From the moment he could toddle, he pulled in the opposite direction. Wrenching his milkshake-sticky fingers away from mine. Leaving a sugary glue not strong enough to keep him in place.
I would watch him fall. Cracking teeth. Grazing knees. Breaking bones. I would coddle and soothe, weave shushed reassurances into his strawberry-scented hair. I would clutch him and say it was fine, resisting the urge to tell him I had told him not to. Not to follow his instinct, one that seemed unwavering in its hunger for danger. To follow mine instead, one terrified of fear.
Too many near misses left me near broken. Cars that flew by as his feet left the kerb, their speed ruffling his curls like the hand of a rough-handed uncle, who visits once a year. Staircases peered over, their banisters creaking. Open water ducked under for a second too long. Each time left me chipped. Once he ran forward to wave at a train and lurched right over the edge. Stomach curdled, I leapt down to the tracks and pulled him free of the metal teeth. My heart didn’t rest for a month. Truth is, he only grazed his knee, but I carried the what-ifs everywhere, like rocks in a sack.
Once his acne cleared and the hormones settled, like a glass snow globe – fragile, still there, but took a good shake to rise them – I watched him fall headfirst into love affairs, rife with pain. My fingers twitched, desperate to hold him back: make him think, make him see, make him more like me. I watched him tackle with two legs out front, drive without indicating, and drink until he was rendered a clown.
Then came the sickness and he was rendered a shadow. Too sick to just whisper away. Too sick to pull free from my hand. Sick enough he reached out searching. His fingers grew weak, pale like milk now the syrup had drained. He tried to cling, but feebleness ran in his veins. He placed his head on my shoulder for reassurances I could no longer plait. Instinct warned me to run, but we danced a slow waltz to the beat of his vitals. Hands pulsing, I stroked his lifeline until it wore smooth.
About The Author
Martha Lane is a writer from the North East of England. She took a child-shaped hiatus from writing for a few years but in April started writing flash fiction and now can’t stop. So far in 2020 her work has been published in Perhappened Mag, All Female Menu, Bandit, Reflex Fiction, Palm-Sized Press and had stories longlisted and shortlisted in various competitions. When she isn’t sourcing a constant supply of snacks for bottomless stomachs, she is finishing work on a slightly unusual novella. @poor_and_clean.
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