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Laughter - short story

It's been awhile, but I do have a short story that i've been meaning to post. Short but sweet I hope.

Peter fiddled with the bracelet clutched in his hand as he walked. Lenae had dropped it rushing to catch her flight. It was an elastic bracelet with beautiful wooden beads strung along it.


Goof. Peter smiled, missing his wife. She’d forget she even had the bracelet, but he couldn’t wait to give it back.


Glancing to the side, Peter saw drops of rain smearing the hallway window of the apartment complex.


He stepped in front of the bright red door, and slipped on Lenae’s bracelet. Knocking, he eased the door open.


A jittery voice came from inside before he even fully pushed open the door, “Oh! Mr. Peter, you’re back!”


Peter stepped into the room, and shut the door behind him, shrugging off his coat as Brenda stood from the easy chair in the living room, holding his daughter, Lola.


Peter’s face creased in apology, “Brenda, I’m so, so sorry! My car broke down at work, and I had to wait until…” He trailed off as he noticed Brenda’s wide eyes.


“Are you okay?” he stepped closer.


She sniffed, “I’m… sorry. Really sorry...” Fidgeting on the spot, she grew quiet.


Peter stood frozen, “Is everything okay?”


She sniffed softly again, “Y-yeah,” she replied, “Well… not really,” Brenda moved closer, and handed Lola to him. Lola looked up, thumb stuck in her mouth.


Peter shifted Lola to one arm, and pulled his wallet out of his pocket, “I’m paying you extra,” he flipped open the wallet with his finger, “I know babysitting went a couple hours over.” He tugged at a fifty dollar bill, loosening it. But he couldn’t pull it out with one hand, so he offered out his wallet for Brenda to take the money.


She looked at the money, “N-no, I couldn’t take it,” she shook her head, and brushed his wallet back.

Blonde hair waving, she hurried past him towards the door.


Peter twirled, “Brenda! What happened?”


She shoved her arms into the sleeves and reached for the door,, “Just… turn on the news.”


The door slammed behind her.


Rocking Lola as he walked, Peter stepped to the armchair, picking up the remote control. Unsure, he stared at the faded power button.


He pressed it.


He wasn’t prepared for what he saw.


A flaming plane wreckage tipped upside-down, the metal hull twisted into a broken shape far beyond any redemption. It sat smoldering, with fire-fighters manning a hose nearby.


Peter took a step back. It isn’t. No. His chest tightened.


The reporter’s voice cut through his shock, “... totally destroyed. The 7:30 flight from Los Angeles, approached the runway this afternoon. Everything was fine, until there was a tire malfunction as it touched down, and the entire plane tipped, skidding across the runway and destroying a large portion of the asphalt…”


Peter fell numbly into the chair. Lenae. No. You made it home, you’re fine. There was another flight from Los Angeles. You’re on your way home. You…


“The fire-crew at O’Hare, was sadly unable to rescue anybody, except for one.”


Hope flooded his thoughts. She’s alive. It’s her, she’s safe. Tensing his shoulders, he leaned forward. With everything he had, he knew God had protected her.


“The only survivor was Jordan Conrad, an infant, cradled by her mother.” The scene shifted to the newsroom, “It really is tragedy that…”


Peter tuned everything out, and his face went blank. Lola squirmed in his arms, but he didn’t move.


His shoulders slowly went limp, and he sank against the back of the chair. Breathing deeply, he tried and tried again to tell himself it wasn’t true.


God, why? Why her?


Lola squirmed again in his arms, and he looked down at her, “Everythi--” his voice cracked, and trailed off.


Taking a shaky breath, he tried again in a whispery tone even though his throat burned, “Everything will be fine.” A tear landed on Lola’s white onesie.


He lifted up a hand, pushing Lola’s hair away from her innocent face. Another tear dripped onto her onesie. Another.


Peter brushed a knuckle across his cheek. She was supposed to play with Lola, and laugh, and...

Glancing down at the bracelet,and his breath caught.


His tears ran freely. Standing up, Peter sat Lola onto the chair as he cried without a sound.


Ignoring the reporter, he took a step towards the TV screen. All he could do was stare at the flaming wreckage of a plane with a tear streaked face. She made it home. She made it. So close. He stood still, fingers touching the screen.


God. I trusted you with her… and she’s dead.


He fingered the TV’s power button, and it flicked off. Lost, he turned around, and sank to the floor, back resting against the entertainment system.


Dropping his head into his hands, he shuddered. His wife, his best friend, Lola’s mom… gone.

Feeling the bracelet dig into his skin, he ripped it off, and flung it.


The bracelet cracked against the wall. He didn’t care if he broke it. She was gone.


Then he heard the strangest sound.


Laughter.


What… Peter lifted his head to see Lola wiggling her toes and giggling. His heart twisted, hearing Lenae in Lola’s laugh. He tore away his gaze to stare at the carpet. The carpet where Lenae used to dance.


Peter clenched his fists, wiping at his cheeks. He dragged in a breath, looking up at the ceiling, and the yellow stain on it. Lenae said it was an octopus when they first got the place.


Sobs choked his stinging throat.


Lola laughed again.


The laugh struck Peter’s raw emotions. She wasn’t supposed to laugh, when she should be crying. No joy. She’s gone.


“No, no…” he muttered. Lola played with her toes and giggled. “No, no!” Peter rose to his feet and stepped to where Lola was. Pure grief fueled his actions.


He picked up Lola, who grew silent. “You… Your mother loved you and…” He stopped, seeing Lola’s frightened expression. “And she’s gone.” His shoulders slumped.


The room was quiet.


Sitting Lola onto the chair, Peter backed away. I can’t do anything.


Shaking, he fell to his knees. A fresh wave of pain washed over him, and tears began to flow again.

There he knelt. Broken.


A little hand touched his shoulder.


He lifted his head to see Lola, her face on the verge of tears. She held out Lenae’s bracelet, the beads scattered in her hand.

He had broken it.


“Mama braylet,” Lola whined.


Scooping the pieces and band into his palm, Peter gave her a bittersweet smile. “It’s... okay.” No it’s not. “Mama won’t…” his eyes stung, “Doesn’t want it.”


“Momma got new one?” Lola asked.


Peter stared at the pieces. Numbly he strung the beads onto the string, and re-tied it back together.

Half-smiling back up at Lola, he slipped the bracelet over her little hand. “Momma gave it to you.”


“Yay!” Lola giggled at the bracelet hanging off of her wrist, too big for her hand.


Her joy infected Peter’s thoughts, and he gave a genuine grin. Jumping onto him, Lola hugged his neck.


Peter squeezed Lola to his chest, and the weight on his heart began to lift.


I can still have joy when the pain comes.


Lola buried her head into Peter’s shoulder.


And I want to choose joy.

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