Welcome to the one hundred and thirty-second in this daily series that is ‘5pm Fiction’.
Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
I was nearing completion of the 2012 project when I decided that I didn’t want to stop at the end of May so 5PM Fiction was born. I put a load of prompts on the 5PM Fiction page and today’s was to write a story from a prompt of ‘father-figure’, so here is my 429-worder.
Emily knew better. She’d been told over and over. Only she thought she knew better. That it didn’t matter. She’d been out to the ice-cream van a hundred times, probably more, but always hands clasped tightly to grandfather, grandmother, or mother. Never alone… ’til now.
It was a classic scenario. Hot summer’s day, ice-cream van, little girls in school uniforms. A dream scenario to Frank. He’d promised the judge he’d behave, told the parole board enough times so they believed him, but he knew better. They thought he knew better.
And there was this one little girl. She looked like a Lucy. He liked the name Lucy. Used to have a cat called Lucy, until his father took it away. Told him it had been run over but Frank knew. His father looked guilty, just for a second, just long enough for Frank to know. He knew everything that his father did. And vowed never to be like him. But he couldn’t escape. Just like the little girl who’d gone to his car to see the puppy, holding the ice-cream that had already started melting. Only there was no puppy. He couldn’t have pets after Lucy. Couldn’t bear to let them go. He wouldn’t let her go… this little girl in her navy blue and white uniform. So smart. With navy blue shoes and long white socks.
They had holes in them. Not old, like his socks but symmetrical, like the middles of flowers. Frank loved flowers. His mother would buy fresh ones every week until his father had lost his job and they’d run out of money.
But Frank had plenty of money now. He’d look after Lucy like she was his flesh and blood. She’d forget, and call him “father”. She’d be the sister he never had. The daughter he’d always wanted.
She knew it was wrong. “Don’t talk to strangers” that’s what she’d been told. Only there was something familiar about him. He reminded her of her father. The little she could remember. And his smile. He had a nice smile. Friendly. And she was in need of a new friend.
It had never been the same since they’d moved. So many times after her father had gone away, all those years ago. Her mother had promised that it would be fine, that there would be plenty of little girls for her to get on with, but she’d had that look in her eyes that Emily had seen before. Her mother had said that this was ‘it’ this time, that they’d stay, but Emily knew better.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.