Saturday, 28 August 2010
FFF #40 HONEY, I'M HOME
It's that time again!
For this week's Friday Flash Fiction, our leader, mentor and cracker-of-whips Cormac Brown has set us an interesting conundrum, whereby we weave a tale which begins with a sentence supplied by MRM:
"I heard footsteps on the wet sidewalk and the sound of keys."
Stepping up to the challenge (which came very easily this week....maybe it's just that bad! :-o) here's my take on that opening line.....
HONEY, I'M HOME
I heard footsteps on the wet sidewalk and the sound of keys landing on the paving. Squinting around the net curtains I could just make out Jack’s form bending over and cursing under his breath to retrieve them. I turned away from the window quickly as he made his way up the stoop and heard the impatient rattle of the door as he tried first one key then another in the lock.
Tiptoeing into the darkness I glanced back up the hallway, seeing the shadow of his frame silhouetted on the frosted glass panels of the door. I had, I guessed, just a couple of minutes left and what hadn’t already been accomplished was too bad.
I edged backwards, feeling my way round the open door into the back room. I heard the children shuffling and whispering and cut them a warning glance. Tobias, the eldest, clasped his hands protectively over Maggie’s shoulders. She shivered slightly in her cotton nightgown clutching her ragged, but much loved teddy in a death-grip of anticipation, her eyes wide and her thumb wedged firmly in her mouth for comfort. It was way past their bedtime but I wanted them nearby, I wanted us all to be together no matter the outcome.
I blew her a silent kiss then ushered them to move further back as I tiptoed over to join them. Squeezing over behind the table I motioned them to crouch down safely out of sight and there we waited, counting off the silent seconds, my heart pounding.
First came the creak of the opening door. I was glad I hadn’t oiled the hinges as I’d been meaning to do – it gave us a few precious seconds of warning. Listening to the sounds in the darkness I imagined the scene in the hallway, with Jack dropping his coat on the waiting chair, familiarising himself with the layout. Things had changed while he’d been away but he’d quickly found the light switch and the flood of brightness illuminated the floor, spilling into the backroom.
I turned and looked down at Tobias, crouched beside his sister. I could just make out her face, the bright reflection of her eyes, then the horrified realisation that the thumb had slid from its warm repository leaving her mouth open and ready to cry out. Tobias quickly clamped his hand over her face, stifling her attempted yell. I raised a finger to my lips and shook my head, desperate for her to keep quiet, yet not wanting her to be alarmed.
The footsteps in the hall were coming closer and I took one last glance at the table beside me. In the darkness I could just see the glint of reflected light along the blade of the large knife and moved my fingers to pull it closer.
In those final seconds, I wondered if I shouldn’t have left the children sleeping peacefully and unaware upstairs after all. It had been a long time since I’d seen Jack and there were things that I might have said that would have been better out of their earshot.
Too late now, though. I saw the edge of Jack’s tan loafers as they stepped across the threshold and saw the black shadow of his hand reach up the wall, feeling in the dimness for the light switch. As the room was flooded with brilliance there was movement, chaos and noise and a brief look of bewilderment on Jack’s face.
“Surprise!” shrieked the children, as they scrabbled forwards and wrapped themselves around their Father, home at last after the long weeks of his business trip. He smiled lovingly at them and hugged them as he glanced over towards me with a look of far more than mere affection.
I sighed and picked up the knife, wondering if eating a ‘Welcome Home and Happy Birthday’ cake at 3.20 in the morning was quite such a good idea after all!