Rude Awakening

~500 words :: Brokeback Mountain :: Alma :: 1/11/06
Her voice didn’t break and she didn’t say don’t you wait for your prince, ’cause he ain’t comin’, or other things a four-year-old wouldn’t understand.

Podfic by luzula


Alma never thought she was a dreamer. Out here wasn’t much room for dreaming, wasn’t much use in it, either. That seemed like part of some big city life she’d never have, so she married Ennis at seventeen, just out of high school. It was two years longer than her mama’d lasted.

Life with Ennis was hard. Ennis was hard, and she couldn’t get a handle on him no matter how she tried. But that was life and she didn’t have any illusions. She had the girls instead, and the little apartment in town, and she loved her husband, even if he was distant and never spoke more than five words at a time.

It was only when her dreams slipped away that she realized they’d been there at all. Such an ordinary dream, one you take for granted, and everything gone in a few seconds watching two men kiss on the landing.

Her chest was tight, but her eyes were dry as she put Alma Jr. and Jenny to bed. She read Alma Jr. a story; Snow White was her favorite now and Alma’d been reading it every night for near on two weeks. Her voice didn’t break and she didn’t say don’t you wait for your prince, ’cause he ain’t comin’, or other things a four-year-old wouldn’t understand.

She went to bed herself after that, though it was still light outside. She lay tense and straight as an arrow, arms at her sides, and her fists clenching and unclenching was the only concession to the nearly overwhelming desire to toss and turn.

Sleep never came, but hours later the tears did, curling her up on her side and turning her inside out. She cried with her hands pressed up to her mouth like praying, but there were no prayers in her head, just Ennis and that Jack, clinging to each other like they never wanted to let go.

The next day was worse. One minute she’d be washing dishes or hanging clothes on the line or changing Jenny’s diaper and the next she’d be standing there with tears running down her face, bawling like a baby and scaring Alma Jr., who’d never seen her mama cry before.

When Alma Jr. hugged her and asked her why she was crying, Alma didn’t have to lie to say she didn’t know. She didn’t know if she was crying because she was afraid Ennis might not come back, or because she was afraid he would. There wasn’t any good way out of it. Either way she got the short end of the stick, but that was life, and no amount of schoolgirl dreams would make it better.

By the time he did come back, Alma’d cried herself dry as a bone and vowed never to waste another tear on Ennis del Mar.