Short Story: Wish I’d Stayed

During a ‘Writing for the Media’ seminar today we were given three sentences of dialogue which we had to incorporate in to a short story.  The sentences were “your mother used to come here,” “please don’t break it,” and “here they come.”  They had to be used in this order.  This is the story I came up with in the 25 minutes we were given…

She approached the bench by the lake where he had told her to meet him.  It was shadowed by a large tree drenched in pale pink cherry blossom which reflected in the calm water laid at its roots.  She had been to this park many times but had never come to this place; however it seemed familiar and struck a chord with her deep down.

She sat on the bench for a few minutes gazing aimlessly at the ducklings frolicking in the shallows before she felt his hand on her shoulder.  She turned to see the face of the father she had never known, apart from in that dog-eared fading photograph her mother had given her when she was five.  She had not understood how hard it was for her mother to explain to her five year old daughter that she did not have a Daddy as he had died when she was too young to remember.  Yet now here he was, stood with his hand on her shoulder.  His face was the same as the photograph, but at the same time so different.  He had her eyes.

“Your mother used to come here.” He said, walking around the bench to sit down beside her.  “It was her favourite place in the city, she said it was the only place she truly felt calm.  When you were tiny we would bring you in your pushchair and feed the ducks.  We were all so happy.  Things were much simpler then.”

“I have so many questions,” she said, “I don’t even know where to begin.”  She studied his face and saw all the years that had passed since that photograph traced in the lines and wrinkles across his face.  It had been a rough sixteen years, for both of them.

“Why did she tell me you were dead?”  She asked, her eyes pleading to understand.

His response was reserved yet determined.  “I never wanted to leave you, either of you, but I had no choice.  I wanted to protect you more than I wanted you to see me go to jail, so I ran.”

She regarded his face once more seeing love in his eyes.  “Why did she tell me you were dead though?  Why didn’t she explain everything?”

“You were so young, you wouldn’t have understood, it was kinder to let you keep your innocence than know your old man was a killer on the run from the law.”  He looked down at his thick weathered hands which twisted and turned something over in his lap.  It was a necklace.

“But Mom explained everything to me just before she… It wasn’t your fault, it was an accident.” A lump formed in her throat.  She reached into his watery blue eyes for an answer.

“I don’t have much time baby,” he said, “The Police are coming to get me.  I called them, I’m going to confess.  Own up to what I’ve done and finally accept the consequences.  It’s been no life for me since I left you both.  There were so many times when I just wished I’d stayed.”

A tear rolled down her cheek, dripping off her chin to join the small puddle forming in the lap of her duffle coat.  She had just found the father she had lost so many years ago and he was to be taken from her just as quickly.

He looked up at the greying clouds clustering in the sky, as though they would help make things easier.  “She said if anything was to happen to her or me then she wanted you to have this.”  He handed her the fine silver chain with a locket dangling from it.  She took it from his trembling nervous hands.  She fumbled to open the fragile clasp on the locket, the chain slipping through her fingers.  “Please don’t break it.  It’s worth a lot, maybe not in money, but in memories.  Your mother gave it to me as I left, as a reminder of my two favourite girls I was leaving to protect.  But I can’t keep it where I’m going.”

She carefully opened the clasp to reveal an image of her mother looking younger and happier with her two year old daughter giggling in her arms.  The tears fell faster now; it has been so long since she’d seen her mother without wires and tubes going into her body.

She turned her face up to look at her father, his eyes dancing between her face and the park around them, searching for the men who were on their way to steal away his freedom.  She leant over and hugged him tight, burying her face into his jacket and breathing in the smell of cigarettes and whisky.  She did not know how long it would be before she saw him again and she needed to remember everything about this moment.  She had to learn it by heart.

As he held her close she shook in his arms.  She felt a drop of water land on her forehead and realised he must be crying too.  Before she could say anything, he gently planted a shaky kiss on the top of her head, among the fly-away curls she got from her mother, and whispered.

“Here they come.”

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