A short story in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt Blank.
I thought it would be easy to think of something to say to her, but there’s nothing. I search my head for casual comments, anything I can use as a benign conversation starter but despite my years of practicing for this moment, none of those imagined exchanges are making their way to my mouth.
She’s staring at me now, in those awkward seconds after colliding where one of us is supposed to say something other than ‘sorry’. We hold eye contact, I should speak, fill the silence with a rambling diatribe, after all, I know who she is and what she did, she has no clue who’s staring back at her. My telltale heart thuds wildly in my chest, it’s irregular beat stealing my voice but still she doesn’t speak either, just looks at me. I’ve never seen a photograph of her, I’ve never found one, not even in the aged boxes I searched in the loft. I had no idea how alike we looked and I wonder how dad could bear to look at me all these years, the inescapable reminder must have been agony. Her eyes are the same grey-blue as mine although hers are centred in a web of light creases now. She has the the same slightly peaked nose and heart shaped face I see in the mirror every day and almost smile at the realisation that I’m looking at my future self.
I break eye contact and we both stoop to collect the contents of the shopping basket I knocked from her hand. I’ve wondered thousands of times what it would be like to do ordinary things like grocery shopping with her, to choose what we’d cook for dinner and then prepare it together, talking about our day. I’ve wondered what it would have been like to have her with me when I shopped for my school uniform, when I got stuck on my homework or when I needed to cry about another true love gone sour. I wondered what it would have been like to go shopping for my wedding dress together, to have her there when my own daughter was born or just to know she was on the end of the telephone when I wanted to chat.
She’s wearing a wedding ring and it galls me. My simple childhood self never imagined she’d left us to start a happier life, comforting myself instead that Karma had done her duty and issued a life of regret and bad fortune. Anger tightens my chest, what am I doing? Dad’s empty heart would break all over again if he knew I was here.
I drop collected apples and tomatoes into my mother’s basket and stand tall. “I’m so sorry, completely my fault, I should watch where I’m going.”
“Have we met before?” She asks, a deep frown creasing her forehead. “You look very familiar.”
“No, I don’t think so.” I said, turning away from the woman who’s absence has inhabited my life for thirty years.