Hi everyone. Here is my latest story for my new feature, “Fortnightly Fiction”. Now, before any of you smart arses point it out, I am aware that it’s been more than a fortnight since my last story. The reason for that is that my organisation skills are terrible! I am working on that, though, so please bear with me for the time being. I’ll get back to forming a proper writing schedule once I’ve finished giving myself the required lashes.
This prompt came from the lovely Ruth over at Image & Word , and it was a tough one. In short, it was:
‘What kind of man walks out on his newborn son?’
Wow. I knew this one would be difficult to write but I gave it my best shot. I hope I’ve handled this delicate subject with due care and sympathy. Thank you, Ruth, for providing me with such a challenging and thought-provoking prompt.
Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.
P.S. If you would like to get involved and offer me a story prompt to use in the future, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
By Adam Dixon
The grey day matched Aiden’s mood. He was sat in a cramped aisle of Victoria Coach Station with strangers and their suitcases stacked either side of him. Club-footed pigeons hopped about underneath his seat, as much a part of the scenery as the bland walls. The mingled smells of sweat, dust and stale pastries hung in the air; it never changed.
Aiden had tried to avoid looking at his reflection in the grimy windows. He didn’t want to be reminded of how wrinkled his brow was, or how his hair was turning grey. Aiden sighed and tried to stretch out his legs. He kicked a garish purple suitcase by accident and murmured an apology to the woman sitting next to him.
“Oh no, it was my fault!” the woman said, her plump cheeks reddening as she dragged her suitcase aside. “I should’ve watched where I was puttin’ it! My old mum always said I didn’t have no death perception!” The woman laughed, and Aiden gave a pained smirk at her mistake. He wondered which of them was the stupid cow who got that wrong. As the woman settled back into her seat she glanced over again.
“You’re travelling light,” she said, indicating Aiden’s lack of luggage. Aiden nodded. The woman’s smile faltered, but she pressed on.
“Goin’ all the way?” she asked cheerfully.
“Yeah, I’ve got friends in Aberdeen,” Aiden replied. Not that it’s any of your business, he almost added. The woman sighed in appreciation.
“Oh, I love Aberdeen!” she said, showing the dimples on her cheeks as she smiled. “My old mum came from there, an’ we used to pop back to visit my auntie. You by yourself?” The woman looked around expectantly.
“Yes,” Aiden said, feeling his eye throb. “I’m alone because I walked out on my girlfriend today.”
Aiden felt a glow of satisfaction as the woman’s face registered his words with shock. Her mouth fell open and Aiden folded his arms and turned away from her. His smug delight was momentary, and he soon returned to his stupor.
As he sat, he replayed parts of the earlier phone call he had had with his sister. Suzie had been livid.
“Are you fucking mental?” Suzie had screeched. Aiden had winced and held the receiver at an arms-length.
“No, Suze, I’m not,” he had replied firmly. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”
“But, Ade, why now? What about your son?” Suzie had demanded. Aiden had closed his eyes and groaned in the confines of the phone box.
“I…I can’t do it, Suze,” he had stammered, bracing himself against the plastic window with a trembling arm. “I thought I could but…I can’t.” Suzie had fallen silent, and Aiden’s scalp had prickled with sweat.
“You’re not like him, Ade,” Suzie had said at last. “You’re nothing like him.”
“But what if I am?” Desperation had lent weight to Aiden’s voice. “You weren’t there when Karen left Mikey with me that afternoon! It was going fine until he spilled his juice on the carpet, then I…I shouted at him, Suze. Just like dad.” Aiden could almost sense Suzie’s shock. He took several deep breaths and wiped the back of his hand across his damp brow.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Suzie had replied, but she sounded shaken.
“Yes, it does,” Aiden had insisted. “It was the rage, Suze. It was there, just like the old man.” He had lifted his leg and unconsciously stroked the old, puckered scar across the back of his thigh.
“But that still doesn’t mean-“
“And like his dad!” Aiden interrupted, flushed with anger. “There’s a pattern, for fuck’s sake! I won’t let it carry on!”
“But what about Melanie?” Suzie had changed tactics. “She’ll be all alone! Christ, she’s not even named him yet!” Aiden had sighed, scrunching his face tight.
“She’ll be okay, Suze,” he had said. “She’s got Deb and Jack to help out. They’re not old yet, and they’ll be brilliant grandparents. I’ve left her all my savings, and I’ll send more once I’m settled.”
“And what about me?” Suzie had asked. She was desperate then. “When will I see you again?”
“I don’t know,” Aiden had answered, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “I’m so sorry.”
“Ade,” Suzie’s voice had cracked then, and Aiden’s heart had torn in half. “Ade…don’t do this. It’s not right.” Aiden added two more coins to the machine before he replied.
“I know,” he said, tears leaking from his closed eyes. “But I’m doing what’s best for Mel and the baby. Tell her I’m sorry.”
Aiden was jerked from his reverie by a surge of movement around him; the coach to Aberdeen had arrived. The weary strangers were on their feet, edging forwards to form a haphazard queue by the doors. As Aiden stood, the woman with the purple case barged past him, shooting him a brief, venomous look. Aiden ignored her and pulled his ticket from his pocket before he stepped through the door and into the cold morning air.
The coaches were lined up along the forecourt, grumbling as their engines ticked over. The drivers were frowning as they inspected tickets, apparently eager to be off. You and me both, Aiden thought, but he stopped as he joined with his queue. He was still, one hand holding his ticket as the would-be passengers filed past him. He was shouldered and nudged, but barely registered the muttered apologies offered to him. He stood, staring ahead with his mouth twisted.
What about his son?
Aiden felt as if he stood on a precipice, not the worn tarmac of the coach station. He felt as if he was teetering, that his future hung on a hair’s breadth of space. He thought of Melanie, how she’d still be in recovery and wondering where he was. He thought of the little boy whose face would remain a mystery to him. His body wavered, hanging over the edge.
“’Scuse me, sir!” called a gruff voice. An overweight, bored-looking man in a high-visibility jacket was glaring at him. “You on for Aberdeen?”
Aiden looked at the man, then at the ticket in his hand. He stared at it for several seconds.
“Yeah, one to Aberdeen,” he said at last. The man inspected it with a quick glance and nodded.
“On you get, then,” he said, his expression unchanging. Aiden took a deep breath and climbed on to the coach.
The coach was packed full of people, and the air inside it was close and warm. Aiden sat in the only remaining seat in the centre of the vehicle, next to an old man with a flat cap and faded cords. The man was already snoring, and he smelled strongly of whisky. It seemed that he’d be out for much of the journey, which worked for Aiden. The driver boarded and surveyed his meagre empire with his ever-present frown before squeezing himself behind the steering wheel.
The coach coughed into life and pulled away from the dreary station. A pitiful whimpering broke through the muted chatter. A young woman with red hair was rocking a baby girl in her arms, hushing her softly but to no avail. The baby began to cry in earnest, and several passengers groaned aloud. Aiden sat and listened to the wailing, letting it pierce his heart as well as his ears. Rain began lashing against the windows, mirroring the tears which trickled down Aiden’s cheeks. The coach rolled onwards. He had made his decision.
If you would like to get involved in Fortnightly Fiction, please feel free to suggest a prompt in the comments section. I’ll do my best to do your ideas justice!
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.
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