Mrs. Ebbers sat quietly at the table, her hands folded in her lap. She avoided eye contact with her husband of 25 years.
“Margery,” he said. Still she avoided his eye. He sighed heavily and pulled his chair closer to her. “Margery, you can’t -” he was abruptly interrupted by the sound of the front door swinging open and their seventeen-year-old daughter Avery marching in, giggling with her friend Sarah. “We’ll talk later,” he said. The girls entered the kitchen and Avery rummaged through the refrigerator before emerging with two colas. “Hello girls,” Mr. Ebbers cheered.
“Hey sir,” Sarah smiled. Mrs. Ebbers sat there, curling her fingers around a hot cup of tea placed on the table in front of her. Her eyes were filled with hurt and her slouched posture emitted defeat.
“Excuse me everyone,” she said grimly before rising and exiting the room. Everyone was silent until her footsteps traipsing up the nearby staircase disappeared and the barely audible sound of a door closing followed. Worry crossed Avery’s face and she turned to her father.
“What’s wrong with mum?” she asked with concern seeping into her voice. “Did someone die?” she continued. Her mother never acted this way and was always thrilled to see Sarah.
“No, no one died. Just uh… just a rough day at work,” Mr. Ebbers stuttered out, clearly searching for an excuse to latch onto. Avery pouted at her father. He opened his mouth as if to add something else but brought a hand to the back of his neck briefly before turning on heel and removing himself from the room. Sarah glanced over at Avery.
“Should I leave?” she asked. “Everything seems kind of…” she trailed off.
“No,” Avery protested resting a hand on Sarah’s arm before slumping into a chair. She opened her pop and the fizzing of the bubbles filled the silent room. Soon Sarah followed and opened her pop before taking a seat next to Avery.
The sun began to set signifying the usual time that Sarah would leave to go home for dinner. Avery rose from her seat. “Be right back,” she said. She disappeared briefly and came back a moment later. “Would you like to stay the night?” she offered Sarah. After all it was a Friday evening.
Sarah offered a small smile to her friend before saying, “Sure, I’ll just go ask my parents.” She excused herself and stepped into the adjoining room. Avery could tell something was not right with her parents, and as curious as she was, she feared knowing. Having Sarah spend the night would delay having to find out the inevitable heartache she knew was to come. “Yeah, I can spend the night,” Sarah said stepping back into the kitchen. “My mum’s going to drop off a bag for me in about twenty minutes,” she added.
“Great.” Avery said mustering a fake smile. “Let’s order pizza.” She said with a smirk. She took Sarah’s arm and the two headed up to her bedroom.
Avery’s parents never came back down to the kitchen and the house was unusually silent for the remainder of the night. Before the girls headed to bed they crept downstairs to steal another slice of pizza. Something caught Avery’s eye on the sofa before she headed into the kitchen. She glanced over and studied the figure curled up on the couch in the living room. A slight snore confirmed that it was her father. Her face melted into a frown. Sarah watched her friend’s expression and wrapped her arms around her sensing that something was wrong. Avery tossed her a small unconvincing smile and they grabbed their pizza and climbed back up the stairs. Avery could not help stealing peaks over her shoulder at her father’s stiff, uncomfortably positioned body.
The morning of the next day was met with more gloom as the dark clouds drizzled an abundance of small raindrops over the city. The droplets beating against Avery’s window was comforting, like an uncommon lullaby soothing her to sleep. Yelling and heavy footsteps down the stairs ripped her from her slumber. Avery rubbed at her eyes, struggling to grasp a sense of alertness. She turned to an equally confused Sarah and the two quietly snuck out of Avery’s bedroom and listened intently on the drama unfolding below them. Avery’s heartbeat was in her throat and she caught glimpses of the scene.
“I’m done Bradley,” Her mum bellowed at her father.
“Margery, please,” he pleaded. She whipped open the front door. The girls strained to listen but Avery’s parents got very quiet.
“We are going out!” Avery’s mum hollered at the girls who unbeknownst to her were crouched atop the staircase observing the chaos. The two filed out the door and closed it firmly behind them. Avery rose quickly and raced to a window overlooking the driveway where she watched her parents get into the car and drive away. She turned back to Sarah with her mouth agape. Sarah cautiously began approaching Avery, her eyebrows furrowed with worry.
“You know what we should do?” Sarah asked softly. Avery gave a half-hearted shrug, avoiding looking at her friend directly. “We should go hang out on the swings in your backyard like we always did as kids when one of us was upset,” Sarah suggested, wrapping a comforting arm around her friend’s waist. Avery gave her a small smile accompanied by a slight nod and the pair headed downstairs.
The car pulled into a parking spot at the grocery store. Bradley glanced at his wife who had begun crying softly. The car ride had been silent from the driveway to the parking lot.
“Margret,” Bradley said turning off the car and adjusting himself to face his wife. “I know you’re mad at me, but you have to understand I have a right to be happy too, and I don’t think I can be any longer with you. Sometimes two people just fall out of love.”
“Don’t,” she spat. Her tears began flowing heavier and her voice shook with a mixture of rage and sadness. “I still love you,” She said bitterly. “It’s you who fell out of love with me.”
He sighed heavily and paused before saying, “I still love you, but I’m not in love with you.” She rolled her eyes disgustedly.
“You should talk to me about what’s bothering you in our marriage instead of bottling it up and tucking it away,” she said quietly.
“I know,” he started. “I just don’t think we are working out anymore.” He paused before finishing as gently as possible, “I really do want a divorce. I want you to consider it this time without giving me the silent treatment. Please.” She angrily swatted at the tears that streaked her face.
“If that’s what you want,” she said, her voice breaking. “Divorce it is,” she concluded. She turned away from him. He nodded despite being fully aware that she would not see it. He pressed his lips in a line and turned the car on, flicking the wipers on to clear the windshield before putting the car into reverse and began a seemingly long car ride home, once again in utter silence.
Avery’s feet dangled from the swing as she gently swayed on the childhood structure in her backyard, keeping her glance fixated downward. Sarah filled the swing next to her, carefully observing her friend, unsure of what to say. The small droplets of rain continued to fall, moistening the already soggy ground. Avery inhaled deeply and moved her head upward where she caught sight of the partially dilapidated area of the fence that bordered their yard. The entire fence was mostly intact except for three planks of wood that were falling apart. Avery saw her family in these planks. Around them was everyone who seemed to have their lives together, and then there was her family who seemed to be falling apart. The sound of an engine caught her attention and the girls hurried back inside.
“Oh, that’s my mum,” Sarah said glancing out the window. She gathered her things and pulled Avery in for a final hug. “Good luck with everything,” she whispered to Avery as they embraced each other before Sarah climbed into the car and drove away.
Avery waited impatiently for her parents to arrive. When the time did come, the rain had picked up. The wind had become vicious, and the sky roared and crackled. Avery could tell her mother had been crying, but she was not anymore. Her parents sat down with her on the couch. The same one she saw her father sleeping on. She shifted uncomfortably at the memory. They broke the news to her as gently as they could.
“Your father and I are getting a divorce,” said her mum finally after dancing around the delicate topic. Avery’s eyes glistened and her mum’s began to as well and they embraced. The moment did not last too long before a bolt of lightning struck the three boards on the fence, severing them from the rest of the planks. Avery thought again of how they represented her family. This time though, she thought of how it compared with the news she had just received. The planks of wood severed from the rest of the fence mirroring the fact that her family was splitting apart, no longer whole. She began to cry harder, while squeezing her mother tighter. She reached back and pulled her father in too, all the while continuing squeezing them both, as if trying to push them back together after they have grown apart.