Highly Commended Story - A Broken Couple
“A Broken Couple” by Isabela Violeta Lukban Rivera, Home-schooled, Philippines, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Isabela is a fifteen year old, homeschooled Filipino. She is the first of five siblings and she grew up in Sta. Rosa, Laguna in Luzon until her family decided to move to Davao in Mindanao. She started writing when she was about ten years old. She is now planning to write several original novels, and is currently maintaining a blog called #Random Snippets of Life. Besides writing, she also likes to sing, rap, play the guitar, and do calligraphy.
A Broken Couple
The little girl sprinkled a few more bits of glitter into the almost dry glue, then lifted it up and smiled, ignoring the extra glitter falling onto her pajamas. It was perfect. Perfect for the perfect people.
She ran down the stairs and sat outside the front door, waiting excitedly for her parents to come home from their wedding anniversary date. She checked the clock, confirming that they should be home soon...
Then the sound of a familiar car engine reached her ears, and the little girl sat up, gripping the card tightly with anticipation.
The door opened, and the little girl sat up eagerly to greet her parents, then stopped short.
Their faces were... Not right. They weren't smiling, like the way they were before they had left. They turned at her in surprise, then gave a forced smile to their daughter, kissing her.
The little girl held her clasped hand behind her back, her grip on the card loosening.
Her mother's smile, after kissing her daughter, dropped off her face, and she turned briskly. She plopped her bag onto the coffee table, then stomped upstairs. Her parent's bedroom door shut loudly.
That was a bad sign. Her mother never slammed doors.
Her father, who had been untying his shoes, looked up sharply at the noise. His expression was unreadable as he put his bag beside his wife's, then followed her up the stairs. A second slam followed, and the little girl winced.
She felt a little sick now. She felt a strange sense of foreboding as she stared down at her card, then back up at the supposedly silent upper floor.
The little girl swallowed, slipping off the couch and quietly climbing up the stairs. When she reached the top of the stairs, she heard a voice that sounded alarmingly like her father's utter an angry swear.
The little girl felt her blood turn to ice and her heart beat faster. It wasn't because he had swore, because she was much too young to understand that sort of thing. It was because he had yelled. Her father never yelled... Right?
She stepped closer to the door of the bedroom and, taking a deep breath, gingerly pressed her ear to it. She couldn't make out what they were saying, but she knew one thing:
They were shouting. Yelling. Angrily. At each other.
On their anniversary.
The little girl felt frozen as her little ear listened to them argue, with no remorse whatsoever, and she felt her small legs collapse to the floor as her heart shattered.
She had been vividly aware of the fact that her parents were hiding something... Something that made them stop talking to each other and glare at each other unceasingly the next day, but she never knew what it was, nor expected that it was something like this.
She stared at the card she had made. A sob escaped her mouth, and she ran into the bathroom and threw it into the garbage. She ran into her room and slammed the door closed. She collapsed onto her bed, her breathing erratic, and wept.
The next day, her parents weren't talking. Of course they weren't. They barely even glanced at the little girl herself, and the little girl gave up trying to eat breakfast harmoniously and abruptly left the house for school without a word. She slammed the door closed.
Her parents stared at it wordlessly in shock and surprise. Then the father, who had been staring at his coffee a moment ago, shook his head, standing and leaving the table. With her gone, he didn't even want to try to pretend anymore.
He climbed the stairs to throw out the trash from the bathroom. Taking the bin, he carried it down without so much as a glance to its contents.
He opened the larger garbage can in the back and dumped the smaller bin's contents into it. He glared at all the things in the trash that belonged to his wife, when something caught his eye. Something pink and sparkly.
Normally, he didn't care for anything of the sort, but it did make him think of his daughter, and he remembered her strange behavior. Suddenly, he had the overwhelming urge to find out what the thing in the trash was.
He reached his hand in and fished it out. When his hand clamped onto it, he held it up. It was a small, dirty piece of paper with a glittery heart on the front.
Narrowing his eyes, he read, “For mommy and daddy, the best couple in the world.”
The father held his breath and hesitantly took it inside, and, tentatively, he called to his wife with a shaky voice.
She looked up at him suspiciously, until she saw what he was holding. She stood up and went to his side, ignoring his flinch when she came into such close proximity, and her eyes immediately darted to the small, untidy scrawl of her daughter. Then she went red, and she reached over and opened it, so that she and her husband were holding it together.
“Dear mommy and daddy,
You are my favorite mommy and daddy in the whole wide world, because you love each other SO MUCH, and still get to love me! I want to be just like you with my future husband when I grow up, because you're so, so perfect!
Love, Your daughter.”
The two parents stared at the letter, stunned senseless. Their eyes blurred as tears slid down their faces, and the father sat down with a shaky breath.
The mother stared at the letter, then at her husband, and her face contorted as she broke into brokenhearted cry.
The father blinked away tears and stood up again, and, slowly, he embraced his wife. Their knees shook and they fell to the ground.
The sounds echoed through the house in a crescendo as a broken couple sobbed together.