February 12, 2021– Last week we did a photo writing prompt and received over thirty submissions from authors locally and abroad. There was one that stood out from the crowd. I was blown away by this when I read it, and in parts, it took my breath away! This is titled Breaking Free of the Past by our very own Tonya Cartmell. To check out her book (illustrated by Emily James), The Twelve Days of Rescue, click here: The Twelve Days of Rescue: Cartmell, Tonya, James, Emily: 9781989506219: Books – Amazon.ca
Breaking Free of the Past by Tonya Cartmell
“Stop whining. Sit Down. Shut up and type.” The words ran like ice water down her spine, chilling her to her core. Reluctantly, she slid down hoping to melt into the chair. Running her long fingers over the dusty, old, worn, round typewriter keys, she let her mind drift back to happier times. There were long periods where she loved to sit in this small attic room she had converted to an office. Her grandmother had helped her set it up with an old antique desk, chair, lamp and of course this typewriter that she knew today, would bring her death. She glanced into the cold, hard, steel blue eyes and whispered, “Why do I listen to you?”
“What was that? Why are you fighting so hard against the inevitable? You always knew how your story would end. You used to plan for it; sitting alone in the dark feeling sorry for yourself when life got hard. It is time. Your novel is done and what better way to instant fame then to leave your fans wanting more when you won’t be here to give it to them. This letter will become the prelude to your life’s work. People will remember you. You should be happy and thanking me, not questioning me now when you are at the finish line. We had a deal. Finish it.”
She slowly slid open the desk drawer. It moved quietly and smoothly from centuries of use. Reaching in she pulled out a single sheet of paper and slowly fed it into the typewriter roller; turning until the paper reached typing height. She turned on the single bulb lamp near the right edge of the desk, not for the light it offered but for the comfort the warm glow provided. A single tear slid down her cheek as she looked at her fingers resting on the keys. Nails that were once long and covered with bubble gum pink polish, now sat bitten and bleeding from the stress of the last few months. She shook her head gently from side to side, her long dark hair brushing across her back as she tried to clear her head. She had tried her best to fight but now realized nothing she did would lead to her coming out the winner in this situation. Resigned to the fact there was nothing else she could do; she began to type.
Breaking Free of the Past, has been a labour of love and exploration of the depths of my sadness. Like many of you who read this book, my life has never been easy. It has been filled with struggles, adversary and pain intermixed with some joy, laughter, and moments filled with love. The decisions I have made may not have won the popular vote and I’m sure many people would not always understand them, but they were my decisions and I stand by them. My moto has always been that is ok to make mistakes if you learn from them and move on.
There is one decision that almost broke me. One that took all my strength and energy to crawl my way back from. Perhaps, I never fully made it out of the black void it left behind in my life. The decision I made to stay behind on that snowy day while they went out. Safe and warm at home waving goodbye from the window as they climbed into the car. My husband was annoyed I wouldn’t join them. Did his anger lead to the death of my family on that slippery road? Was he distracted? This is the one event that I truly need to break free from. Yet as I sit at my old desk, in the office of my youth, writing this preface on the typewriting I used before I was married; I realize that I will never be free of the past. I have prayed for forgiveness. I have begged for it. I thought I had found peace, but the nightmares have returned and are dragging me down again. There is a constant reminder that I failed; that the empty hole my family used to fill is my fault. That the silence will never again be filled with laughter. That love will never warm my heart again. My despair runs deep, and I have never felt so alone. I hope reader, that you never experience this pain, loss, sadness and numbness. Please seek help before you reach this point. I hope you find the light in the dark that I lost. Learn from me.
She finished typing and hung her head as her tears flowed. When they had subsided, she wiped her face with her sleeve then reached into her bag and pulled her manuscript. The envelope was already addressed to her publisher. She used the return bar to remove the paper from the typewriter. Each ding pierced the quiet in the darkening room. She added it to the top of the pile of pages and then sealed the envelope. She set it off to the side of the desk under the lamp.
“Finally, you are done. One last hurdle to get over and then everything will be completed. You won’t feel sadness anymore.”
“I don’t want to”, she said quietly refusing to look up.
“It is your obligation. You should have been in the car with them. Maybe if you had gone, he wouldn’t have been driving so quickly. Maybe you could have asked him to slow down or told him to watch out for that curve. If you were there, your daughter might be downstairs laughing instead of sitting on the mantel in a metal urn. You know what you need to do.”
She looked over at the firearm on the desk. Almost surprised to see it sitting there. She didn’t remember bringing it here or putting it on the desk. The black matte finish of the Glock 9mm handgun made it almost disappear in the fading light. Only one round sat on the desk beside the empty magazine. Her husband had taught her how to safely handle and fire the gun. She loaded the single round into the magazine before slamming it into the receiver. Then drew back the slide to chamber the round. With her shaking hand, she placed it back on the desk.
“What are you doing? This is the last step. You must do this. Pick it up. Join them.”
She took a deep breath and raised her head. Starring deep into those eyes that haunted her for years. She was so tired of fighting. Tired of pushing every day to just get out of bed. To try and find something to live for. She looked down at the locket on her chest. Inside was a picture of her husband and daughter. She finally realized it was time to let go. They would not want her to live this tortured life.
She picked up the gun and fired without hesitation. The sound was deafening, and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. The mirror above the typewriter shattered. The voice in her head was finally silenced. She placed the gun back on the desk. Tomorrow would be another day.
Thank you, Tonya for this moving and heart wrenching story! You are a very talented writer and we are so proud to know you. X LLB