This week’s Fiction in a Flash Challenge is provided by Suzanne Burke. You can read the entries and join in here.
The snow fell softly, splattering against the windshield only to get brushed aside by the car’s wipers. It had been snowing for most of the three-hour drive and Vanessa was tired. If it wasn’t for the promise she’d made to her grandmother, she would have stopped at an inn for the night and resumed the dreaded trip in the morning.
But she was here now. Pacific Canyon. Her childhood home. The place she’d been running from for the last fifteen years. She’d come full circle.
There on the corner, the old Butterworth place, where she and Franz had spent their allowances on ice cream cones in all the colors of the rainbow.
The cinema, with its Saturday afternoon kids movies. They’d often sneaked in through the back door and hid behind the tall, velvet drapes to watch the shows.
The Five-and-Dime where she’d almost choked to death on a gumball until Franz smacked her back hard enough to send that candy flying across the store and between old Mr. Lincoln’s feet.
The lanes they’d chased each other on with their bikes.
Shuddering, she turned the wheel violently and almost sideswiped a truck going the other way. The driver swerved and honked the horn repeatedly, like an angry gaggle of geese.
Shaking, she pulled over and parked the car. Dropping her head, she sighed and rubbed her nape to ease the tension of the last few hours. She’d known coming back would be hard, but she had to gain some control before she saw Grandma.
As though her feet had a mind of their own, she soon found herself trudging through the ankle-deep snow drifts as she inevitably walked toward the past.
The swings were still there, behind the school. They looked so innocent, covered in a pristine layer of angel dust. So different from the day they’d been covered in dark red blood.
They’d been having fun, her and Franz. Chasing each other ever higher, determined to be the victor in their never ending competitions. Their laughter had filled the air like balloons of joy. The summer was warm, the sun a liquid caress, and nothing could be better than spending time with her best friend.
Except, suddenly, she heard a dull thud over the noise of the creaking chains and her heart fell through her toes. She knew, even before she looked back, what she would see.
Franz was a daredevil. He liked to test his boundaries. And that day, the day the laughter died, he’d been standing on the seat instead of sitting, as they’d been taught.
“Sitting’s for babies,” he’d taunted. “Look, I can fly.” And he had. Higher and higher, until his blond hair flew about his face and his body lay horizontal with the cerulean sky above them.
Miffed, she’d remained on her bum and pushed her legs, harder and harder, until she too, was a bird, flying on the wind currents. It had been wild and crazy, and undeniably thrilling.
Until it wasn’t.
Grandma wanted her to make peace with the past and come home more often. Back to the place where it all began.
Vanessa stared at the pretty, white swings and thought of all the good times they’d shared. The love and laughter. A friendship frozen in time.
Franz would approve.