.” Paul drew his wife away, grimacing apologetically at Julia.

The woman with whom she’d been speaking, a colleague of her mother’s, gave her an awkward smile.

“It is lovely,” she repeated.  “Do you know where he bought it?”

Julia shook her head.  She’d never managed to get her husband to tell her where he’d bought them, no matter how much she’d entreated. Handcrafted and unlabelled, she’d assumed they’d been purchased at a craft show and had looked for them to give as gifts herself, but she’d never found anything half so nice.

Each one fit as though it were made for her.

Late that night, when she’d finally managed to escape Angela and the well-meaning hordes and the kids were finally in bed, she sat in the living room on the floor, next to the fireplace.  There was no fire burning, of course, the spring was already far too warm for that. Normally, that would be a cause for celebration; tonight, she thought it looked lonely.

The fireplace had been one of the reasons they’d bought the house, though she couldn’t remember seeing it lit more than half a dozen times in the years they’d lived here.

Hammond was out of the house at dawn, often waking even earlier than that, so they could steal a few moments together when she got home from her shift at the bakery.  Opposite schedules were great for raising children one of them was always home but it made it difficult to keep a marriage together.

She’d been baking as long as she could remember, had worked for the same exclusive resort inn since she was nineteen, making her way from commi to sous chef.  It was all she knew, she was good at it, and she liked it.  Hammond felt the same about his job, so they’d tried to make it work.

Looking back, there were other choices they could have made: moving to a larger community, for example, would have provided more options for both of them, in terms of shifts, but they’d wanted to raise their children here, in the town where they had themselves grown up.

Eventually, the ways in which they had complemented now just grated, and neither was willing to yield.  By the time they’d realized the severity of the problem, it became obvious that the upheaval of trying to fix things would have been worse than the divorce.

Lost in her memories, Julia hadn’t noticed she was worrying the corner of her sweater unconsciously.

It was the strand of wool, loose now and gliding through her fingers that made her realize what she was doing, and her horrified start only unravelled it further.  She took the sweater off as carefully as she could, but the slightest movement only made the damage worse.

By the time she could properly assess the damage, repairing it was well beyond her admittedly meagre skills.

She sat there, holding what was left of her favourite sweater, and cried.


3 Responses to “unravelled by LydiaJayne”

  1. J Adamthwaite March 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    I love how Julia doesn’t know that Hammond made the jumpers. The sweater is a really strong image in this story and I really like its unravelling at the end.

  2. Amal El-Mohtar March 15, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Ach, so lovely and sad! She’s such a well-realised character, as is Hammond. Wonderful.

  3. ingrid March 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    This was just beautiful. I love that we are seeing Hammond’s exwife… and that there are mixed feelings.

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