Sunday, January 4, 2015

Moving Away by Ceinwen Haydon

Dan and Megan write their thoughts in unsent letters as they make the difficult decision to move deeper into the country; by Ceinwen Haydon.

DAN:

Leaving the city was never going to be easy, but the decision was made. I could work as an informatics consultant from pretty much anywhere, as long as I could access a train station for occasional meetings. You had told me that the only way that you could write unencumbered was to move to a quiet place. You wanted a rural retreat, the more remote the better. You saw yourself as compromising on your ideal when you found the cottage, which you said that you'd picked with my needs in mind.

Last November you'd had a health scare, but in the end the lump in your breast had proved to be benign. By Christmas you'd started to believe the good news, and I was overwhelmed with relief. Thinking of losing you had shocked me more than I cared to admit, and I was ready to give you anything. I hadn't always been fair to you in the past, and I was determined to do better. I'd intended to listen to you, and to relate to your dreams instead of trying to drag you towards my priorities. When you spent Christmas Eve in a wistful reverie, aided and abetted by Prosecco, looking at properties for sale in the Northumberland hills, I seized the initiative. 'Megan, if that's where you really want to be, where you can be at ease and finish your novel, we'll find a way to go.' You'd looked at me questioningly, 'Dan, don't torment me, you know you're at home in the city. You don't mean that,' she hesitated, 'Do you?' It was the pure innocence of you that challenged me to prove myself in earnest, 'Yes of course, I wouldn't have said it otherwise.' Eventually I convinced you more effectively than I convinced myself. Onwards and upwards, the genie was out of the bottle, never to return.

At first you'd asked me to come with you to look for possible homes. Each plan you outlined was inconvenient when I looked at my work schedule, but I'd have dragged my feet anyway, if I'm honest. So in the end you'd ventured north alone to scope some options. I remained in Selly Oak, our home for the past seventeen years. I was tyrannised by an unnatural lethargy. I should have read this and understood that I couldn't deliver on my promise without resenting you. I was hoping that being alone in that far flung corner of the country would put you off. I was so wrong, your desire to go magnified, as did your frustration at my inertia. Eventually in tiny and imperceptible ways you started to move beyond me. As you pulled away I was driven by the neurotic need to keep you against the odds. I would not give in and pull out. So today we're moving, and fear clutches at my belly.



MEGAN:

Today I can start relaxing into my skin, for the first time in years. I know that there are risks with this move, but I have to take them. Last year I thought that I might be dying, and in the darkest days I faced the truth that I'd put my life on hold for as long as I could remember. Never quite embracing the chances I'd had of reaching my potential, always thinking first and foremost of your needs, your wishes. I can't blame you as I was the mainly the author of my own disadvantage.

As the sun rose this morning I looked around our small terraced house, packed in crates and already consigned to the past. We spent our last night on an inflatable mattress, an arrangement that defied sleep. In this house we had constructed and deconstructed so many plans, whilst achieving some happiness day to day. But it was clear to me now that we had always lacked a central heartbeat to our home. Previously I had thought that any emptiness in our lives was because no child had come, our big regret. Now I saw that the rhythm of our time together has been overbalanced, unstable, as I accommodated you, and you innocently leeched my life force. It remains to be seen if you and I can move together towards an equilibrium that might sustain us both.

In finding our next home I took account of what you needed. The old fisherman's cottage that beckoned us was but half an hour's drive from Alnmouth, a station on the East Coast Mainline. Left to myself I would have ventured towards one of the lonely valleys of the Cheviot Hills, but I want to give us a chance even now. I suspect that you don't understand that I still make adjustments for your sake.

I love you Dan, but it is so long since we brought out the best in each other. As we pull out of the street behind the removal van, it is this that makes me weep quietly. You assume that I am sad to go, you think that you should have halted this journey and called my bluff.

We arrive at Boulmer at teatime, you look disorientated and bereft. Normally you steer the way with practicalities, but today I methodically unpack enough to make our first night at Curlew Cottage comforting and kindly. You sit in the yard, bewildered, and stare at the sea. The stronger I become the more I know that, in spite of everything, you are not dispensable in my life. I do love you. Perhaps in the morning, refreshed, you will enter me once more? Then we will come together.



DAN:

I watch you sleeping, and memories of our life together tear through me like a tidal wave. I have seen a new woman today: I am afraid. I cannot wait for you to ask me to go, amidst the coming wreckage of our lives, and the dawn of your bright future. I am in no doubt tonight that I am superfluous.

Quietly I gather up my traveling clothes and leave your bedroom. I take my bicycle from the roof-rack of the car, your car, and ride to Alnmouth Station. I take the first train of the new day and travel south.



MEGAN:

I struggle to wake up and hear my mobile plonking out its honkytonk tune; the one that tells me that you are calling. I rub my eyes in confusion, 'Dan,' I call, 'Dan, what are you doing?' I scramble out of bed bumping into a packing case, knocking my vibrating phone across the floor. Reaching to pick it up I can see that it is you calling. I understand that you have gone. Trembling, I answer in a hushed voice, 'Hello?' After an eternity I hear you, 'Megan, how can I love you enough to set you free? I am trying so hard. Leaving seemed right, but I can't stop weeping.' I hesitate briefly then I cut off the call. I have to help you to get out of my life, for your sake not my own, even though my heart is breaking. A well-established pattern repeats itself.

9 comments:

  1. this is a first class story, thought provoking, haunting and sad, and very cleverly told. there is sympathy for both Dan and Megan, neither one of them is right, this is a relationship after all.

    really, well done

    Mike McCarthy

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  2. Ceinwen, I enjoyed reading your story as it left me reflecting on many issues in my own life. Perhaps these are difficulties and contradictions we all face at sometime in our own relationships, ones that you have captured in the mood of your characters. I did wonder though, why Dan was so insistent on the persistent use of the word 'you', which I felt was very prolific at times. As a reader I began to wonder if this trait indicated the character's way of diverting blame away from himself. I felt annoyed with this and decided he was the petulant half of the relationship and unable to accept compromise. So I think once he overcomes his faulty ego, he will be back - just my prediction. A good read and captivating story, many thanks. James McEwan

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  3. Telling your story from the standpoint of both Dan and Megan was clever, capturing the reader's interest. Sadly, people do grow apart for many reasons, but ending a long-standing relationship is devastating which you were skilful in conveying. Keep writing!
    All the best,
    Beryl.

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  4. I thought maybe the back and forth "letters" style for this story might take away - but I missed that one by a country mile. Very well done and as those before me here have mentioned, it conveys the mood of the relationship as it comes to an end with a haunting sadness that seems to stick with you long after you've read the last word. Nicely done.

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  5. Very well done. Troubling in all the right ways. Thank you for such a compelling story.

    Tim Macy

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  6. Hi Mike, James, Beryl, Jim and Tim,
    Thank you all so much for reading my story; and for your helpful feedback and generous comments. It is hard to know whether the tale has carried across to others when until it's out there and read! I very much appreciate your support, as well as the chance to read your works on Charlie's site as well.
    Best wishes for 2015 and may the words keep flowing for us all!
    Ceinwen

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  7. A very powerful piece of writing for 2 reasons; the first goes back to a seminar I attended a while ago which dealt with dialogue under the following three topics; i) that which is said, ii) that which is unsaid, iii) that which is unsayable. Ceinwen's piece is concerned mainly with the two latter categories (as Charlie puts it in his intro/header 'in the form of unsent letters') and they give the story a strong sense of tension. The second reason is there's no real resolution (in that one isn't 100% sure whether Dan's gone for good or not, although all the likelihood is there) - and I think that's very effective because it gives the writing a durability as it continues in ones mind.
    Brooke

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  8. Hi Brooke,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to read my story, and for your thoughtful reflections. Writing is always a work in progress and feedback is so helpful!
    very best wishes,
    Ceinwen

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  9. Great epistles! I enjoyed the explicit tale of their typical lives in the letters. It evoked a feeling of soliloquy from each writer. Lovely it is!

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