It had been nine weeks, three days and five hours since James had died. From the moment Adam had been told of James’ accident all he had felt was emptiness. The so-called ‘stages of grief’ had proven to be a disappointing no-show.
He looked around the living room; setting of countless memories: raucous parties, blistering arguments, quiet cuddles on the sofa. They seemed distant now.
The sun shone brightly through the window and the radio played upbeat 90’s hits. The room, which should have felt full of life, seemed listless and cold, like someone trying to hide their despair behind overly enthusiastic smiles and eyes that seem just a little too wide.
Troy, their slightly overweight Springer Spaniel, ambled in from the kitchen. ‘Hey,’ Troy turned his head to look; his tongue lolling casually from the side of his mouth. ‘Come here boy,’ he patted his legs with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. The dog blinked a few times before moving to the other side of the room, to James’ empty chair.
It was positioned to receive as much sun as the day would allow. James had loved to be bathed in sunlight. Adam hated it.
Its rusty-brown upholstery was faded and worn. James had brought it from one of those vintage shops that sold old crap that nobody should rightfully want, for prices that nobody should rightfully pay; it had looked tired even then.
James had claimed it was ‘his’ chair, but Troy had always proved otherwise. He’d practically lived on it. Not anymore.
The dog sniffed it briefly before walking back to the kitchen.
Why wouldn’t he get up? It was weird.
I should just get rid of the damn thing.
It was a ghost, desperately clinging to the past while serving no purpose for the present; not even the dog wanted to use it.
The chair had to go.
‘This is such a difficult time,’ the well-wishers insisted. ‘Whatever you’re feeling is normal,’ they’d say, taking little notice when he replied that time had become an effortless blur and that he didn’t feel anything at all. No-one suggested ‘moving on’ or ‘letting go’ – even though he wished they did.
He placed his hands on the well-worn arms and bent his knees to lift.
Go on, take a seat.
The urge came from nowhere.
Why not? Just once, before it was gone.
He sank into the soft fabric and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. The distinctive scent of cheap aftershave filled his nostrils. Memories filled his mind.
A single tear broke free and ran down his cheek. It was the first of many, the first his tired eyes had produced since James had died.
He sobbed. The pain felt unbearable, like his next breath would be his last, but it felt wonderful too; an affirmation of life. Life that would go on without him. The life they’d lived together.
Perhaps the chair could stay.
R. P. Serin was born in 1981. In 2018 he graduated from the Open University
with a 1st class Honours Degree in History. Since then he has started to
write short stories and is currently in the process of completing his first
novel. He has also worked in the NHS as an Operating Department
Practitioner for over 15 years. He lives in Shropshire with his wife and
Read more work here
Between These Shores Literary Arts Journal 2019-20 (Into Ash)
Stories awaiting publication in:
Literally Stories (The Mimic)
Sirens Call Spring 2020 Edition (They Can Be Persistent)
My essay ‘Watching Horror, Finding Faith’ has recently been published on
the Evolution of Horror Podcast Webpage:
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