Daily Prompt: Stranded

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Do you ever wonder what it would be like to find yourself in a totally unfamiliar place or time? Today’s prompt about being stranded intrigued me and this little bit of flash fiction is the result.

Stranded

Her eyes flickered rapidly. Her head was down, resting on her arm. She could see a small journal lying open on the polished surface of the table beside a tall glass of white wine. She focused on the two words written at the top of the open page of cream coloured paper – Don’t panic.

She sat up slowly and reached for the wine, taking a long slow sip as she studied those words. She noticed the arm extended before her. She felt her heart start to thud wildly; the hand that held the wine glass began to tremble. A black silk blazer was pushed up the graceful forearm, a wrist was encased in a sparkling diamond bracelet, rings adorned the slender fingers – none of that had ever belonged to her.

She put the wine glass down very deliberately and glanced quickly over the body sitting on the chair. She noted the low cut white blouse – a crisp fabric under the black silk and a tight black skirt that rode up the thigh. Long legs were encased in black leather boots with stiletto heels.

Suddenly she had to find a bathroom – the wine was rolling in her stomach dangerously. She wasn’t sure if she could walk in the heels but she had to try. Much to her surprise she had no difficulty making her way toward the sign that indicated the direction of the ladies room. The bathroom was thankfully empty. As she passed the large bank of mirrors she let out a gasp and staggered against one of the stall doors.

Staring back at her from the mirror was someone she had never seen before. A woman in her mid-twenties perhaps, large dark eyes thickly fringed with make-up, fashion-model thin with a sheet of dark hair surrounding her face.

She gripped the edge of the vanity sink and stared at the face in the mirror. It had happened again. She forced herself to take a breath and think – what was the last thing she could remember? It never mattered, but she always tried to grab hold of that last vestige of a life gone from her forever.

She had been in the garden planting the peas, down on her knees on the spring wet ground, her hands in the cold earth. A robin had landed nearby and dipped its yellow beak into the newly turned soil. The bird had pulled up a worm, stretching it to what looked like the breaking point. She had sat back on her legs and watched as the weak sunshine glinted off the rippling water of the lake. There had been a flash of very bright light and then nothing until her eyes had flickered suddenly open to the words on the journal page – Don’t panic.

Where on earth was she? And more to the point, who was she?

She walked slowly out of the bathroom and back to the table, an oasis of familiarity within the desert of unknowns. Impressions hit her – she was in a bar, the clink of glasses and a low hum of conversation surrounded her. As she regained the security of the table she saw the bartender approach, a crisp white apron tied around his waist over sharply creased black trousers. He warned her not to leave her purse hooked over the chair the way she had. Did she want to get robbed? People think an uptown place like this in the city is safe – but it isn’t. What city, she was screaming to demand but she didn’t. He asked if she would like more wine and she shook her head, unsure if she could even pay for what she had already consumed. He walked away after flashing her a suavely suggestive smile, his glance lingering on the open front of her blouse.

She now felt the weight of eyes on her. People were staring – staring in a way she wasn’t used to anymore. She had been a fifty-five year old, overweight woman with streaky grey hair dressed in gumboots and a ratty sweater kneeling in the dirt of her garden to plant peas. There was no reason for anyone to pay her any attention at all.

She took a sip of the wine and then another for good measure, draining the glass. She pulled the fashionable handbag from the chair and rooted inside. She found a wallet and flipped it open to discover a raft of credit cards and a driver’s license with a picture of the women she had seen in the bathroom mirror. Her name was Veronica Lambden – she was twenty-six years old and she lived at 515 Huntington Terrace, Manhattan. A fancy cell phone vibrated in her hand as she picked it up. A text message ran across the screen under the name Robert – traffics a snarl – I can’t get a bloody cab – should be there in ten minutes or so – order some more wine.

She raised the empty glass to the bartender and shrugged her slim shoulders. He nodded. She would drink another glass of wine and wait until Robert, whoever he might turn out to be, came along to claim her – what else could she do? It was always the same, already she was forgetting the image of the robin and the feel of the cold earth on her hands.

11 comments on “Daily Prompt: Stranded

  1. Good writing. But you really must lay off the dope….. I laughed out loud reading this, thinking back to other eras, other mirrors. What a kick. Now I want to know who this guy is, who’s coming her way. Good one!

    • Susan – I’m shocked – I have really no idea what you could be implying – hehehehehe – gotta go and plant those peas! Oh – about your question of purchasing Disappearing in Plain Sight – I will eventually have books to sell locally but with the skyrocketing postal rates to consider, I’m quite sure you can get a better deal buying it from Amazon. Let me know how it goes.

  2. LadyGrave says:

    Really cool! You’ve got me interested in this world, and in who this girl is that she keeps waking up as someone else. I liked the line about Robert “coming along to claim her,” what an odd position to be in! One thing that didn’t ring true to me (and this is probably the sort of thing that would get fixed in revision; I get the idea that you wrote this fairly quickly) was how she had no clue at all what was going on in the beginning. She is totally freaked out—but then she says it happened *again*. If it’s the sort of thing that happens, or that has happened before, I have trouble buying that it’s not the first possibility to occur to her when she finds herself in a strange place. Not that she shouldn’t be totally, totally freaked out and angry and scared, but I imagine it’s more a fear of the horribly familiar than the unfamiliar—that maybe this thing, whatever it is, gets harder to handle each and every time and she’s not sure she can take it anymore. (That’s how I feel about the dentist; I never used to mind going but after braces and a several-year run of bad luck with cavities the visits have gotten successively more terrifying).
    That’s my two cents, anyway. I enjoyed reading this piece while I had my morning coffee and started my day.

    • Excellent points, Grace – in a rewrite I might tease out the idea that though this particular phenomenon had happened before, maybe she had never ended up young and strikingly attractive before. Maybe she always just body-hopped through the fifties? Hmmmm – interesting – I love the way a little story idea can evolve. Thanks for the fabulous feedback.

  3. Great writing, Francis! You brought across the confusion and the inevitable resignment to the situation very well. This left me wanting more!

  4. Ha ha…love this craziness. I want to read more!

  5. Bopbie says:

    Very nice! What an original idea. I think you have that very easy and inviting style that makes reading so enjoyable.

  6. ianmooremorrans says:

    Gripping. Good work.

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