Fiction · Flash Fiction · How to be British

Chips

Sunday, August 6, 2017. Daily Brit Wit.

Chips:

Noun

BRITISH for French fries.

*Hello my fortnightly friends! Can’t believe it’s been another two weeks. Gosh. Here’s the follow up to Operating theatre.

“Anthony loses all interest in the passing of time. However, there’s some cynical part of him that’s pleased he’s not on an existential crisis loop. It could be twelve minutes or hours or weeks or years that have passed and it would have made no difference to him. All he recalls is the all-consuming agony and separation.

He requests to see Nathalie. Doesn’t remember the trip to her. Recalls in vivid detail finding her in hospital bed, composed like some Sleeping Beauty bruised and battered and hands overlapped, resting upon her swollen stomach. (It won’t occur to him until much later the swollen stomach had been home to his child he’ll never meet but will forever love and it was swollen perhaps not because of the growing life but with the after-effects of his wife’s passing.)

ᏪᏪᏪ

He’s not even certain how he got home. All he knows is waking up in bed, alone, and the sun sneaking and shimmering inside the bedroom from the partially-drawn curtains. He doesn’t even have the fleeting grace of temporary amnesia.

He wakes with the knowledge Thalia’s gone. He’s in his mid-thirties and he’s a widower with a motherless child.

When did this become his new reality?

 

 

Anthony makes his way through some semblance of a morning routine: showers, shaves, dresses. Yet his hands pour out too big a dollop of shampoo and then shakes too poorly with the old-fashioned razor blade and his clothing restricts his airways. Still, he manages to stumble downstairs.

When his phone rings, he momentarily experiences the crippling waves of sentiment from last night before shaking out of it. His mobile on the kitchen counter says it’s work.

He didn’t even think–

And it’s the first time he has to say it out loud, which douses it into reality. (Not a nightmare, then.) Hollowly, he asks his secretary if his boss is available and waits an unmeasurable moment before he’s transferred.

‘Anthony! Are you working from home today?’

Eyes staring at his kitchen unseeing, Anthony monotonously replies, ‘No. Keith, my- Nathalie died from a car crash last night.’

ᏪᏪᏪ

Steadily, the news breaks across their circle of friends and family. He’s unaware how many phone calls he makes. Yet his heart somehow disintegrates each time. The sympathy, the agony, the pity.

He can’t even wrap his head around having to break the news to Zoey. His heart constricts at the reminder of their child and Anthony finds himself about an hour later, curled up on their bed, dried tear stains on his pillow and cheeks, with a pounding headache and dulled chest cavity.

He’s surprised to have kipped.

On his back, Anthony stares up at the chipping ceiling at the foot of the bed he promised Thalia last week he’d patch. Wonders how long she’d have badgered him before doing it herself. But then with a bull-whip strike, he realises perhaps she wouldn’t have: or he wouldn’t have let her. Because she’s pr– she was pregnant.

They didn’t think she’d be able to get pregnant again. As much as it drove Anthony crazy some nights seven years ago, when Nathalie couldn’t get pregnant within the first three years after having Zo, he kicked himself for complaining about two in the morning trips to hunt down chips. Thalia had been stubborn and particular about her types of chips and knew if he’d bought them at the store to cook at home.

He wants to make more late-night craving runs.

 

 

When he wakes again, Zoey is crawling up the bed and snuggling in under his arm. He blinks down at her and she beams up at him.

And he knows he’s got to break her little heart.

He pushes curls behind her ears and cups a cheek. Zo giggles and puckers her lips. Obligingly, he bends down to smack a smooch and she smacks back.

A motion by the doorway draws his attention away from his girl and Anthony sees his father. The older man simply watches. When he notes his son’s gaze, he shakes his head no.

‘Da,’ his girl pats his cheeks and then smashes them inward. ‘Where’s my mummy?’

He pulls her into his chest, carding fingers through curls, and presses his lips to her temple. ‘Da’s so sorry, Zo.’ He chokes.”

Wish to know what happens next? No need to wait now! Here it is. 

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