Blank – A 500 Word Story

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A short story in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt Blank.

***

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.

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About Nicola Auckland

Busy wife to one & mum to two. I've caught the creative writing bug, now need to practice, get awesome and write something worth reading. Simples.
This entry was posted in challenges, flash fiction, Short Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Blank – A 500 Word Story

  1. Dahlia says:

    I was there…I could see it happening. Excellent writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve Giese says:

    You write beautifully. The torment you weave into your character and some subtleties such as your punctuation use remind me of my own style. You said in your about the author section, “maybe some day she’ll get good at it.” You’re already there. Keep it up. You’ll publish that masterpiece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sue Ranscht says:

    It’s certainly a well-constructed story, concisely told. I sense that you want there to be a finality, a satisfaction in her turning away from the woman whose absence haunted her all these years. Karma achieved.

    But it leaves me with questions. All she sees is that the woman wears a ring — I’m happy to accept it’s a wedding ring, and believe she has re-married — but I wonder why, after all those years of yearning, the daughter would jump to the conclusion that her mother left just to marry someone else and have a happier life. No questions, no wondering. Longing suddenly dead and gone. Anything could have happened in those intervening years. Maybe the woman got married just last week after leaving an unlivable life, feeling guilty about the daughter she left behind, living on the street for 8 years, fighting addiction, scraping to survive, attempting suicide more than once, and finally meeting someone — her doctor maybe — who saw her inner beauty, and worked to earn her trust, and finally, FINALLY convinced her to marry him.

    Or did you just want the mother to be in the wrong?

    So it leaves me believing it’s a story about daughter’s pain and anger winning and striking back with self-defeating revenge. But I don’t feel sympathy for her. I feel pity.

    Sorry. I love for stories to have depth and levels beneath the surface. Maybe sometimes I see them where they aren’t. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, you’re right. It’s about the daughter jumping to the conclusion that her mother left her for something better. In my mind, the mother has never taken her original wedding ring off and she wears it as a reminder of what she gave up. It’s also her guard against future happiness ever finding her, a wedding ring is usually a deterrent after all.

      The daughter’s reaction is symbolic of a child’s, she asks no questions as she’s prejudged the situation much like her younger self would.

      Thank you for looking deeper, I love the hidden layers of a story too. I’m going to reread this later and perhaps add a hint of the mother’s pain somewhere to draw a conclusion towards the daughter’s hasty judgement.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sue Ranscht says:

        When you look at it again, will you also hint at the reason she left in the first place? If everyone’s heartbroken over what she’s done, it’s difficult to comprehend why she’d go.

        The thing I like best about layered stories with hints as to the real meaning is that there is a surface level anyone can read for its face value, and still find a story. But when a reader delves deeper s/he often discovers the truth of the tale is just the opposite of what its face shows the world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think that would be difficult to do from the daughter’s POV, but I’ll have a go at dropping a hint. Maybe the memory of a stray comment by the father or similar.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sue Ranscht says:

        That could work.

        Like

  4. Great read! I really felt like I was experiencing that through her eyes. All of those intense feelings – fear, sadness, etc, pushed aside in order to act normal and get through the moment. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautifully done!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. marciadid says:

    Beautifully written! 😊💕

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anonymous says:

    excellent read, very emotional, creative writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a wonderful story. The emotion was expressed perfectly

    Liked by 1 person

  9. luckyjc007 says:

    Gut wrenching for her, but she finally came to terms with it and will probably go on with her life and leave it all behind her after 30 years of wondering. A very powerful story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I saw two women collide in the supermarket last week and they looked at each other for a fraction too long before they picked up their spilled goods. This set the seed in my head for this, a lifetime’s story resolved in a matter of seconds.

      Liked by 3 people

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