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.
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.