"My Promise" a fictional short story by John A. Huguley - © 2019

After a long day at work, I step out of the pouring rain, and onto a city bus full of passengers. The first open seat I notice is next to a small elderly woman. I sit down next to her. I glance at her frail, vein covered hands gripping her purse strap as she gazes at raindrops running down the window.

I politely say to her, “Hello, how is your day going?”

She slowly turns her head towards me, pauses and asks, “Young man - are you married?” 

I smile, lift my chin and say, “As a matter a fact I am! I am married to a beautiful woman named Olivia, and I can’t wait to get home to her!”

The lady turns back forward, takes a long pause, and says, “I was once married...” She stops again as if she is thinking of what to say next. Then she says, “His name was Jim. We met when we were in our twenties. He was my soulmate.” 

She continues while taking deep breaths between sentences, “We built a life together... We bought our first home together... We did everything together... I was by his side when the doctors discovered he had lung cancer at the age of fifty. When my Jim started his treatment, I was at the hospital every day holding his hand until the day he passed away. He was fifty-two when he died. That was thirty-three long years ago. Since my husband’s death, I've had to do everything on my own... I do the yard work by myself. I do all the shopping by myself. I do all the maintenance around the house, and I struggle to pay the bills by myself.” 

The old lady pauses for a moment and clinches her purse strap tighter... She continues, “I asked my husband to stop smoking, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He refused to hear my pleas. For years I begged him to stop... 

The little woman’s voice raises to the point that other passengers are now listening, “Now that Jim is gone, I HATE him! - I've hated him ever since he left me! If I could go back to the day we met, I would turn and walk the other direction. Our marriage was not worth this loneliness that I go through every day of my life. I would've rather he went away to war and killed defending our country or died in a car accident. He destroyed the memory of our entire marriage the day he left me. — Any good memories that I had disappeared from my mind and from my heart.”

The old woman’s eyes water up the more she speaks. Her voice quivers, “I begged and pleaded with him, but he refused to do that for me. I hate the selfish son of a bitch for not quitting for his wife. I gave my life to him and he left me to fend for myself for the last thirty-three years. As much as I once loved him, I hope that he burns in hell for the pain and loneliness he put me through.” She looks over at me with eyes full of tears and says, “Excuse me, this is my stop.”

I watch as the little old woman slowly walks off the bus. I stare out the window at her as the bus pulls off. Now feeling hollow inside, I turn my head forward and close my eyes... I take a long breath and reach in my coat pocket. I pull out an open pack of cigarettes. I whisper to myself, “I’m sorry Olivia...”

Then I crush the pack in my fist and drop it to the floor... I promise to myself that I will never smoke again.

This Fictional Story is Copyright © 2019 – John A. Huguley