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“I was there that day. I was there.”

Chitter-chatter stops; eyes fix on me. Glasses suspend between frozen mouths and litter-strewn table. I scan the scene for inspiration. His Malbec. “There was blood everywhere—it was overwhelming. I didn’t know who to help first.” Her Chardonnay. “A woman in a pale dress was lying on the floor, eyes leaking tears. I bent to talk to her, but she didn’t answer.” The bass beat from the speaker. “Footsteps pounded—thudded—it was terrifying; it went on and on. What to do? Run? Help? What would you have done? Be honest.”

Captive audience; all mine. One leans towards me—gentle fingers on shaking shoulder. Another takes my hand—warm, safe in his soft concern. I breathe. Blondie looks at me in awe; her designer lenses. “What frightened me most was the glass—exploding from windows, raining down onto innocence, icy splinters across the street. I felt it crunch as I walked, powdering into a thin, crystal carpet. Awful. Awful.”

Drop of the head, slight shudder. Get her a drink. Anyone got a tissue? Rain patters against the window. “People everywhere were crying, some silently screaming—it was like the world had stopped and everyone was weeping because there was nothing else for them. I cried too. This guy paused—he wanted to help, but his eyes were unfocused, confused; he ran off.” Blondie tries to ask a question, but I fix her with a stare—she clamps her puffy red lips together and breaks eye contact. This is my stage; butt out, Blondie.

Across the street, a garish illuminated shop sign winks at me. “When the emergency services arrived, it was chaos—flashing lights, uniforms trying to make sense of it. I gave them as much information as I could; they were very grateful.”

Delicate sniff. “Sorry, it’s so painful to talk about. Please, can we change the subject?”

Of course, of course. Hush now. Have another drink. Sit by me. You want to stay at my flat tonight? You don’t want to be alone; you’re so upset. I nod. Smile weakly. “Thanks.”

That day? No. I wasn’t there.

Silent applause.

Flash Fiction by Julia Owen
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Published in Autumn 2017


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