A flash fiction
What was strange, Florrie noticed, clipping Mabel’s overgrown fringe behind her ear the way she’d seen Mum do it, was all the stuff they said that she’d never heard before; stuff they could have said years ago if it was bothering them both so much.
‘Does it hurt?’ she asked as she tightened Mabel’s pigtails.
Mabel sat there trance-like; white-faced and red-eyed and smelling of Marmite. School mornings in winter were hard enough without being woken up by Dad coming home at 2am.
‘No,’ she whispered in reply like a ghost, staring blankly at the window as if there was nothing beyond it.
Mabel was silent until they reached the school gates. And then in a voice as thin and high as the frail winter cloud trails, she said, ‘I’m being good and quiet and it’s still all going wrong.’
Florrie took her hand for the first time in years and walked with her as far as the infants’ entrance.
‘It’s not your fault, Mabel. It’s nothing you did,’ repeating what Grandma had said to her.
But did she believe it?
She would carry on not being a nuisance too. Just in case it helped.