Friday Flash Fiction: Precious 3


I was vaguely surprised to realise this is my forty-second FFF entry, really – given the number – it should be a comedic reflection on the meaning of life but sadly that’s not what I wrote. Hope you like it anyway, feedback – as ever – is welcome. Here goes:

Precious
By Neil Beynon

The door pops open without warning. It cracks loudly against the wall like a gunshot and causes Sarah to jump, spraying dishwater across the kitchen. There’s a low cursing from the doorway; she slips one rubber-covered hand around the textured grip of one of the knives she’s just cleaned.

#

The sheets are still warm and damp. She watches him pulling on his underwear in the netted light as she enjoys the feeling of warmth on her bare skin, the warm glow in the pit of her stomach. It seems like the afternoon is cast in chocolate; a sugar coated moment ready to melt into a gooey mess without warning and flecked with guilt.

#

The air from the open door is cold and Sarah’s skin is a chain mail of goose bumps as she moves towards the intruder, the faint smell of dishwater and wet rubber following her like a fetid cloud. There’s a man in the hallway so ancient he looks like he’s crawled out of the grave, he leans on the wall, one age stained hand cast to the heavens and the other gripped around the banister rail for the stairs. His silver haired head is bobbing up and down as he tries to regulate his breathing.

#

“I have to go now,” he says.

#

“Are you ok?” asks Sarah, forgetting about the knife.

#

“What’s this?”

#

The man looks up. His face so creased with age it’s barely recognisable, but she does manage to place the person who stares out at her from that paper-thin ancient hide. A face she’s seen every morning for the last thirty years, a face that only this morning was framed with hair only flecked with silver, whose flesh was smooth, firm and fleshy even though you would not call it young.

#

Steve is pointing at a gold chain hanging from the hook inside the cupboard door that is open because she left it open. On the end of the chain is a crystal medallion wrapped in fine silver, it is delicate and in the darkness of the cupboard it seems like there is light trapped in the crystal.

#

“Ken?” she whispered. “But…what happened…?”

#

“It’s just a trinket,” she says. “Something Ken gave me when we first moved in together.”

#

Sarah rushes to her husband who is eying her warily from his position in the hall. She places the knife on the dresser then moves to his side, taking his arm and leads him to the sofa where she helps him sit down.

#

He picks it up and moves into the light of the window. The crystal is still glowing although it’s harder to see.

#

“What have you done?” says her husband, his voice broken and frayed like old rope.

#

“It’s beautiful,” he says turning it one way then another, watching the light bounces off the walls.

#

The words are like a sink full of cold dishwater being poured over her. She moves to the armchair, perches on its arm instead of sitting properly and does her best to look casual. She really is uncertain what he means. There are so many things he could mean. But deep down she knows. She’s worn it like her own chain for so long.

#

“You have it,” she said. “A gift to remember me by.”

#

“Done? I don’t know what you mean.”

#

“Won’t he notice?”

#

Her husband doesn’t answer. He merely stares at her. The phone rings.

#

“He never checks it, he’s not bothered besides he gave it to me,” she replies. “It’s mine now. You have it but keep it safe – it’s a precious thing – there’s only one in existence.”

#

She rushes to answer it, relieved to be away from his gaze. She closes the front door as she does so, an absent-minded afterthought.

#

“Thank you.”

#

“Sarah?”

“Steve?”

“Yeah, it’s me. Look Sarah, I had an accident.”

“What do you mean? Are you alright?”

“Yeah I’m fine, it wasn’t that kind of accident. I…I dropped it.”

“Dropped what?”

“The medallion. It shattered, it’s ruined…Sarah…are you there?”

The click of the receiver returning to the cradle is louder and more final than it should be but the house is silent save for the hiss of his laboured breathing.

#

“Don’t thank me,” she said pulling him back to the bed. “I want more than that.”

#

The world spins, a kaleidoscope of bad wallpaper they never got round to replacing, a doorway, the kitchen and Ken hanging in the doorway staring at her again. Not even Steve’s firm thighs, easy green-eyed gaze and warm calloused hands could prevent the single stabbing feeling of anger she cast his way.

There’s something in Ken’s hand.

“What. Did. You. Do?” asks Ken.

“I’m so sorry Ken,” says Sarah. “I didn’t mean it.”

#

She watches Steve walk down the street from a crack in the door, wide enough to allow her to see but narrow enough to stop anyone seeing that she is only wearing a small shift she threw on to see him out. His hand is in his pocket, guarding the gift she has given him but her eyes are on him as he walks down the street. As he disappears she casts a look at her watch. Ken will be home soon, she’d best get dressed and on with stuff.

#

The blade glints in the afternoon sun, shattering the light and scattering colour across the walls as Ken shuffles towards her, hands trembling with age or rage – there’s no way to tell. She backs up against the wall; the gloves on her hands leaving wet stains on the paper that will never come out.

“Didn’t mean what?” asks Ken.


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3 thoughts on “Friday Flash Fiction: Precious

  • Reply
    GLP

    I initially found the scene jumps a bit disorientating, but once I got my head around them, I enjoyed it as (literally) kitchen sink drama. I also liked the way you didn’t over-explain the significance of the medallion.

  • Reply
    Neil

    Thanks for the feedback Gareth.

    I agree about the scene jumps, structurally speaking I’m not sure the piece is entirely successful. To be honest I think I probably clipped it too much trying to get it under 1k.