My triplet opens the door, taking the lead for the first time. We breathe in spicy warmth after the emptiness outside. The place is crowded, noisy with chatter and steam. I smell coffee, milk, detergents, sugar, humans and something else. One small child pulls away from his mother, and then stops in front of us, eyes round and the same blue as today’s sky. I don’t want to think of the fight under that terrible sky.
I swing the glass door back to its frame, there is no one behind us. Heads are turning. More eye colours, different shades of brown, grey, green, no pair matching another. Cups are put down. One tilts, spills onto an empty chair. Conversation drops, the machinery behind the counter hisses loud. Two young adults are still intent on their levers, liquids and jugs. A man stands in front of them, square and alert, surely the boss.
To our left, a dog - now that furry scent is identified - looks up, nostrils busy. Surprising, to find such an animal in an eating establishment, we should update the travel guide. My sibling has not noticed, is pawing through our bag.
I wait, and watch the boss man, and the dog. Neither moves yet. I’m grateful to be trusted as guard, now there are only two of us. At last, my sister has her aroma analyser switched on and connected. She gazes around the silence.
“Clearly, dear twin, they are not used to space travellers.” She hooks a claw under her face mask.
“Breathable,” she says, and nods towards the nearest table. “Also edible”.
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.
The rules are the same as ever, we are open for submissions for just one week. Stories should be no more than 500 words (not including the title) and should be on whatever theme you fancy. You can submit up to three entries, and there is no cost.
7 editors (one each day) will read your work, and make their decisions, and then the deluge begins at midnight on the 16th.
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. …
You’re off to the seaside because you don’t know what else to do since he left. Alice knows she shouldn’t ride in the boot with her beach ball but you won’t stop her. You’re glad she blew up the ball herself. You refuse to take over that role as well.
All three kids looked happy enough in the photograph your mother just took before you set off but it will be different when you get out of the city. These days, they’re quiet in the car – even Finn, who used to sing all the time.You’ll keep checking the mirror and see him sucking his thumb, hear the girls playing Angry Birds on their iPads.
You’ll drive on and on through the mountains, past fields of lambs, past that stream where you had the picnic last year. Back then, he helped Finn catch a minnow, and pointed out the red kite gliding on a thermal. You’ll see a hawk yourself, but you won’t know its name. When you switch the radio on to blur your thoughts, Amy Winehouse will be singing Rehab. It always makes you think of him.