Runner Up: Sarah Nash
Dust settles over the garden like a cobweb blanket, muffling the sounds of evening.
Are you hiding, you cheeky pair?
At your age?
Fifty years. What an achievement.
A mouse scrabbles, a toad rumbles, a rat scratches.
Bit of a let down.
I wanted to pop the champagne.
They’ve only got beer. Honestly!
Silent petals drop from the flowers with the passing of years.
Perhaps they’ve gone for a walk.
They haven’t even eaten yet.
It’ll all go soggy.
Fireflies light the paths and the lamp remains unlit.
Cherry tomatoes are one of Mum’s favourites.
Last taste of summer, she always says.
Dad’s not so keen, though.
The leaves on the plate wither and fade in the gathering gloom.
It’s a bit late to go for a walk.
I don’t like the idea of them out in the dark.
Do you think they’ve taken a torch with them?
There are rocks along the way but they gaze ahead and do not falter.
Perhaps she told him before they sat down.
He won’t be able to cope without her.
We’ll just have to help him between us.
The path is long and winding but they have always walked it together.
What shall we do?
What can we do?
What do they want us to do?
On and on they stroll, hand in hand, fingers entwined, steps in tune.
On and on, into the white light and the forever.
Runner Up: Sam Heague
The Broken Kingdom
She always was funny, even right up until the end. I mean, who else plays dead in a hospice? F*ck sake, Kimmy! My face breaks into half a smile. God I miss her. Why can’t you still be playing dead now?
Like always, I cooked this meal for two with one eye looking out over the garden. That was her space you see. I built this house with my bare hands, as they say, but she reimagined the garden with hers. A whole kingdom built together (queendom if you asked her), over a lifetime. Sometimes I still expect to see her out there. Sometimes I even think I do, daft old sod.
“Are we ’avin’ a party tonight?” she used to say, grin on her face, inspecting the feeding-of-the-five-thousand sized meals I’d prepared for dinner.
“Our kids have all left home now, y’know?”
I can still almost hear her say it now…
I know, Kimmy. I know.
I stoop and trim two of the freshest roses from the bush and inhale them deeply, before placing them in a glass. So colourful, so vibrant, so alive, I think. It was only three weeks ago today that I scattered her ashes over this garden of ours. God I miss her. The roses keep me going, just about: a kingdom broken, but not totally.
Winner: Casey Bottono
Like me, late summer fights to hang on. Just sometimes, it is easier to escape into a world of your own making. That’s why I didn’t notice him at first, standing there anxious not to break the dream.
In the world I’ve made, your body can’t betray you. In the physical world, no such luck. Harry clears his throat and weighs his words carefully.
“Do you want to come out in the garden with me, love?”
He took his grief out on the earth itself, while I escaped into my stories. Life slowed to a crawl, and I shut every door I could.
Early September days I stumble, but he’s trying. Eyeing cold coffee in a stained cup, I move towards the kitchen. The cup goes in the sink, he slips his hand in mine.
“Close your eyes, sweetheart.” Surprises frighten me, and my body braces.
We embark on an incredible journey, or so it seems. After the longest time, he releases my hand for just a second.
“Take a seat.”
While I’ve been locked in my stories, he’s made a splendid dinner, just for the two of us.
As though for the first time, I see the garden verdant and determined. Maybe I can blossom too.
Harry fills my glass and his own, then raises it aloft.
“To Rory, our little lion heart…and to life.”
I echo his toast, and something loosens. Like the leaves changing colour on the trees, Autumn is a chance to start again.
What a welcome back! Contemplative and moody, just like the weather. Congratulations to Sarah, Sam and Casey. Many thanks to everyone that submitted.
May your weekends be dry(ish) and cosy. See you soon!
For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.