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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

October 1st
by Emma Spires

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Forget a day like that? Impossible. One question with an unattainable answer will ceaselessly haunt my restful hours, and condemn my waking moments, teasing and tearing through my skull, screaming: Why?

October 1st. Humidity hung feverishly in the air, creating a delusive warmth. I sat, waiting for the inevitable. I stared at the river, an unmoving murky mirror reflecting the world.

And then it happened.

The first raindrop plunged from the deceivingly darkened mid-afternoon sky, like a bomb, and exploded with the impact, rippling through the glass, shattering illusions of an unchanging world. The reflected image suddenly becoming distorted beyond recognition.

It was this Autumn day, early in October, that my mother left.

‘Eccentric' is a word matching perfectly to my mother's character. There is something in life she hates with a seething passion. For most people it is war, animal cruelty, poverty, or perhaps the current elected politician, yet my mother's great hate is coffee. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the substance was forbidden in our house. If anyone so much as uttered the incriminating word in her presence, it would cause a razor sharp intake of breath. Simultaneously, an expression would pour over her face that would have fitted perfectly should you have announced over Sunday lunch with the grandparents, a planned midnight robbery of the crown jewels.

The morning of October the 1st dawned, and I woke to an instantaneous wonderment: was that the scent of freshly ground coffee beans slithering through the gap of my bedroom door?

That was the beginning of the day which held so many suprises.

I lay in bed for some time, dipping in and out of a shallow sleep. I relished in the contrasting sensations of the blissful warmth of my bed, and the crisp, cool breeze creeping through the crack of my bedroom window, teasing at my cheeks. My ears pricked to the soft sounds from the world beyond my window flooding in. Larry from the house opposite was performing his morning ritual of cutting, trimming, watering, and weeding the lawn. I came to the conclusion that as he didn't have children to fuss over, he simply made the garden lawn a substitute.

The smell of both freshly cut grass and coffee soon made me feel somewhat ill, so I rather reluctantly crawled from my cocoon. I followed the bitter smell downstairs, where it led me into the kitchen. My father was sat alone at the grand oak table that had always looked slightly out of place in our bright yellow kitchen. His body was upright and rigid, his eyes glazed and transfixed on a letter clutched in his left hand; in his right was the forbidden drink, long gone cold. My father's behaviour disconcerted me. My childhood and early adolescent years had never provided me with an experience of my father being sorrowful or angry. He simply seemed to sail through life never hitting stormy waters. Yet the sea never stays calm forever.

"She's gone," he hoarsely whispered, setting a whole shoal of thoughts frantically swimming round my mind. His voice seemed to be coming from far away, and it wasn't the voice that belonged to my father, it sounded weak, fragile and vulnerable. Suddenly he stood, and disappeared from the room, walking in a robotic manner. Seconds later, slow, gasping, sobs sounded, and although barely audible, they ripped viciously through the condemned silence blanketing the room, and sliced into my brain.

The letter, sprawled upon the table, danced innocently in the draft. I didn't want to read it, yet my feet automatically inched forwards, closing the gap between disbelief and a tormenting truth. My increasingly perspiring palms reached for the crumpled letter, my eyes reverently scanning the spidery handwriting that left me in no doubt the letter was from my mother. She painfully described her unhappiness, how she was no longer in love with her husband and wanted to get away to discover a new life. Without us. I read the words, feeling my chest tighten, breath coming in short painful gasps as though I'd just re-surfaced from an eternity under water.

Suddenly the most vivid flashback cursed through my mind. I was a little girl again, it was a scorching summer's afternoon. My mother was chasing the gleaming red kite that we had been playing in the field with. It was such a bright day, the sun propelling its scorching, glowing golden rays onto earth: blinding.

My eyelids abruptly wrenched themselves apart, and the blissfully ignorant kitchen greeted me. It held no evidence of my life having just been torn apart on this simple Autumn morning. Clumsy marks from a hot drink on the table surface, forming the shape of a half moon grinned upwards, unaware. Framed flowers hung on the wall, motionless, meaningless. The mocking sound advancing from the metallic clock ticking life away continued to jeer. It was unbearable.

I heaved my crumpled body up, and fled from the intoxicating house. I ran, my heart pounding, eyes stinging, and cheeks burning, gulping on air infected with a tangible taste of electricity. I fled through fallen skeletal leaves from a truth I would always refuse to accept, until my body gave way, and I felt myself collapsing into the heavy haze of an ever changing world. That was the moment it became clearer than the air after a raging thunderstorm.

I would never see my mother again.

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