The following short story was first published about a year and a half ago on the Writing Upside Down Web site, which has since been revamped and previous author blog posts removed.
The story was the result of a flash fiction writing challenge asking writers to create a short story based entirely around one of several one-line sentences. The one I chose was: "I miss the warmth of her body the most."
The concept ate at me until I could no longer stand it, and my vision for the story was clear from the beginning. I could picture the scene unfolding faster than I could write. It was a special piece to me, which is why I wanted to share it again here - so the story lives on. I hope you enjoy it, too.
"Shades of Blue"
flash fiction by CM Albert
flash fiction by CM Albert
It's Tuesday. With nothing left to do, I go upstairs to straighten her room. The crisp, antique-white sheers hang like a fine, ghostly mist down the soft-blue walls she'd fought for. Blue ashes. What kind of color is that? I straighten an Ugly doll that sits crooked on her bed; Ugly Charlie's bright-pink felt form, with one X and a button for his eyes, looks strangely out of place in her sanctuary. In my sanctuary.
Her tiny, sparkly shoes litter the closet floor, but I can't bring myself to straighten them. She'd left them lined up toe-to-toe for a reason. I may never know why, so I leave them be.
"Honey, are you upstairs?" I hear Garrett calling from the main floor. My body tenses, unable to respond. Not with love. Not with an answer. It's all I can do not to shove my fist inside my mouth and scream.
I want to shout back, "Yes, I am. You know I am. Now fuck off and let me have this time to myself!"
But I don't. I fall to my knees, head on the floor, in something that resembles a child's pose. At least, that's what my yoga teacher calls it. Others call it Ardha-Kurmasana, the half tortoise. Do you see why mine calls it child's pose? It's simple. Or, as Kendra likes to say, "Easy-peasy, mac-and-cheesy."
Liked, I catch myself.
I hear his socked feet padding down the hallway toward Kendra's room. He dares not enter, but he likes to stand at the door and chide me.
A light tap against her white, wooden door. Do not enter, I want to say. No one's here anymore, remember? I'm cold as ice. Hardened.
"Molly? You in here again?"
I sigh. Why won't he just leave me to my grief? Why can't I just pretend she'll come running through the kitchen door, fresh off the school bus, with her wild pig-tails messily framing those plump, reddened cheeks?
I sob, like I always do. The last time I'd held her we'd been at the kitchen counter. I straightened the knee-high socks required for her Blue Daisies soccer uniform. I ruffled her hair and pulled her in close. Kissed the top of her head, and held her just a moment too long. I'd have held her even longer had I known. I'd never have let her into the car with you, Garrett.
Instead of leaving me alone, this time, you peer around the corner, quietly taking in her room. You sit on the floor next to me, pulling my limp body against your chest, forcing me to meet the cerulean abyss of your gaze. I hadn't realized how hollow your face had become.
You speak, so softly at first that I almost miss what you say. I lean in to the musky scent of your skin.
Then I hear it again, between your sobs, "I miss the warmth of her body the most."