I see them as I’m walking home. They’re at the corner table in our favourite restaurant which wouldn’t be surprising had they not told me that they, my sister and two brothers, couldn’t make it to our annual reunion. Each had produced a credible excuse—a graduation, a hospital appointment and a marriage that necessitated intensive TLC—so we’d postponed and agreed to meet next spring.
In trying to organise things before we cancelled, I’d even said Jess, the baby of the family, could stay with me—a stretch given the last time we met she’d expected me to pick up her bar tab and I’d refused. She’d taken the huff. Gone on for months about how mean I was. But we’d gotten over it. At least I thought we had. I mean, family’s family. You look after one another. That’s what families do.
Rain is running down the restaurant window and it’s almost dark. Turning away, I rummage in my bag, find my phone and write a WhatsApp message to our group, say how sad I am we can’t meet tonight, that I can imagine how good it would have been to see them, can smell the carbonara and the pizza, can taste the Montepulciano, as if we were actually there. So wish we were together, I add, ending with three kisses—one for each of them.
Angling my umbrella so they can’t tell it’s me should they look over, I turn back and watch from the window’s edge. My older brother, Ned, picks up his phone and stares at the screen. He shows it to the others who shrug and roll their eyes.
His fingers flash across the keypad fleshing out a message. He presses one last button with a flourish and slips his phone into his jacket pocket before lifting his glass and clinking it against those of our siblings as my phone vibrates in my hand.
At home with Jenny, doing what I can to repair the damage, Sis. Hope you’re well. We’ll meet soon. Nino’s is soooo good. Wish we were there right now!
He’s signed off with a smiley face, and one Judas kiss that pierces my heart like a newly-whetted blade.
It’s pouring now. Thunder rumbles and lightning flashes, illuminating the city for the briefest moments. I start to shiver.
I could go in there but I don’t. I watch the storm unfolding, unsure if it’s within me or without. At some point, I daze through unfamiliar familiar streets, arrive at my front door, wondering as I turn the key if I will recognise the place, wondering whether, when I walk in, the ground beneath my feet will hold.
Gina’s writing has been published on audio platforms, in anthologies and in fiction and non-fiction magazines including The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Longleaf Review, FlashBack Fiction, NFFD’s Flash Flood and The Sunday Herald Magazine. Forthcoming in Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2021. She lives in Scotland and tweets @gmdfreelance
Photo Credit – Gina Headden