DEBUT FLASH: 'Come home' by Anne Chapman

She sat on her sofa and listened patiently right up to the point when her Dad asked her to come home. She ended the call.

To go home would be to laugh together at terrible TV and lose together against quiz-show teams. They could direct all their anger at politicians ignoring interview questions. Dad would make her a cup of tea. She could cook him something she really fancied and he would eat it all and thank her and not mind the number of pans she’d used. And even wash them up. She didn’t move from the sofa.

Dad might not have asked her back if she hadn’t told him about the doctor. But Doctor Roberts sighed too much, too loudly, and she couldn’t keep that to herself. She’d gone to see him because she felt something had slipped in her mind, tipped certainty to mistake’s side of their usual divide in her thoughts. The two were becoming interchangeable. But apparently she didn’t need a counsellor. Nor antidepressants. She just needed to relax. Did she have any hobbies? When she’d tried again to explain the enormity of her fear, he had actually yawned. She’d called Dad afterwards because he would be angry on her behalf. But to provoke his fury at the yawn, she had to bring up her fear.

The problem was Dad didn’t ask the cause this time. Their last proper chat had been when Steve had been Airmiles away on a stag-do. Then she’d suspected the rumours of hands and lips and bodies in the wrong places had made their way even to Dad’s mind-his-own-business ears.

When it had become women she knew, she’d tried to deliver Steve the right words. Her hands had been shaking as she struggled to keep her place in their conversation. Steve had laughed. To raise it was ridiculous, ridiculed him, she was ridiculous. He had shoved her, spat that she should get out of his sight. Dad didn’t need to know about that.

She pushed the still-warm phone a little further away. She didn’t move from the sofa. Dinner was already defrosting. She turned the TV on, couldn’t remember a single answer in the quiz, didn’t know anymore A, B, C, or D.

Steve came in later, picked up the remote and changed the channel. He sat down close, put his arm round her, kissed the top of her head. He pulled her closer, turned her face to his.

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