Nina calls the following night. I wish she’d stayed at home. Isn’t that where the bereaved are meant to be found, behind closed curtains, waiting for us to visit them?
Not Nina. Not your widow.
“I thought you should know: Richard was found dead last night.”
“Come in,” I tell her, if only because it gives me reason to turn away, to remove evidence of my grief from the porch light’s glare. Am I supposed to know yet?
In the lounge I switch on a solitary lamp, stand with my back towards it. Yes, I’m sure – by now I would have heard.
“I’m so sorry, please sit down. Sorry for your loss, I mean…”
Ignoring the chair I’ve indicated, Nina takes a seat on my sofa. Her gaze drifts over a stain on the cushion beside her. A stain I’ve been unable to shift.
I escape to the kitchen to make tea, and retrieve my muted phone from the cutlery drawer. Eleven missed calls. I glance towards the back door, where last night’s shoes lie, cleaned of the mud from my cross-country trek home. Above them: my jacket, and along one shoulder seam a tear, made as I wrestled gear lever and handbrake to return you, clothed and decent, to the driver’s seat. It is a tear I must mend as soon as Nina is gone.
Standing over the kettle, I balance Gordon Ramsay across the switch and take a slug from my brandy glass. I have maybe five minutes before the kettle boils dry. Five minutes in which to bury all recollection of your agony; to erase the memory of my battle to save you. Five minutes to remind myself that now Belize can never be.
Nina sits, legs crossed, businesslike, a pen and notebook in her hands. From the doorway, over her shoulder, I read a series of names: Amanda, Bethany, Carole, Debs… Most are mutual friends or acquaintance, and a peppering of ticks suggests some mission is in progress. My own name waits, half way down the page. As yet unticked.
“Did you know Debs was planning a trip to Belize?” she asks. Tea slops over the rim of the mug I’m carrying, scalding my fingers and spilling onto the carpet. Nina’s head turns: another stain?
I make it across the room, manage to deposit the mug on the coffee table before her. “Such a coincidence,” she continues. “Apparently Julia’s all set to go too. Imagine. Debs and Julia, both off to Belize, totally independently of one another. Personally I never fancied it. How about you, Miranda? Ever been tempted by Belize?”
I avert my eyes from her gaze, make no effort to shake my head.
Nina stands up. “Must be going. So many people still to be told about Richard.”
In the glare of my porch she leans towards me, her hand on my forearm. “I recommend caustic soda,” your widow tells me. “Makes any old stain a thing of the past.”
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
In the build up to the day we have now launched our Micro-Fiction Competition (stories up to 100 words) and also our annual Anthology (stories up to 500 words). So if you have enjoyed FlashFlood, why not send us your stories?
Yes, it's that time again. We're back and we're getting ready to flood the internet with flash-fictions to celebrate National Flash-Fiction Day on Saturday 16th June 2018.
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I’m going to ask her tonight, definitely. Dad said, you’re not even twelve son, what’s next – extra pocket money for johnnies? Mum told him not to be vulgar, then smiled at me; that smile that makes me want to yank her to the knees by the hair: shout, I’m not a baby, Mum.
It’s in the sports hall like always, but this year they’ve got a proper DJ, not just one of the dads. There she is, all curled hair and sprayed-on glitter. I go to tap her shoulder, but James and Jeremy, in the opposite corner, look at me all, why are you going up to a girl? So, before she turns around, I jump on her back: mime a lasso at them one-handed. Dig my knees into her skinny hips and breathe in marshmallows. Then I’m falling forwards. I put out my hands but my landing is broken. I roll off. And her blood’s on my knees. More of it trapped in the grooves of my trainers.
What happened? says Mr Miller, with a face like a father’s instead of a Head’s.
And she looks at me through the bloodied fingers at her nose. …
Something in the way Mavis Mahoney says her name, Sylvia, could send her to join her Mama, above the clouds she loved staring at for hours on a bed her feet dangled over, without looking back. She keeps the echoes of her name playing in her mind while she takes her place center stage, sees the crowd for the first time, eyes hoping to hold her again.
She finds Mavis among the men too tired to fight for a place in a world that never wanted them. Among women worn down from mending or carrying their wounds. Even in all that misery, Mavis smiles, raises her hands and starts clapping until everyone pulls themselves away from drowning in reflections staring back at them through half empty glasses.
She raises the mouthpiece of her clarinet to spit shined lips, lets her breath flow through the barrel and slide down the upper and lower joints while her fingers stroke and press cold, silver keys. Surrendering the vibrations of her breath into woodwind instruments to pocke…