Comfort Food

Decision made, deed done. Everything could go back to normal now and his family need never find out. So why didn’t he feel lighter? Why did he feel so troubled, sorry and guilty?

Adam dressed and went downstairs at the usual time, put the kitchen TV on and rummaged around in the cupboard for cereal. He sighed. He wasn’t hungry but he knew it would be noted and there would be questions if he didn’t eat, so he chose one of Millie’s kids’ cereals for a change. There was something comforting about the primary colours and child-friendly design. The jolly little shapes tinkled brightly in his bowl. Same stool at the breakfast bar, same morning news programme, same thumping, voices and watery bathroom sounds from above.

He looked down at his phone, thinking of Jess. He started to text her. ‘Hi. So sorry. Can’t stop thinking about you. Hope you’re ok?’
He didn’t send it.
They’d promised each other. No more texts. No one must know. He turned his phone off and turned his attention to his cereal. He forced in a couple of mouthfuls and looked up at the TV.

Poor Jess.

This was deep. He knew in years to come he would still feel scarred. He would carry what had happened forever and possibly never get to share it.

‘Don’t talk to me. Don’t talk about it,’ she’d said. ‘It hurts too much. I know we’ll see each other around the place but I’d rather we kept away from each other. Please?’
So that’s what they’d done. Or tried to do. He tried to block it and pretend it had never happened. But when she didn’t come in on Friday he knew why and he ended up looking it up on the Internet at lunchtime.
At eight weeks of pregnancy a six-week-old foetus is about one point six centimetres long… He got out a ruler and looked at one point six centimetres.

All weekend he’d thought about her bravery, her pain, his shame. This shouldn’t have happened.

He clenched his fist and thumped his forehead with his knuckles. ‘Awww Jess,’ he whispered, ‘I’m such an idiot. I’m so sorry.’

He forced himself back to the here and now. Life had to go on for them both. Separately. He looked at the time. He had a bus to catch in fifteen minutes and there was still three quarters of a bowl of cereal to negotiate. The multi-grained shapes floated soggy and lifelessly in the off-white swamp.
One point six centimetres…
He began to feel his chest heave and stomach lurch with an unfamiliar combination of sorrow and disgust and he swallowed hard to control it. He had to stop himself crying. He mustn’t cry in front of Millie whom he could hear bumping down the stairs now, chattering incessantly to her mother.

‘Morning love.’ A woman’s affectionate hand ruffled his hair and then she kissed the top of his head. Adam grunted and stared at the TV as he knew would be expected of him. But Millie, clever Mille, had spotted the difference.

‘That’s my cereal. He’s eating my cereal!’

‘That’s okay, Millie,’ said her mother, ‘there’s plenty left.’
She sat opposite Adam, blocking his view of the TV and examined his face. ‘What’s up love? Not hungry? C’mon. It’s me. I always know when something’s up.’
‘Oh… um… they were just talking about road accidents a minute ago and it made me think about when Cookie got run over.’
‘Bless him – the daft dog. But he was fifteen Ad’ and that’s a good old age for a dog, you know?’

She sighed and patted his hand. ‘It’s so sweet that all you have to worry about is our old dog. Oh – to have that innocence back again. Just school and mates. No commitments or worries at all, you lucky so-and-so. Long may it last. So cheer up young man and tell me what you’d like to do for your sixteenth birthday.’

21 thoughts on “Comfort Food

  1. Hi Rach. That’s a fabulous short story, great twist at the end too. I love the way you slowly drip fed more and more information to build up the picture.

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    • Thanks Alison.
      I posted this last night and then removed it a few minutes later because I didn’t feel it displayed any special writing talent.
      Then this morning I reminded myself that my life didn’t depend on it and reposted it!

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  2. I’m sorry… you removed it last night because you didn’t feel it displayed any special writing talent???

    So you didn’t count things such as the perfectly-timed slow reveal, so that the reader gets the whole picture in the final scene but no earlier; the keen observation of the small details of family life that breathe life into this story, such as the child’s cornflakes and morning sounds of a house getting ready for the day ahead; and the well-sketched characters of the family members?

    That’s a shame because all of those displayed your special writing talent to me. This is a great, very poignant story about a boy on the cusp of manhood.

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    • Thanks Marisa.
      (My teenage daughter said she knew straight away that Adam was only young. So there was no twist for her!)

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  3. This is a very good little story, Rachel, with an unexpected ending. I was sure he was two-timing his partner. You’ve packed a lot in and not a word out of place. Believe me, I’m critical! Have you thought of entering it for the next Flash500 competition? I came 3rd a couple of months ago, and this is better than mine! Nice work. Sue

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  4. Came across this from my #fridayflash twitter feed and was very glad I did. This is a brutal piece of writing. What I mean is that the slow reveal shows a great depth in the writing, accented by a clever twist at the end, which gives it even more impact. Like a brutal punch to the stomach. Well done.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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  5. You got me, completely. Excellent twist! The parents are always the last to realise their kids are growing up… (that was my experience anyway. Still is. I’m in my 30s, a homeowner, married, responsible job, but still: “Are you cleaning your contact lenses properly, dear?” *sigh*)

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