Here's another short story from my archives. I'm so glad I didn't get rid of these files after my class was over. This is the story about a husband and wife who both need out. I don't think the end will be what you are expecting, though. There's a bit of a surprise.
Warning: This story does have a negative Christian outlook. I don't mean to offend. My writing is not necessarily exactly how I feel, nor does it reflect who I am as a person. What I love as a creative writer is that I get to be someone I'm not for awhile and I get to explore a different side of life.
Again, PLEASE leave comments on my creative writing! I am taking a leap of faith by sharing my short stories in a public forum, so please be gentle. I do want to hear how I can make my writing more interesting to the reader. Enjoy!
"Leaving" by Karen Lockinger Greenberg
Rodney looked around and wondered, once again, what he was doing here. He didn’t fit in. He didn’t even believe anymore. Fearing that he would stand out if he didn’t Rodney, raised his hands in the air and began to sing.
Every Sunday morning for the past ten weeks this same scene replayed. Rodney would wake up at 6:30 to the sound of his wife fussing with the children. Getting Rodney out of bed, though, seemed to be Maria's most difficult chore. Now that they were all safely where they were expected to be, Rodney was once again lost in thought.
An hour ago they were having their regular argument. By now they both knew their lines. The fight may as well have been tape recorded. It was that consistent.
“Rodney,” Maria would shout from the back bedroom, “Please get up and help me get the kids ready for church. We still have to eat breakfast, and we are supposed to leave in 30 minutes.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming,” he would reply. Everyone knew Rodney wouldn’t roll out of the warm comforter for another fifteen minutes, though. Just enough time to throw on some clothes, brush his teeth, and stand at the door with keys in hand.
“Come on,” he would say impatiently, “We’re going to be late if we don’t leave right now.”
“Damn it, Rodney,” Maria would sigh, “the kids haven’t eaten.”
“We’ll get them donuts when I stop for coffee at the 7-11. It’s really no big deal.”
Obediently and heartbroken Maria would round up their three small children, buckle them into their car seats, and get herself settled for the drive. Silent all the way to the convenience store, she would not let a single tear escape.
Yep, great way to start the week, Rodney thought. His attention came back to the church service where it belonged. Pastor James was beginning his sermon with a prayer.
The other heads being bowed and eyes closed gave Rodney the opportunity to look around and see the room for what it was. A miniature band was set up on the small stage. Large monitors used to display the lyrics to songs of worship were now showing beautiful scenes of mountains and deserts. How is this different than going to a concert, Rodney thought. The first twenty minutes of each service was spent singing, each person in the congregation swaying to the beat- some praying out loud over the music. What a waste of time.
As Rodney continued to look around his heart pounded. I don’t buy these stories, he admitted to himself. I don’t want to be here. Rodney knew that his quickened pulse, his racing heart, and the sweat breaking out on his brow were all signs of the nervousness and stress he was feeling. I need to get out, but I don’t know how.
Pastor James uttered the word “Amen,” once again bringing Rodney’s focus to the front of the tiny church. “Today we continue our series on Jesus: The Prince of Peace. As we know, when we please God by doing what we should- coming to church on Sunday, fellowshipping with other Christians during the rest of the week, reading our bible, etc.- the Lord gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are filled with an inner peace that is unattainable through other measures.” As the pastor continued his speech Rodney concentrated on the introduction.
Really? If that is true why do Maria and I fight every Sunday morning? I don’t feel peace. We’re so unhappy. At that moment Rodney made a decision. He couldn’t wait for the service to be over.
The service ended with the typical song and call for people who desired personal prayer to come forward. Rodney remained in his seat this time, unwilling to pretend for one minute longer. His knee bounced like a jack hammer as Rodney impatiently waited to be dismissed.
“Honey, are you okay?” Maria asked. “You look like you are ready to fly out of here.”
“Maria, let’s talk about this on the way home. Why don’t you get Grayson out of the baby room while I round up Doug and Leslie? I’ll meet you back at the car.” Rodney didn’t want to get caught up in the small talk of the after-service crowd. He knew that finding his wife was always a good way to excuse himself.
After they had the three kids safely in the backseat and the car rolling, Maria looked at Rodney, unable to control her concern. “Okay, out with it, Rod. What’s going on?”
“Maria, what I have to tell you may come as a surprise,” Rodney started. “I hope you will accept it, though. It’s going to be a change, but I think it is for the best.”
Terrified of what the change could be, Maria only nodded. Rodney continued, “M, you know I love you and our children, but I just can’t do this anymore. I’ve been living a lie. I have to leave, and it needs to be now.”
Looking back Maria agreed that their fights had been bad, but she hadn’t known they were so bad Rodney would leave his family. “I don’t understand,” she whispered. “We can make this work. I’ll do whatever I need to do to make you happy.”
“Maria, you just don’t get it,” Rodney replied, pounding on the steering wheel. This had been his fear. He would tell his wife his feelings and she would try to talk him out of his decision. He tried to make her understand one last time. “Damn it, Maria. I’m done. That’s final. I won’t go back to church one more time. That place does nothing but bring us down. Next Sunday I want to wrap my beautiful wife in a bear hug, take my family out for a real breakfast, and enjoy my one day off. No more arguing, no more dragging the kids to a place I don’t want to be. For what? Just because we are supposed to? Don’t you see, Maria? I want to be happy.”
This time Maria allowed the tear to slide down her cheek, staining her new silk blouse. “Rodney, I thought you were leaving ME, leaving US. Let’s not fight. For the first time in what seems like forever, we agree on a Sunday morning. I have a secret, too.” Maria sighed, knowing too many weeks had been wasted because each was afraid to share the truth. Ironically they had both been hiding the same thoughts. “I’ve only been going to church because I thought YOU would be disappointed if I told you I was leaving.”
Maria looked up at Rodney’s face. A peace settled over the couple as their eyes met. Both began to smile. “Rodney,” Maria said, “I’m looking forward to sleeping in next week.”