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Showcase: Two Sides To The Same Story + Happily Ever After + Pound Hugs

It’s August 2023 and as per usual, the Write On! team are enjoying a short summer break. With this in mind, and as the founding Editor, I’m picking some of my favourite Showcases from the past few years. Though they are higgledy-piggledy in terms of season and themes, one thing connects them all; the wonderful quality of the writing and creativity! This final ‘bonus’ Showcase was edited by By Zara Relphman and was published earlier this year.



Welcome to our second showcase of February. In case you missed last week, I’m Zara, your Showcase editor this month. Today, we’re going to be looking at more pieces that tie into our ‘Contradictions’ theme, starting with Two Sides To The Same Story by Denise Collins. I chose this short story because it perfectly captures our theme’s essence. Our feelings, thoughts and actions often contradict one another, making it hard to know whether we are doing the right thing or not – especially when it comes to family.

Two Sides To The Same Story

My mum died in the early hours of Friday 20th January 2023.

My sister informed me by WhatsApp.

Growing up, my mum was everything to me and I loved her dearly. But things change.

Six years ago, for reasons too complex to explain right now, we fell out. It was Mum’s decision to cut me off. But I could have tried harder to patch things up. I mourned her loss years before she actually died. Along with the sadness there was anger. I felt aggrieved she’d chosen others over me.

Carrying bitterness is like trying to defend yourself with a poker that’s red hot at both ends. While you’re wielding it, your own hand burns.

Back in April 2022, Mum phoned me. It was a shock. Hearing her voice for the first time in so long engulfed me in a tornado of emotion.

She cried. I cried.

Neither of us mentioned the reasons why so much time had passed. Instead, we shared news of stuff that had happened in those years. At first, I didn’t realise anything was wrong. Then I noticed, it was like she was on a repeating loop. She was saying odd things which at first sounded plausible, but muddled. When I realised her mind had been invaded by that cruel thing called dementia, I decided to steer the conversation in the direction of warm memories, and talk of only insignificant, funny things.

She laughed. I laughed.

That night, I was kept awake by the realisation that any opportunity to reconcile had gone forever. Just like her short-term memory.

The next day, she called me again and thanked me for a lovely outing. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t go along with this delusion. Before I’d thought through the consequences, I corrected her. No, we hadn’t seen each other, we’d just talked on the phone. There was a shift in her voice; embarrassment for getting it wrong.

We never spoke again.

When I don’t know what to do, I have a tendency to do nothing. It’s a freeze response to stress. Like the rabbit caught in the jaws of the fox, playing dead in the hope of minimising the pain of the inevitable.

My mum was just shy of 90 years old. So, while her death may not have been unexpected, it was still a shock. I might have grieved her loss years before, but I still cried.

I’m estranged from my son. What can I say? I’m obviously rubbish at relationships. The product of a somewhat dysfunctional upbringing, I’ve apparently continued the family tradition!

Although we’d not communicated in a couple of years, I thought he should know his grandma had died. I decided to call rather than text. I didn’t even know if he would answer. My only agenda was to give him the news. I had not prepared in advance. I had not rehearsed the conversation.

He picked up. I cried. I told him she was gone. He then turned the conversation to our estrangement. He vented his anger and hurt. Telling me all the reasons I was wrong, at fault, to blame, as far as he was concerned. It was hard to hear but I resisted the temptation to retaliate, to defend my position, to drag up all the ways he had hurt me. I tried my best to dodge the blows of the red-hot poker, knowing how much it was burning his hand.

I apologised and asked how to make it right?

At first, as his frustration increased, he hit harder.

“If I have to tell you, it doesn’t count.”

“I’ve got it wrong; not because I don’t want to get it right, but because I don’t know how to.”

Every disagreement has two sides. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a disagreement. To keep arguing, to keep angry, all you have to do is think there is only side to the story, only one truth. We all experience events in our own unique way. When there are gaps in what we know, we fill them with what we think.

I could tell you my truth, but it’s not THE truth; just my perception of events.

My mum would have had her truth, just as true and real to her as mine is for me.

My son has his truth, just as real and true for him as mine is for me.

Neither of us is absolutely right nor completely wrong.

I hope this is the beginning of creating conditions for love and understanding to flourish and the end of all the old animosity and pain between me and my son.

The end of my mum’s life is the beginning of her afterlife, which I pray is filled with love, peace, happiness and reunion with my dad.

I believe rather than one life story, we each have many stories that make up our lives.

I hope this new beginning of my life as an ‘orphan’ (does that title even apply when you’re 60 years old?) makes some sense of the previous stories. I hope I will evolve and improve; not to make myself wrong and not to make others wrong, either.

I’m fearful I will mess up again. I hope if I do, I can make it right and that those who matter will forgive me and focus on remembering my intentions are good.

I’m fearful I will be hurt again. But if loss has taught me anything, it’s that pain is the price we pay for love.

I’m fearful. But I know fear cannot be eradicated from life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m strong and courageous, but I’m still afraid. I just want to be more hopeful and joyful than fearful.

The end.

Which, of course, just makes way for a new beginning.

© Denise Collins, 2023


Next up is a poem by Tavinder New, who talks about the ending of a marriage and how different everything was supposed to be.

Happily Ever After 

You said ‘ I do’, after that I felt as though we were glued together by the vows that made us. But then came the rows, you felt blue while I knew things were not good between us.

Wasn’t it supposed to be happily ever after and laughter? But all we had was a contradiction to this tale.

You said ‘ I want a divorce’ I felt a change in the course that we were no longer glued together by the vows that made us.

But that life’s troubles, tribes and trifes had broken us both.

Wasn’t it supposed to be happily ever after and laughter? But all we had was a contradiction to this tale.

You said ‘goodbye’ while I sat and cried and realised that it’s not happily ever after for all of us. Some of us don’t get that joy.

© Tavinder New, 2023


The final piece I’ve chosen for you today is Pound Hugs by Write On! Monday Moments editor, Amber Hall. This short story lets us take a look at how a partner acts around other people, as opposed to when they’re alone as a couple.

Pound Hugs

The bar is dimly lit, with on-trend, industrial décor. It’s stifling. Suited men gather in crowds and speak in hushed tones. Occasionally, one or two groups guffaw in unison and back slaps follow. Ben holds my hand, and gives it a little squeeze when I let out a sigh. It isn’t that I don’t want to be here. Well, it is, but it isn’t that I don’t want to be here for him. I know how important this job is to him. I know that I’m here to make a good impression; to raise him up, as girlfriends are wont to do, so that they know he’s worth the money. He makes a lot of it now, after all.

“Benny boy,” a voice calls from the throng.

“All right?” Ben replies, raising his hand to a face I can’t recall. They do a strange little handshake thing, leaning in for a hug at the end. I don’t think it suits Ben, and I make a mental note to tell him this later.

He introduces me: the man’s name is Andy, and he works in accounts. He’s heard all about me, he says, and acts in a way that’s a little too familiar. I note the alliterative nature of his name and job title, and wonder whether he’d ever stopped to think about what he actually wanted to do. He could’ve been an ambulance driver, an actor, or even an astronaut. I think of Andy dressed as Macbeth, or floating in the ether in a spacesuit, crying salty tears for his dear Mother Earth. I smile at this and the men smile back. I’m sure they think I’m simply charming.

I only half-recognise Ben in this place. The subtle displays of machismo take him away from me; it all seems like play-acting. Once we leave – once we’re back home, cocooned by the life we’ve made together – he’ll be the same as he always is, I’m sure.

It’s the money that’s the issue. Ben never had any growing up and it still weighs heavily on him, even with his new salary and the bonuses. We’ve never lived more comfortably, in truth. But he can be stingy with it, hoarding his earnings away in savings bonds and mutual funds so that, at the end of the month, we’re not much better off than before. Not that I mind; I was happy enough as we were. We always had food on the table and a roof over our heads, even back then. We’d scour the clearance aisles in supermarkets, coming up with ever more inventive ways to prepare almost-expired vegetables. Now he works late most evenings. I don’t know where the last 12months have gone. We’ve been trying for a baby for most of that time, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m not sure which one of us is the problem.

Ben’s colleagues jostle for a place as, one-by-one, I’m introduced to them all. They tell me I’m pretty – that Ben is punching – but they don’t speak to me much. “Ben, you lucky bastard,” Andy says and they all laugh, slapping both him and Ben on the back. Andy’s face looks contorted, until I realise he’s grinning. Perhaps he doesn’t usually have much to smile about.

© Amber Hall, 2023


If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to:

Write On! issue 17 is now. You can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets and see previous editions of our magazines here.

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