It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”, where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with the final part of my short story, ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’…
The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn – Part Five (final)
With the snow melting on the peaks of Snowdonia, on Tuesday 8th May, 1945, two years after the death of her friend and one week after the diagnosis of her Father’s cancer, Megan and her family listened as Winston Churchill stood with King George to announce Victory in Europe and the war with Germany over. Gethan, safe home to Wales soon after, carrying letters from Megan in his hands and shrapnel from Fritz in his buttocks, got down on one knee and, declaring he was the luckiest man alive, promptly proposed. The date set for four weeks’ time, her Mother fashioned Megan’s wedding outfit from a pair of curtains to create a jacket and skirt worthy of a Welshman’s daughter. With their entire ration coupons pooled – for, even with the war over, provisions were still sparse, the ravaged land still recovering from the beating – the wedding food and drink was ordered. Yet, as happens when one light burns bright, another began to fade. And so it was that, on the morning of her wedding, a late June day when the Irish Sea lapped the shore and the gulls flocked at the scent of fresh crabs, Megan Quinn’s Father passed away. Megan being young and in love with her betrothed, wavered on the outcome of the day, wondering as to whether she should continue with the ceremony, a union her Father was so delighted to see. But, mindful of what was expected of her, Megan’s sense of duty overtook and, with the soft cries of her Mother’s grief still fresh in her ears, Megan, with Gethan by her side, took the decision to call off the day, informing the priest that his services would now be required for an entirely different family occasion.
Three weeks after her Father’s passing, in a registry office in Mold with just her mother, Dorothy and Gethan’s parents present, Megan Quinn became Megan Evans. The wedding breakfast was a simple affair of cucumber sandwiches and tea in the parlour followed by a bus ride to Llanberis to Gethan’s home, now Megan’s also, where she would, for the next 10 years, share a roof with her husband’s ailing parents, two chickens and an oil lamp.
As the years passed and the seasons shifted, Megan went on to have three miscarriages, one healthy son and the funeral arrangements of two parents-in-law. Yet, life was kind. Gethan brought in a weekly wage from splitting slates, and Megan gained employment in the town bakery, a job that treated their only son upon his daily return from school to an assortment of buns, pastries and breads. The house of Gethan’s parents, now theirs by will and testament, was a source of great comfort to Megan, such joy did she find in its simple walls and open fire. But to their boy, Ewan, a child of a different generation, one who had not known the suffering and sacrifice of his parent’s youth, the house became a symbol of time stood still, and Ewan wanted to move, discover and explore. So, as he reached 19 years of age, Megan, with Gethan holding her hand, found herself waving off her son as he sat on a bus bound for Cirencester, taking him to his new life of a building apprenticeship, and into, as time would show, the arms of a pretty, kind Cotswold girl, and marriage.
While Megan continued happy at the bakery, her beloved Gethan was beginning to die. Years of breathing in slate dust had ravaged his lungs and now, at the age of 52, Megan found herself nursing him in his bed, his breath heavy with emphysema and exhaustion. The news, one day, from Cirencester that Ewan’s new wife was expecting their first child, lifted Gethan’s determination to hang on, certain was he that he could keep himself alive long enough to see the sweet softness of his first grandchild. But, two weeks before what was to be the birth of a baby girl, hair black as coal, lungs loud with screams, Gethan Evans passed away at home in his wife’s arms.
Two years after the death of his Father, Ewan and his wife would go on to have another child, this time a baby boy. To Megan’s joy and sorrow, they named him Gethan Ewan, a name that would prove to be wisely chosen as the boy, when he grew to be a man, displayed the same strength of character and inner calm that his grandfather had always possessed.
As the older generations do, Megan watched as her grandchildren grew, married and produced great-grand children. This now being a new century, the year 2000 hailed for Megan bewildering new technologies, and it was a period that saw her move, at the age of 76, from her marital home, still with its outside lavatory, to a new bungalow with a warden, an inside bathroom and central heating. When her hands were too shaky to write, Megan would use the telephone to keep in touch with her grandchildren and her now new great-grandchildren. Each time they made the lengthy journey to come and stay with her, she found herself delighted and would revel in holding the babies, in tickling the toddlers, in cooking and fussing over them all, singing to them, after a whiskey night cap or two, tales of when she was a girl in the War.
As her great-grandchildren toddled on, so Megan grew old. The day the stroke hit her she had been into the town to share a coffee with old friends, proud of the fact that, at the age of 92, she could still walk down the lane unaided, free to breathe in the clear mountain air she so loved. The warden discovered Megan the next morning, still in her armchair, her bladder having emptied upon it, her jaw having drooped, her left arm having ceased to work.
For the first few weeks following the stroke, Megan spent her time recuperating at a hospital by the coast, the salt of the Irish Sea so close she swore she could sometimes taste it. But, as happens with illness, Megan’s body slowly began to crumble, doctors detecting the onset of Alzheimer’s at the base of her brain, a condition made worse by the discovery of a lump in her breast, an operation performed to remove it ravaging her immune system more. With her body shutting down, Megan found herself transferred to a residential home in Llanberis, a move that left her confused, the Alzheimer’s shaking up the memories of her life like a pack of cards, leaving them to fall in disarray. Family would come and visit often, great-grand children bringing tales of school and class assemblies, Ewan, now 62, bringing a look of worry and sadness. Many of the residents at the home, Megan would find, liked to complain about their lot, about the beds, the TV, the food. But not Megan. Instead, she would go on to live her days in the home and make the best she could of her confusion, her new-found incontinence and of her one remaining breast; and when it got bad, she would say nothing at all about it, letting the silence do the talking for her. For, towards the end of her quiet life, just as towards the beginning, Megan Evans (nee Quinn) never made a fuss.
Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012
Thanks for reading! If you missed some parts of the story, you can catch it all by clicking on the tag “The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn”, (see the left-hand bar)or link to the Friday fact or fiction category. Have a lovely weekend.
**Look out for my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**