Thank you so much to Clevedon’s Writers Meet group, for awarding me first place in their 2022 adult short story competition – all made possible by a grant from Clevedon Community Bookshop. I write poems and lifestyle blogs day to day, so it’s lovely to feel encouraged in my flash-fiction endeavours!…
It’s time. Reggie pulls the heavy, neo-gothic door shut with a decisive click and heads onto Sunnyside Road. He waves to his neighbour watering her geraniums and pats the left, breast pocket of his waistcoat to feel the familiar mould of Cat’s amethyst crystal heart one last time. Eruptions of tiny, mauve flowers garnish rock walls and blackbirds call over treetops, occasionally arcing across the vivid, blue sky in sweeping brushstrokes.
He supposes if younger and vocal about such things, he’d be called an empath; psychic even but neither title quite suit him. Suit. Now that’s a word he does relate to. A Savile Row career had tailored him the reputation for selecting just the right shade of shirt and cut of a jacket, to ensure customers left his shop feeling their Sunday best. Of course, the Little Voice had often assisted – urging ‘crimson!’ for a cravat or gifting him a mental snapshot of an upcoming wedding, launch or alas, funeral.
He had begun to believe the Little Voice had deserted him when he had deserted London, seeking clear skies and a clear head. But he realises now that, like him – it had simply needed time to adapt. And yesterday, it had spoken again.
Reggie turns a corner and picks up pace until he sees the Bristol Channel and Victorian drinking fountain set jewel-like, in the grey, stone wall. They’re coming down the path now: a father and a son, who Reggie thinks to be about twelve. With a deft hand, he extracts the pink heart from against his own, places it in the blue-glazed basin and turns.
He had passed them here yesterday; felt the weight of their broken hearts. He had observed the attentive glances the boy had thrown to the fountain. That was the moment the Little Voice had returned, whispering of a young woman – a mother, dancing in a meadow, petals in her hair and a thousand windchimes chorusing, ‘Please give him your heart…my boy needs your heart.’
But feeling lightheaded, he had floated home, sunk deflated into his armchair and cried. But by late afternoon yesterday, he had concluded that yes, his daughter Cat would agree wholeheartedly that he should relinquish her final gift, though he wished the Little Voice would confirm this. Nevertheless, he had bathed the heart shaped crystal in the kitchen sink and let it dry in the dappled sunlight of the windowsill.
And now he’s completed what was asked of him. Reggie steps to the pavement edge as the pair stop short a few feet behind.
‘Dad, look! There’s a little crystal heart, right here at Mum’s favourite spot. Remember, she said she’d let me know she was okay?…’
Reggie crosses over to the Pier. He’ll walk along the seafront, absorb the sunshine, then cut through the alleyway opposite the Little Harp Inn.
‘I hold your heart in mine Cat,’ he says to the sea.
In his mind’s eye, his daughter is smiling.
(Deborah Caine 2022)