Water Under the Bridge – A Short Story

Water Under the Bridge

As the sun dawned upon the boundless land, it brought light to the shadows of the night. Laraib sat on the wooden bench placed in a small garden outside the shabby highway motel. From there, she could clearly see the highway bridge and the cars beneath it flowing like water under the bridge. She could feel the morbid winds gushing against her skin and passing through the strands of her unwashed hair. Somehow, the soaring engines of the cars passing by and the gusts of wind blended together in her mind and took her down memory lane, all the misfortune that had occurred. She sat there and reminisced the past that weighed down her shoulders.

She had always grown up to believe that among a diversity of things a few could be controlled while the rest could control you. Fate had chosen her family to mess with and metamorphose into a dystopian fantasy. Her frenzied father was a drunkard, drug addict who owned a small motel that was previously run by her grandfather. Alternatively, her mother was a diligent woman, trying to make life better for the disappointed family and simultaneously trying to contest in the pursuit of happiness. She worked in a theatrical company and often played supporting characters in diverse plays and dramas. Her acting career had ceased to satisfy her conventional and religious family who disowned her at the age of eighteen. Laraib knew it was a traditional tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless.

Her entire childhood was enveloped by scenes of abuse, brutality and ferocity, while she was no more than a coward, hiding silently for the violence to stop and sob occasionally at her own misery, without a clue of the misfortune of her mother. And soon enough, she got accustomed to all the clinching your eyes shut and covering your ears to shut out the yelling. As she matured, the activist in her started to bloom to existence and she began to counter-argue the antagonist in her life, her father. However, even actions earnestly can lead to adversity and though she and her mother persisted through it, doing four jobs from morning to the evening, saving every penny to aid their escape to freedom from a life in lunacy.

When Laraib turned eighteen, they had saved enough money to take the car and drive away to a rented apartment that her mother had tried to get a deal on. It was an exciting year for her but who knew that it could all take a toll for the worse, as unpredictability is the essence of all vice and virtue. The autumn of that year, this vice geared into motion as her father went on a drug binge and had returned after a week. It was common for him to disappear for a few days but this was the longest he had been away from home without informing beforehand. During that one week, Laraib and her mother had decided to leave but the landlord acted as the antagonist and created ever-increasing problems that held them back.

When he finally returned, he was in a pitiful state. He was beaten up, not showered for weeks, his skin had a yellowish tint to it, he smelt immensely of alcohol and cocaine, along with his usual frowning expression, untamed hair and an unshaven face. She and her mother were sitting on the dining table trying to sort through the month’s bills. They looked at him for a split second and following their best judgement, did not utter a word. He first came and stooped over them for a while but then eventually when to crash in the bedroom. As he sat on the couch which was visible through the open door of the bedroom across the lounge, he took a cigarette and started smoking puffs of nicotine in the reeking apartment. They both knew that if he gets sober, things might worsen thus they decided to leave for it was now or never. And though they could have waited for things to settle down a little, they were unsure of whether they might even survive the night to the successive morning and the fact that his drunk state gave them enough time to leave.

They swiftly but quietly packed up only two bags filled with their few valuables like food, medical supplies, their savings and a few clothes. They quietly exited the apartment and went to the parking lot and placed their stuff in the car. They had not thought about anything getting caught, pulled over or being reported, for now, they only wanted to go away from the wretched apartment and the hound it contained.  They got into the car and speedily drove out of the parking lot and made their way to Highway Route 23. For at least half an hour neither one of them uttered a single syllable, but then once they apprehended that they were far away from their enclosure. They both initially grinned and then exhaled to let go of the caged anxiety and fear and Laraib’s mother even managed a teardrop or two.

For then, they were headed to their new apartment, miles away from their previous one and after driving continuously for three hours, they stopped at a little town to buy a few necessities at the utility store and use the bathroom. Laraib got out of the car and walked towards the store meanwhile her mother stayed inside the car. She turned on the radio and switched to a news channel blaring out a piece of breaking news. The moment she heard the stern voice of the news reporter and the content she was reading robotically, her face turned pale. The casual breathing faded, the eyes widened in petrification. After a few seconds of apprehension, she banged her hands on the steering wheel realizing her idiocy.

According to the news report, a car had been discovered which was supposed to be packed with illegal drugs which were aimed to be smuggled across borders. This car was being hunted by the police for almost a week and its license plate was similar to the one Laraib and her mother were driving to their new apartment, their new life. And this was all because of Laraib’s father week-long drug binge which was basically collecting a pile of drugs and smuggling them across the border in the same car in which his wife and daughter were seeking refuge. However, her mother could not just turn the car around and go back. All she could do was to move forward and since she did not want to get Laraib involved with the police, thus she quickly wrote a note, threw it on the gravel of the parking lot and swiftly drove off.

Her plan was to drive back home and if she got caught by the police, at least her daughter would not be involved. Laraib on the other hand, when she returned to the parking spot was perplexed at the car’s absence. In a flurry, she saw the note lying on the gravel and she picked it up and read it, “Dear, it is all water under the bridge. I want you to start anew and not make the mistakes I did and remember, for me, there is liberty in death. Love Mom.”

Laraib at first was perplexed in fear at what the note said. No matter how hard she tried, she could not ignore the fact that this was a farewell note. She clenched it in her hand and started sobbing. Her firsts tightened in agitation and she threw the bag containing a few necessities onto a nearby bench. She sat there with her head in her lap, weeping and trying to think what went so wrong. The night grew cold and she was forced to spend it on that little stone bench, in that little town, waiting for a miracle.

As the golden morning light woke up her sleep-deprived eyes, she went into the utility store to use the toilets. On her way, she heard last night’s news report on the shabby old television about the car and the drugs and that the police had captured the driver and suddenly a picture of her mother showed up. Laraib’s eyes watered like pearls in an oyster and all breath in her lungs disappeared as if her soul had been sucked into a black hole and she apprehended the situation. However, the morbid news was that her mother was killed. Shot dead by the police during her getaway driving.

The honking of a nearby car brought Laraib back to reality and reminded her of the mistakes that she had committed and the coward she had been her entire life. How stupid she felt sitting on that bench outside the utility store, thinking how things could have been altered. How she felt as if yesterday night at one point she had grasped all that she had aimed for and at another point, lost all that she had. She could not go back and the way forward seemed hopeless. She knew life was waiting for her and she had to leave or to find an alternate route to some of her aims at least. She sat there, upright, contemplating about death, the eternal full stop after decades of words written down with the ink of experience and suffering. However, she was insightful, she had always been, thus she could clearly see the awaited conclusion to this unpredictable story.





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