'Hello or Goodbye' by David Alexander

Now was the time to do it. Sally’s husband wouldn’t be back for an hour and Cameron wouldn’t notice her missing for a few minutes. He was sitting on the floor, eyes square on the TV.

‘Right, I’m just popping out. Be back in twenty minutes,’ she said, checking her high heels for scuffs.

‘Where are you going?’ asked Cameron.

‘Just to the shops.’

‘Again?’

Cameron pulled himself from the screen to look at her. She saw his eyebrows strain at his mum wearing a skirt. Maybe it was a bit much. Maybe it said exactly what was on her mind. ‘We need bread,’ she said.

‘But you bought bread yesterday,’ he said. ‘And you said you’d be twenty minutes.’

‘So?’

‘It’s two minutes to the shops. It only takes one minute to buy bread. That’s five minutes, there and back.’

He looked up at her, eyebrows still taut. He looked just like he did when he was a baby; lost, always looking for her.

‘I’ll be five minutes, then,’ she said.

‘At the most,’ he said, nodding her into agreement.

‘At the most,’ she replied. Cameron turned back into the TV’s beam, satisfied.

Out the front door she turned right and climbed the hill towards the row of shops. Outside the estate agent’s she stopped and looked in. Through the glass, beyond the desks and computer screens, she could make out his tall shape. He was looking in the reflection of the back door, straightening his tie. He turned and saw her. Sally gave a little wave. He put his hand up and held it there, unsure whether this was hello or goodbye.

Cameron was still watching the same noisy cartoon when she got back. He looked at her, confused. ‘Where’s the bread?’ he asked.

‘They didn’t have any.’ She took off her heels and chucked them under the stairs. ‘We’ll have to make do with what we’ve got.’

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