The Joy That Killed

Fiction by Jacques Fleury
Mrs. Hannah Havnoklu, having had a night of nervous sleep, slowly sat up in bed and looked back at her husband, Hans. She smiled at him and got up to go to the bathroom. Today was going to be one of the most joyous days of their life together.
They’d been together since the beginning of high school, to their parents’ dismay. Their parents had thought they were too young to be so in love and inseparable. Hans was two years older than Hannah and neither of them had ever dated anyone else. Then, the night of the high school prom, they went too far. They were at Mezaround Creek, a place where all the kids went to be with each other, and Hannah became pregnant with their first child. She was sixteen years old. Her parents didn’t believe in abortion, so the plan was that she would carry the child to term and then give it up for adoption. For Hannah, those days were better off left forgotten. Her once docile and gentle family became quarrelsome, and the tension in her home forced her and Hans even closer together. Hans’s family were open-minded hippies, and were more accepting of the situation. His parents had also met when they were very young and had Hans when they were teenagers.
When the day finally came for Hannah to turn the baby over to the adopting couple, she cried all day and night.
“Darling, you’re just too young,” her mother had said. “You have your whole life ahead of you. Besides, what would people say? We are prominent people in this community and that makes us role models. I can’t believe you’ve embarrassed us like this! These things do not happen to people like us.” Then, with a lowered voice and furrowed brow, Hannah’s mother practically hissed, “They happen to that Hans boy, maybe, since his parents are white-trash, marijuana-smoking hippies who did the same thing you two are doing, ruining your lives by having kids when you’re still kids yourselves.” After she harangued Hannah, she came over to her and wiped her tears with her bare hands, all the while saying, “It’s for the best, darling. You may not see it now, but you will later.”
Hannah would never forget the orange sun setting in the view of her hospital room that day; everything was quiet and eerily threatening. Her mother had left with her first- born child, taking him to the adopting parents. Hannah had felt depleted, bewildered, confused and defeated. She’d simply stared out the window and watched the sun go down, as if it were the last time she would ever see a sunset.
When her parents forbade her to continue seeing Hans after she returned home from the hospital, Hannah had tried to kill herself by downing an entire box of sleeping pills. She’d been slouched down in her bed mumbling gibberish when her mother found her, and she woke up the next day in the hospital. She was allowed to see Hans again, but he wasn’t allowed to come over to the house. After she graduated from high school, Hannah and Hans left Ohio and went to San Francisco to start a new life. Hans enrolled in college and worked as landscaper, and Hannah worked in a flower shop. A year later, their second son, Hans Jr., was born. Eventually, Hans became a dentist and Hannah became a schoolteacher.
Now, Hannah was forty-eight and Hans was fifty. Neither of them knew that their meticulously constructed world was about to self-destruct, leaving nothing but scandal, lies, and deceit. But for now, Hannah looked into the bathroom mirror. She noticed the crow’s feet around her eyes, her droopy chin and neck and sagging breasts. She sighed and said, “Oooh time, the subtle thief of youth.”
The sun was playing hide and seek behind overcast clouds hanging over the quiet suburb. Downstairs—while Hans was still in bed—Hannah commenced with preparations for the anticipated arrival of Hans Jr., who was coming for a visit. Outside her kitchen window, there were two crows in the garden, which was adorned with the spry blooming of spring. Hans Jr. had called just days earlier, to their surprise, since he mostly called on holidays and birthdays. They both wished that they had a closer relationship with their only son.

“Mom, put the phone on speaker and get Dad, I have an announcement,” he had said. “Mom, Dad, I’m in love and I’m also engaged…” Both Hannah and Hans interrupted with bursts of joy and welcoming surprise. “Oh my… That’s great honey!” exclaimed Hannah. “Yeah, son, that’s great! So when do we get to meet this lucky gal?” asked Hans. Hans Jr. hesitated and said, “Well, I was hoping to bring Chris to meet you guys on Easter Sunday.” Both his parents cried out “Sure, that will be fine, looking forward to it!” in unison, as they often did. And so it was set.
It was noon and Hans Jr. along with his new fiancé were expected any minute. “Honey, can you help me pick out a tie to go with this black suit?” Hans called out to Hannah. “Oh, honey, why on God’s earth would you wear a black suit on such a happy day? Why don’t you wear the red tie to add some color to spruce up this funeral suit you’re wearing?” Hans took her advice and that was that. As Hannah set a large plate of Easter eggs on the lavishly decorated table now teeming with an overabundance of food, the doorbell rang.

“Honey, I’m busy in here, can you get that?” Hans answered the door and appeared flabbergasted when he saw who Hans Jr. was with. “Chris” turned out to be a man, but not just any man. Hans recognized him as the same boy in the pictures that he had been receiving from the adoptive parents of their first child! He clutched his chest and fell dead to the floor. “Dad! Oh my God, Dad!” Hans Jr. rushed to his father and tried to revive him with no avail. “Mom, come here quick!” Hannah could be heard from the dining room, “What’s all the commotion out there?” She ran to the front door and gasped when she saw the man standing over her husband on the floor. “Mom, what’s wrong. Why do you look like that?” Hannah’s skin turned to a pale bluish color and all the life quickly drained out of her as she too suddenly plopped to the floor. “Oh my God, Chris, call 911!” It was too late.
Hannah and Hans Sr. were buried a few days later; both Hans Jr. and Chris were at the funeral. The truth about their relation to one another remained a mystery as they watched their parents’ languid bodies being lowered into the ground. The men held hands as they left the cemetery grounds; they looked up together and saw two crows fluttering through the dismal sky, heading in their direction.

Jacques Fleury’s book: “Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir” about life in Haiti & America was featured in the Boston Globe. Contact him at: and visit his website at:





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