Lily catches a glimpse of herself in the lobby mirror just to the right of the long crack midway of center.The day’s drizzle has laid waste to the hour she spent taming her wild mop into a smooth shine. She pushes a strand of hair behind her ear and wonders if he will think her pretty. Her finger moves toward the elevator panel, lingers there, then presses the button marked “Up.”
The car begins its unsteady climb as the floor numbers blink past: Two, five, six… She is six years old, crammed into the back seat of their Buick station wagon, hers eyes locked on his as he stands in the middle of their street watching them drive away. A bell announces the tenth floor.
Lily steps into the hallway, the air soured by cigarettes and history. Bits of unseen lives whisper to her from behind closed doors as her footsteps meet the worn, wooden floor: “…‘top of the eighth and McCutchen steps to the plate’… ‘Comer tu cena, Antonio’…” Somewhere a woman softly sobs. A door cracks open; an elderly eye meets hers for a heartbeat before the door quickly shuts again.
She pulls the carefully-folded paper from her pocket. Room number: 10-M. From inside comes the low drone of a radio talk show.
He looks older than she’d expected, frail, and in need of a shave. But she would always know those eyes: Ice blue, like her own, though his are rimmed in red.
“Yeah?” He sways in the doorway.
Images, long buried, ricochet across her mind like bullets: The green corduroy sofa rough under her tender skin, the stench of Scotch choking off air, the promise not to tell.
And then she is back in the old station wagon, peeking through the jumble of boxes. His figure growing smaller, finally vanishing as her mother drives them off to a new life where he will never be allowed.
She staggers backward, racing to retrace her steps until she is out of his reach, out of his sight… out of breath.
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Jayne Martin is the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Literary Orphans, Midwestern Gothic, Blink-Ink, Spelk, and Connotation Press among others. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin or http://injaynesworld.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html
Photo: Kae Sable