I haven't done a Flash Fiction for a few weeks, but this challenge caught my fancy. From Flash Fiction Friday:
Prompt: Your story must begin with one of the following sentences:
1. ”She didn’t seem thrown by the question.” From Page 111 of Fear the Night by John Lutz.
2. ”The rats, uncannily, were always on the edge of the light, a faint shimmering movement, retreating as the men advanced.” From Page 111 of Death Watch by Jim Kelly.
3. ”I felt as if the whole world were about to slip out from under my feet.” From Page 111 of As Catch Can by Vincent Zandri.
Word Limit: 1,500 words
I picked the thrird one. The story is only 600 words, but felt good at that.
A Wrong Step
I felt as if the whole world were about to slip out from under my feet.
Not that I really cared any more.
The sun was bright on my face, the wall warm and comforting at my back, the breeze gently stirring my little girl's hair as she nestled in my arms. The baby was quiet, for once not fussing and crying. I closed my eyes for a moment's peace.
But I knew it wouldn't be enough - I was always so tired.
"Alison? Honey, over here."
I turned, it was Don. I was surprised to see him taking such a risk - for the others it was their job, but he's afraid even of the midway rides.
"Alison, just give me the baby and we'll talk."
Of course, all he wanted was the baby. Why should he have her? I'm the mother, it's up to me to decide what happens to her, I'm responsible. It's not fair for her to have a miserable life, with such a flawed mother.
Last year I'd suddenly realized my career was stalled, my marriage fading. I'd hoped a baby would help. Not the career, of course, as they quickly gave all my accounts to the new girl and shuffled me into a quiet dead end job - for the good of me and my baby, of course. No more exciting trips, expense account, late nights with the team, parties to celebrate client successes. I'd be one of those I'd resented before, off to doctor's appointments and dinner with the family, leaving the hard work and glory for others. No, I'd just hoped a baby would re-kindle my marriage.
At first it seemed to. Don was attentive, fussing over me, but I realized it was probably only for the baby.
I watched myself get fatter and uglier as the months went by, then suffered through a nightmare of labour - twelve hours of agony, then merciful anaesthetic and a knife. When I finally was ready to see the baby - all tiny and fragile - I failed at breastfeeding too. Don, from a big family, just casually picked her up and plugged in the bottle.
Once we got home I just wanted to stay in bed - everyone called it post-partum depression, and then seemed satisfied that once it was labelled it was done with. My friends, his family, I saw them all look at me as if to say deal with it, move on, be a mother.
"Alison. We can work it out together. You're a good person - not everybody can be a perfect mother."
I turned to him, he did seem genuinely concerned - the first real emotion I'd noticed in him in a while. He leaned out carefully toward me.
I can't be a mother. I know it will be even worse for her as she gets older, when I fail at more things. When I don't start her talking soon enough, don't potty train her in time, don't find the right friends for her or the best school. It's better that I end this here - for both of us. She'll be better off. We both will be.
I looked down, between my feet, to the street - so far away, and yet close.
"Come on,” he said. "It will be different. I'll make sure you get the best help, and then we'll be a proper family."
Maybe there was a chance after all. I turned carefully on the narrow ledge and handed him the baby.
As he took her, a little breeze caught me and pushed me back a bit. For just a moment I lost my balance.
I reached out, "Hey, Don!"
His eyes were on the baby, as he gathered her close to himself.
I stepped back to catch myself, stepped into space and felt my world disappear from under my feet.
There was a murder/suicide recently in the paper, a mother and children. No details yet on what the circumstances were, no intention of judging here, but I'm sure things - as is usual in life - are rarely as simple as we would like them to be. We perceive what we think is reality, then make choices. This is for Alison, and her battle.