This story was entered by Tim Lyddiatt, a Beijing based writer who loves technology and its power for developmental change around the world and has recently adopted a little girl.
That realisation, the pain of that realisation, that came, that came as a shock to me, to my wife and to everyone that was involved in this sorry, sorry mess.
Shock then, and silence.
Slow heavy silence: both viscous and vicious that slumped down on us, straddling us and ensuring we were going nowhere any time soon; that we would not, or could not, leave this place and seek solace some place less oppressive.
We remained, and waited for the first person to speak.
We shouldn’t have done that. That was a mistake.
All present agreed. We had done the wrong thing. But questions remained as to whether this wrong thing had recently occurred, or whether the mistakes had first happened a long time ago.
She was gone. And there was no way to get back from that, no way to call the car back or undo our action so as to change the course of all our histories.
I looked at her, my wife, and then at my phone and the picture of the girl who was so almost my daughter.
I was angry then, and I could see in her eyes that she was angry too. There was going to be some blaming tonight, and probably forever more; further mistakes to compound this one, to build upon it and build it up, to build up the walls that were already threatening to tower over us and cast their shadows of separation coldly upon us forever.
It was going to be a long night, and tomorrow – a tomorrow that would start early amidst the morass of smeared glasses and broken bottles, the tracks of our tears still visible, and probably in separate rooms – the recriminations would begin again, calmer now, but more entrenched: our positions set, our minds made up.
It was now or never. We had to choose. A future blocked by the blight of what we had just done, or had failed to do. Or a backing down – by one or both of us; something that might defuse and soothe the situation, restoring calm for long enough that we might think before we reacted.
Someone had to go first. I looked for a long and last time at the picture of the girl who was so almost my daughter. And then I looked at her.
What’s for you won’t go by you, I said, trying hard not to cry and then trying hard not to not cry. She was crying too. But she was so close, she said, I held her hand.
Silence then, the shock receding.
We begin again, promising ourselves we’ll get it right this time.
Thanks to Tim and all who sent their flash fiction pieces into the contest.
Stay tuned as we post the top five stories,
including the grand prize winner who will receive $100!