The little shell sat on the mantelpiece where it had been for as long as anyone could remember.
Margery sits in her chair and looks at it.
She bought the shell a lifetime ago on a family holiday in Scarborough – her and Robert and the five children. She had wanted a souvenir to try and protect the memory of the most perfect day of her life. The very word ‘souvenir’ so different and exotic and always linked to magical trips to special places. They found it in a large shop on the front which smelt of sea salt and cigarettes. Susan had bought a stick of pink rock then refused to share it with the others.
She had put the shell, all wrapped up in paper, down in the fish and chip shop while they placed their huge order and nearly left it but the chap behind the counter pointed it out to her. They sat on a bench on the promenade to eat them. Sun beating down, greasy fingers, newspaper, salt, fish, lovely. Seagulls wheeling about above them – that noise they make! So distinctive, every time she heard a seagull since then she is catapulted back to that day, to that bench in Scarborough, surrounded by everyone she loved.
Now the shell sits on the mantelpiece, half hidden among all the photos of the children, grandchildren and even the little great grandchildren. Imagine that she has lived to see great grandchildren. She looks at it and remembers the smell of that shop but can’t remember the name of the boy in the picture next to it with his front teeth missing. Is it Philip or is it Steven?
In her darker days she is scared of the strangers’ faces that stare at her all day. Similar eyes, similar smiles.
The shell is dusty now and you can still see the crack where she had to glue it back together after Johnny – or was it Jack? – once dropped it.
That woman who comes in once a week says she cleans it, but still it gathers dust.
[Previously published on Flash Fiction magazine http://