Here’s a short story I wrote last night.
I remember running down the lane behind her house. After the rain, when the potholes were filled with water. Flecks of mud stuck to our legs and dried that way. I flicked them off in the bathtub before Dad got home; he had always been kind and forgiving, but I had to keep this a secret.
“What are you getting?” Alison’s voice is unravelling, the thread of a sweater well-loved but unable to survive the spin cycle. “I’ll pay.”
Wendy got covered in mud, too, Wendy the grey rabbit. I was going to rinse her off in the bathtub, but I didn’t. Why didn’t I?
She sighs. “I’ll get you a ginger and lemon tea.”
“That’s for sick people.”
Alison’s one of those people who doesn’t let much on. Even me, her best friend, could never decipher what each twitch of the eyes or mouth meant.
But when she leans in, her chin crinkles. The kind of crinkle that means she has to cry but doesn’t want me to see. I wonder when it became something she couldn’t control.
“You’re here,” she says. “You’re here.”
“Course I am.”
“Mia, we’ve been here twenty minutes.” The crack in her voice matches the thunder. “That’s the first thing you’ve said to me.”
I’d forgotten about the thunder. It never rained, but that day there was hail, and then distant thunder, then lightning, and then the thunder was with us.
She pulls her lips into hiding, but it doesn’t stop the tremble in her words.
“I’ll get your tea.”
We used to drink tea in the forest of evergreens, together, on picnic blankets. Wendy used to come too, sometimes, when Mum was in a good mood. She never drank tea, though, just nibbled the grass in between wriggling away from our grasping hands. Wendy I mean, not Mum.
Alison drags the chair from under the table and sits on the edge, on edge. “You’re sick,” she says. “Do you know you’re sick?”
I wasn’t sick before the storm, so it must have happened after. Just a cold, probably, from being stuck in the rain for so long. Maybe I should’ve had a hot shower instead of spending so much time scratching mud off my skin.
“But why didn’t I wash the mud off Wendy?”
“We lost her in the storm. When the rain came, we ran without thinking.” She covers my right hand with her left. “It was years ago, Mia.”
I want to tell her it wasn’t, want to say it was only yesterday that the rain came. Then we could go to the forest right now and find Wendy sitting under an evergreen tree and I could carry her home and wash the mud from her fur.
But I can’t say anything else for the rest of Alison’s visit, and she doesn’t try to make me.
I’m trying to get back into writing prompts, and working on small stories that don’t have to serve any purpose other than to simply be written. This story, for instance, isn’t polished, but it’s nice to have worked on something that wasn’t made for a particular reason.