Friday Fiction – The View

To avoid spoilers, I’ll save my introduction for after the story today, except to congratulate our host, Rochelle, who celebrates her second anniversary driving our bus – and to thank her and Melanie Greenwood, who provides today’s prompt.


The View

From the outside, looking in, Jerry and Maeve were the picture of contentment. Their jobs kept them busy and challenged, with enough money for incredible holidays and a nice house with the mortgage all-but paid off.

Friends would tell them how wise they were, how lucky, how sensible – how they had evaded tantrums and mini-vans, sticky fingers and muddy floors. Others suggested they might change their minds.

Because from the outside, looking in, it was almost impossible to see the third chair at their table; the empty crib in their spare room … the other life that had never quite begun.




These days it seems there’s a day for everything. Sometimes, I find that frustrating, but so many of the days are important to so many people, which ones would you cut? Is it more important to have a day for Breast Cancer, because it’s common, or for ALS, because it’s not? 15th October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Such losses are mercifully much less common than they once were, but they still affect huge numbers, many of whom will never tell most of their friend, even family. I’ve got plenty of friends who say simply “We’ve decided not to have children”, and in some cases that decision hides difficult times. Which is one of the reasons (part from common decency and respect for the choices of others), why I get so frustrated with those who question that decision.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

35 responses to “Friday Fiction – The View

  1. Alice Murray

    Aww.. really like this. Well done!


  2. Dear Jennifer,

    Your writing is so lucid and seamless that I can see the closed door to the spare room, the dog-eared Fischer-Price catalog on the bedside table, even the empty space between Jerry and Maeve as they navigate their hidden grief. So wonderful reading your work, Jen. You lead by example. Well done.



    • Originall this was a story about a very different “There are three of us in this marriage” family, but Jerry and Maeve’s story is all too common, and all too easily forgotten by the lucky ones. If I make just one person think twice, I feel I’m doing my bit. I’m glad you can see so much more than my words could tell.

  3. Dearest Jennifer,
    Wonderful story and great “extroduction” at the end. (I love that word by the way.) The topic of your story is a particularly difficult one to handle, especially in flash fiction. In fact, I got myself in a lot of hot water recently by critiquing someone’s flash (which apparently wasn’t as much fiction as I had been originally led to believe) about this topic. The problem wasn’t so much the topic as the way it was told. This tale is an oft-repeated one, so the author who sets out to tell it has to bring something new and unique to the table–a fresh perspective, unique characterization, something. You have deftly done this where many others fail. Kudos!

    Marie Gail

    • Thank you, MG, and please always feel free to be honest with me (even if it hurts!). It’s always difficult to take critique as criticism of the WRITING and not the WRITER, and even more so when the writing is very personal, as it sounds like this one was. I’m glad you felt this wasn’t clichéd, and I’m pleased Extroduction amused you.

      • I think the biggest problem in the previous circumstance was that the writer, although posting on a critique forum, wanted sympathy rather than help improving her writing. I have written several articles over on HubPages that discuss the importance of critique as well as ways to critique the writing without being insensitive or lobbing personal attacks. However, when someone just wants to be told how touching her story is, there isn’t much a critic will be able to do.

        As to reasons that your story works so well: You take a POV that no one expects–that of an outsider looking in. You draw slowly, carefully closer, pulling the reader in with you. As a result, when you arrive at the heartbreak it is poignant rather than overwrought.

  4. You handled this subject so well – very poignant. I loved the line ‘impossible to see the third chair at their table’.

    • That line is where it all started, as you might imagine. I saw two chairs when I first looked, and then the third, so I knew that was going to be the story for me. Although originally, the third chair was another adult in the relationship…

  5. Beautifully crafted, you lead as step by step to a heartbreaking end.

  6. This was heart wrenchingly beautiful and written with such tenderness. Loved it.

  7. Nice piece.
    We all miss things in our lives that others never know about. You wrote about it well.

  8. What a heartbreaking story. You write it so well though.

  9. Beautifully handled, Jen. I liked the basic premise of ‘outside looking in’ as a vehicle for the prompt and the prose was elegantly understated. It’s an emotive subject and really it’s got b-all to do with anyone else. Well done.

  10. Sensitively handled. I actually read your extro… first. I’m sorry I did so. I would like to have had the message of the story first.

  11. Very well handled. Never having had children (nor tired to have any) I can’t quite imagine the loss, but watching others go through this, I can feel it in my heart. Does that make sense? Anyway, well done.

  12. Melanie

    The grass is always greener when you don’t see it being spray-painted. It’s impossible to know what’s really going on inside when you’re outside. That ending just punched me right in the tear ducts. It’s such a difficult loss to endure.
    I love what you did with that mostly hidden third chair.

  13. A very moving heart-breaking tale … brought tears to my eyes … such a loss is a terrible burden, you wrote with moving sympathy … well done.

  14. Dear Jennifer,

    I could take every well-deserved comment prior to mine and say, “Yeah, my thoughts exactly.” We never know what’s behind closed doors. Such a heart-breaker. You’ve shown us how flash fiction is done. Thank you.

    And thank you for two years of support, encouragement and honesty.



  15. You never know what emptiness can live inside others. Beautifully expressed sadness. The room filled with their unfulfilled dreams. Well done.

  16. beautifully written and hits you right in the heart. It’s so true that many times you never know the “real” reason someone chooses not to have children.

  17. I always wanted children but sadly could not. 😦 This was well done! I began a new flash site where you get a photo prompt and the first sentence to the story. You get to finish the story! I hope that you can take a moment to check out Mondays Finish the Story! Be well! ^..^

  18. It’s so human to form judgements about others’ lives and situations from the outside, looking in, as mostly that’s the only vantage point we’ve got. The problem is that we often can’t accept that we haven’t got the full picture, and also that we really have no right to judge. You’ve shown this so well in your story.

  19. This is so sad. My daughter and her husband were in the same position last year but they are 6 months now into their miracle.

  20. I love how you incorporated the third, slightly obscured chair into your story. So sensitively done.

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