THE SHOCK (A Fiction Story)

Peter Wynn
4 min readNov 10, 2023

Joshua, known to his friends as Josh, and Melinda met in church after Melinda moved to a new city with her family when she moved there, aged 16. Melinda’s father had been transferred by his company, and Melinda was unhappy at having to move. Joshua’s father was an accountant and his wife had been eager to welcome the new family into the church community. Both sets of parents quickly became firm friends and Joshua was a few years older than Melinda. While neither set of parents would admit to it, they surreptitiously hoped that the two of them would get together. This wish was to come to fruition.

Joshua was studying to become a teacher, and the two became engaged when he was in his third year of university and Melinda was in her final year of high school. Within weeks of graduating, the two were married in a simple ceremony at their church and Joshua began work. As was customary of teenage curiosity, some began asking Joshua if he was married, and when he replied in the affirmative, the next question was typically if they planned to have children, to which he replied that they were planning to try for a baby that winter, and that Melinda had said that she’d be a devoted stay-at-home mother and that he wouldn’t accept it any other way. At 19, Melinda gave birth to their first child, a son, who they named Kevin, after Joshua’s father, and two years later, she gave birth to a daughter, who they named Isabella, and the following year, another son, who they named Thomas.

The advent of social media, when the children were teenagers, saw Melinda sign up for Facebook, and she began to obtain friend requests from girls, now women, and a few guys, now men, who she went to school with, and she was invited to the 20-year school reunion of the high school in her old city. She was able to persuade Joshua to allow her to go for the weekend. She flew out of the city where she was living on the Friday afternoon and checked into her motel room three hours later. She wondered who would be at the reunion the next night and was particularly keen to see her primary school and high school friend, Debbie.

The following night, she walked into the hotel function room where the reunion was held and was greeted with hugs and kisses from girls she had not seen since her school years, and she learnt that her friend Melissa was working as a suburban GP, her friend Louise was married with two children and was working while her husband was a stay-at-home dad. Karen was married to a woman and was living on the other side of the country. She asked about Debbie and her friend, Jennifer, had tears well in her eyes. “Debbie died six months ago.”

“What? How?”

“Cancer,” replied Jennifer.

After farewell hugs and kisses and talk of doing it all again in five years' time, Melinda returned to her motel room and despite her own tears, she realised something.

The following afternoon, as her plane landed, she was determined to carry out her plan. As she walked into the Arrivals Lounge, she saw Joshua standing there with Thomas and Isabella. She greeted them but did not embrace them, and asked Joshua to bring the car around to the front, while she waited for her luggage.

As she climbed into the passenger’s seat and closed the door, Joshua asked, “So, how was everybody?”

“Okay. Melissa is working as a doctor; Louise has two kids, and her husband is a stay-at-home dad-.”

“He’s what? And what about Debbie?”

Melinda’s eyes filled with tears, “Debbie died six months ago. Cancer.”

“Well, it’s been what, 22 years since you last saw her?”

“Don’t be so flippant, Joshua!”

“Well, come on.”

“No, not, come on. I realised with all that news that I married you when I was 18, within weeks of leaving school. I then became a mother, and it was what you wanted. I suppressed my desire to be a nurse, and now that the kids are older, I want to go back to school, and then university, and become a nurse.”

“Oh, well-.”

“No, not, oh, well. I want to go to university and study.”

“But, but-.”

“No, not that either.”

“Look, you’ll feel better in a couple of days.”

“No, it’s always the way with you! You teach at an all-male school; you never ask me what I want. Well, I’m telling you. I realised that life is too short, and I don’t want to die without achieving some goals.”

In the ten years since then, Melinda and Joshua have divorced, and Melinda is now a nurse at a private hospital where she spends two days in a Day Infusion Unit, one day in Endoscopy, and two days in general wards. She feels as though she’s honoring Debbie’s memory and has achieved some empowerment. She still sees her kids, who have happening careers, Isabella is a doctor. Joshua, meanwhile, is still working as a teacher, but is finding that as a not-so-old recycled bachelor, it’s not so easy to find a woman who wants to be a traditional wife.

--

--

Peter Wynn

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.