• Natasha Boydell

Goodbye, Schoolgirl

Join me in my new flash fiction series, a collection of short stories for quick reads, writing prompts and moments captured in time...

A raindrop trickles down her face, mingles with her salty tears and falls to the damp playground floor. The groundwater has seeped through a small hole in the sole of her left boot and soaked her sock. She forgot her umbrella.

The momentous occasion is here but although she expected joy, she feels sorrow. In front of her stands a little girl, a tiny dot of a thing, who still has her baby face and the brittle wisps of delicate hair, as soft as the day she was born. The child waits, uncertain, among strangers who will soon be classmates and one day, maybe, friends. Besties.

Her appearance is so like that of another child who once stood in the same spot, that she could be a ghost from years past, still haunting the playground as she waits. But this is a different child, the younger sibling. She wears a look of steely determination on her face. One which says, ‘I will not cry.’

For her mother, there is no such resolve. The sight of her offspring standing tall and proud in the drizzle, dressed in the full regalia of education as if she is a solider off to battle, has ripped the lid off a simmering pot of emotions, allowing it to bubble over and spill out on to the ground.

It is perplexing because she has wished for this moment. Fantasised even. For the relief; a chance to be someone else again, an individual. To wave goodbye and walk away, basking in the glow of a day of possibilities. A hot coffee. May be a croissant. Shops. Work. Small things, big dreams.

It’s a new chapter, a happy one. They have all been waiting for it. Yet all she wants to do is reach out to her child and yank her back into the safety of her bosom. To take her home where she belongs. To nurse her like a newborn. To comfort her like a toddler. But she can’t. She is just a bystander now, powerless to do anything but wave her soldier off. A tissue pressed delicately to her face.

The door opens, propped by a brick. The child peers in. She is on the threshold of a new life, poised to walk through the gateway to a system that will hold her in its grasp for fourteen years, or more.

But she is too young. Too innocent for this life. Look at her, with her shiny red hairclip, her brand-new tights sagging loosely at her ankles, one chubby little hand clasped tightly onto her bookbag, the other gripping a water bottle. No, no, no, it’s all wrong, it’s too soon.

Who is not ready, mother or child?

A bell rings. The child turns to look at her. Then she is gone. The ceremony over before it began.

A raindrop trickles down her face, flirts with her tears. She turns away. She is bleak.

On the way home, the rain clears and the low autumn sun appears, warming her face, drying her tears. She looks up and sees a rainbow, faint at first, then stronger. Small things, big dreams.

She smiles.

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