It was too good to be true. Zara hadn’t had a successful trip out since Emily realised she could say words and get out of her pushchair. And today was no different. It was going well right up until they passed a dirty old teddy in the middle of the road. Zara had planned to walk straight past it but of course Emily had spotted it. ‘Teddy,’ she said.

            ‘That’s right,’ Zara agreed, ‘teddy.’

            She walked on hoping that that was the end of it, but Emily was a strong-willed little girl. Like mother like daughter. And deep down she knew where this was going.

            ‘Teddy, Mama, teddy,’ Emily said more urgently.

            ‘I know Emily, but it’s not yours, we must leave it here in case the owner comes back for it.’

            ‘Mine. Teddy mine.’ Emily arched her back and tried to free her arms from the constraints of the straps. Zara stopped and pushed her back down. An Emily tantrum was imminent. Zara had seen this many times before but she was never prepared. She was about to move again when Emily let out the most ear-piercing scream Zara had ever heard. She was sure that Emily’s screams went up few decibels with each new tantrum. It echoed down the cobbled street. It bounced off the walls and off the ground and spread across the rooftops. The whole town had probably heard the commotion. ‘My teddy, Mama. My teddy.’

            Emily kicked her legs and thrashed her arms; the pushchair shook from side to side. Tears rolled from her eyes and into her little mouth. Zara gave in as she so often did; anything for a quiet life. She walked back to the teddy and picked it up, wincing at the thought of all the germs that had probably made a home in its fur. She shook it off and gave it a wipe with her sleeve. The teddy’s face was familiar. Didn’t Emily have one like this? Didn’t it have a missing eye though? Then the label caught her eye because Emily’s name was written on it. Zara couldn’t believe it, this was Emily’s teddy. She lost it a few weeks ago on this very route. She’d spent ages retracing her steps to find it but it was lost, and now here it was. She’d forgotten all about it. Poor Emily she thought; now riddled with guilt that she hadn’t listened to her daughter. No wonder she was so upset. She handed the teddy to Emily whose tantrum had now reduced to a sniffle, but she was smiling. ‘My teddy,’ she said as she squeezed him tight.

            Zara was relieved it was all over, another tantrum she could tick off the list. But as she was about to move off she felt a tap on her shoulder.

            ‘Um, excuse me.’ Zara turned to see a woman standing in front of her, she was holding a little girls hand. ‘I think you’ve picked up my daughter’s teddy, thank you for finding it.’

            Zara looked from the woman, to the teddy, to Emily and imagined the shit storm that was about to occur; and she ran.

Flash Fiction – The Edge

It’s been hard. His life is almost over now, but mine has been over since he got the diagnosis. I can’t do it anymore. ‘Come on, love,’ I say, ‘let’s get you wrapped up; we’re going for a drive.’

            I tighten his scarf, put a blanket over his lap and tuck him in tight. All these little things I do for him that he never remembers. I thought I could cope, and when I couldn’t cope I thought I’d just get used to it. But none of those things have happened. He hasn’t known me for the last two years. Everyday I’m a stranger. It’s not fair on either of us. I wipe a tear from my cheek and cringe at the lines under my fingers. I don’t remember getting them, it’s like one day nothing, and then they were there.

            I push his chair into the back of the car and drive to our favourite place. ‘Where are you taking me,’ he says.

            ‘Nearly there, love.’

            We always loved it at the top of this hill. There’s a bench near the edge that looks out to sea. We used to sit here and listen to the waves crashing against the rocks below. He points at the bench as though he’s remembering something, but it will be gone again in a moment. This is where it all started, our first date, our first kiss, where he proposed and where it will end. The wind tries to steal his scarf; I tuck it into his coat. He shivers.

            ‘Home,’ he says.

            ‘Not yet, love.’

            I push his chair toward the bench but this time I don’t sit, I walk straight past until his chair rests on the brink. I wipe away another tear, ‘I love you,’ I whisper as I push him over the edge.

Flash Fiction – Desperate Measures

Liam wasn’t sure how it had come to this. One minute he was hosting a meeting with his colleagues, the next he had his hands around Andy’s throat. It took precisely one second for him to vacate his chair, punch Andy to the floor and pin him down. Everyone agreed that this was unusual behaviour for Liam, he was always so calm.

            Of course he regretted it as soon as he did it, but he needed that money. He looked at his colleagues pleadingly, hoping they would step in and stop this lunacy but they just sat there, jaws hanging, staring. Liam tried to move his hands but it was as though they were stuck with glue. Any longer, Andy would be dead; he’d be a murderer, and then what? But Andy’s knee collided with Liam’s privates knocking him back and rolling onto the floor holding his crown jewels.

            Andy stood and straightened his tie, ‘what the hell’s wrong with you?’ he said, ‘I’m calling the police.’ He stormed out of the room.

            What was wrong with him? He knew he’d over-reacted, but desperate times call for desperate measures, before he could stop himself he shouted, ‘if I see you again, I’ll kill you.’

            He pulled himself up and swiped his hand across his forehead and looked up to find a whole audience had entered the room while he’d been possessed. And then another thought crossed his mind; witnesses. ‘Fuck,’ is all he said.

            The crowd parted as his director approached. ‘It’s probably best if you go home.’

            Liam took a slow walk of shame out of the door. The cold air hit him like a slap in the face. He felt the first drops of rain that would soon be a storm. He lifted his head to the sky and thought about what had just happened, the news there would be no bonus, the fight, the witnesses. Would Andy call the police? A worse thought crossed his mind; he had to tell his wife that the money was gone.

He made his way home.  

Flash Fiction – Broken

‘What are you arguing about?’ asked Lilly. She’d noticed it a lot lately. One minute they were a happy family, and then it seemed her parents didn’t like each other anymore.

            ‘We’re not arguing,’ her father had said. He pulled her in for a cuddle. Lilly loved cuddles with her dad; it was warm and cosy, her safe space. It never usually lasted this long though. When he released her he held her hands and looked into her eyes, Lilly wondered if he was starting a staring contest. ‘I love you, Lilly, don’t ever forget that.’

            Lilly giggled, ‘I know, you tell me everyday, Daddy.’

            She let go of his hands and ignoring her mother, she ran out to the garden. Unlike the atmosphere inside, the garden welcomed her; the flowers smiled, the trees waved, the insects kept her company. Outside, she felt wanted.

She sat cross legged on the grass and hummed a tune while she busied herself making daisy chains. For a moment the only sounds were the breeze and a little blackbird calling out for some attention. Then she heard her mother shout, making Lilly jump.

            ‘If you’re going to leave then go, we don’t need you, me and Lilly will be fine without you.’

            Leave? Lilly didn’t understand. Her mother was wrong, Lilly wouldn’t be fine without him, she needed him. She left her daisy chain and marched up the garden path, she had to make them see. A door slammed and she knew it was too late. Her walk turned into a sprint and then words came out of her mouth that she hadn’t planned on saying, ‘Daddy,’ she called as she entered the house, ‘don’t go. Mummy’s wrong, I do need you Daddy.’ But he had gone.

Tears escaped from her eyes and she turned to her mother for comfort, but her mother had none to offer. She was sat at the table with an opened bottle of wine. Lilly recognised it as the drink that made her parents happy. She’d never seen them drink it at breakfast though. Her mother picked up the glass and Lilly said, ‘I hope you feel better after that, Mummy.’ Her mother looked at her as she pressed the glass to her lips.