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Flash Fiction

Grief in Disbelief

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‘Are you sitting down?’

‘Yep,’ I reply.

I have no idea who I am speaking to, but from the pitch of his voice it sounds serious and not the time to ask.

‘It all happened so suddenly.’

‘Did it?’

still unclear…

‘She didn’t answer her phone. I just assumed it was out of battery’

(is this some weird charity scam?)

‘I see’ I said.

So it’s a female. I don’t have any friends; they gave up on me years ago and I don’t really speak to anyone from my family (if you had met them, you would understand why). I don’t think I have ever liked anyone enough to give the appropriate reaction the voice is hoping for.

‘It was the bath’

I am still not sure what has happened, and how a bath was involved. I can’t ask who I am speaking to now, they sound like they know me.

‘Unexpected, was it?’

‘I know it’s a big shock. We just wanted to tell you first ‘.

So I am guessing someone has died.

‘Can I call some people to let them know? You just need to provide me with a list of their details and how they know, uh, um……..her’. (clever plan to find out who they are talking about).

‘That is so kind of you, but I think you know more of her old friends than I do. (shoot, so still no name).

‘I can’t get into her phone to retrieve any numbers. Do you know her password?’

‘Can you not go to the morgue and use her dead finger to open the phone?’

I’m not proud of that suggestion.

It was met with silence. I am finding it hard to keep up the pretense of caring, but I am also feeling a little anxious not knowing who has died, and the reality that I can’t think of a single person that would have me at the top of any ‘in case of emergency’ contact list. Whoever it is I am talking to sounds so nice and obviously trying to be sensitive of my feelings. I can’t think of anyone I know who would be with a guy this nice.

‘Tomorrow we are meant to start the funeral plans, and I thought you should be involved.’

What? why? There isn’t anyone I know that I want to arrange a funeral for and I can’t think of anyone who will care when I kick the bucket either. Neighbours will just call someone when there’s a bad smell.

I’m hoping this might be the wrong number. I’m trying to remember if he said my name at the beginning of the call.

‘So I must go, I have some other people to contact. 10 am at the village cemetery tomorrow’.

With that, the phone went dead. Ok, right, I just need to call back. I have no more details now, than I did at the start of the call. It’s a private number. (shoot).

The phone starts ringing.

‘Thank god you called’.

‘Hello darling, you have never sounded so pleased to speak to your Mummy before’

‘Ugh, Mum, not now’

I hang up the phone. It rings again.

‘It’s Lily, I hope you don’t mind me calling. Gart gave me your details. I thought we could get things ready for the funeral. It will be a small affair, probably just a few people. I will pick you up in ten minutes and we can plan for tomorrow’.

I don’t know anyone called Gart or Lily, nor have I heard anyone mention these names. If in ten minutes, she turns up at my door, I hope things will get a little clearer. I really hope no one shows up at my door. I should get dressed. I don’t normally see anyone except the postman, so most days are pyjama days.

Or maybe, I don’t answer my door or phone. I’ll snip the phone lines, turn off my mobile and unplug the doorbell. I can play music loudly, so I can’t hear if she knocks and calls through the letterbox. Right, I’m going to tape the letterbox shut too. I think I’m becoming manic, but I really don’t want to go to a funeral for someone I don’t know. What if they ask me to stand up and give a speech when I don’t know who’s in the box.

It would be too embarrassing to admit now that I have no idea who they are talking about.

I haven’t heard any thumping on the door, so I turn the music off just in time to hear rustling in the side passage and yes, she is in the garden knocking on the window, peering in.

So I do the only thing I can. I take one small side glance. I don’t recognise her. She is in a suite with a work badge hanging around her neck. So I look at my laptop and gently bob my head, touching my ear like I have earphones in and moving my hands like I am typing, stopping to look pensive and sad as if I am writing a eulogy.

I think I may be pulling this off, she is leaving.  I hope I haven’t left any windows open. I live in a ground floor flat.

There is a commotion. Water is running away from my face and cold air is meeting my skin.

Now I’m on the floor with a towel flung over me.

What’s happening? Where’s the laptop, where is the annoying lady peering through my windows? She’s making a call. Someone’s had a seizure, drowned in a bath. Her voice is emotionless. She is talking about the funeral. No one is coming. No one cares.

Everything has gone quiet. She opens the door, then closes it gently behind her. I can’t follow, I can’t move. I know this feeling. There is an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. The silence is deafening and I realise that yet again I am alone. As always, now and forevermore.


Philippa Franks (UK)

Philippa first started writing stories for her little boy. She met her husband at university and now lives with her husband, their son and a puppy in a quiet village in Northamptonshire.

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