There is something beautiful about flash fiction. Brevity. My busy life doesn’t let me write for long periods of time anymore, so these tiny stories are a perfect fit when I am short on time, focus, or both.
Just for fun, here is a flash fiction piece I wrote and submitted to the WOW! Women on Writing Spring 2014 Flash Fiction contest. There were over 200 entries and I somehow made it to the top 10. My interview was posted today and can be found HERE. The story was originally posted HERE.
By Kelley Hicken
“You’re not my Mommy!”
My gaze flicked to the rear-view mirror. A few blonde hairs stuck to her wet cheeks as she glared at me with all the defiance she could muster. I looked back to the road, biting the inside of my cheek. She’s only three, I reminded myself, and that parenting book said it’s normal to test boundaries. Healthy, even.
“You’re not my Mommy!” she screamed, louder this time.
I snorted, mumbling about stretch marks and overdue hospital bills proving otherwise. “Everything is fine, sweetie. Please stop screaming so we don’t wreck.”
She slammed her head back against the car seat. “I want home.”
Sand and cacti stretched on forever. I wanted home, too, but we’d never go back. I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. “You’ll love Mexico. We can learn Spanish, live by the ocean…” But secretly, I worried she’d be doomed to sell candy to tourists. What was I doing? I had no money, no connections, no plan. “We can make sand castles. Have you ever done that?”
She shook her head, and I grinned. I missed her first word and first step, but the first sandcastle? That milestone was mine.
“Will Mommy come?”
“Uh… yes, I’ll be there. Just you and me.”
Her eyebrows furrowed.
I groaned inwardly. “Lindsey, foster mom is not your Mommy.”
She looked out the window, her eyes following each cactus we passed.
“She stole you from me. Do you understand what that means?”
Her frown deepened. “It’s naughty.”
“Very naughty.” I sighed. “But now everything is right again.” I turned to smile at her, but she wouldn’t face me. She rubbed her nose and I noticed her fingernails for the second time today.
The nail polish, of all the stupid things, was the final insult. It’s my job to paint her fingernails, not some judgmental divorcee from Scottsdale. So I took her. Why orange? It’s the color of my old prison uniform. Was it meant as a jab—like mother like daughter?
“I need to potty,” she said.
I hesitated. “Can you hold it? We’re almost—”
“Fine. I see a gas station, but you have to be quick.” Foster mom probably hadn’t realized Lindsey never returned to daycare from our scheduled visit. Would she even care? CPS would give her a new charity case within the week.
Still, the blinker ticked like a clock as I pulled into Gus’ Gas.
I carried Lindsey inside. The clerk behind the counter stared at me through thick glasses. “Ten dollars on pump three.”
He ignored the cash I offered.
“Mommy!” Lindsey squealed, bouncing up and down. She pointed to the television. My heart stopped when her foster mom stared back at me from the local news. My picture flashed on the screen next to Lindsey’s. We had the same eyes and hair color, the same dimpled chin and too-big ears.
“I thought that was you,” the man said.
Desperation gripped my throat. “Please don’t call the cops.”
“Called them as soon as you pulled in. They’ll be here any minute.”
I slammed my fist on the counter. “I can’t go back to jail! You don’t understand. Please…”
He nodded, looking at Lindsey. “I’ll make you a deal. If you’ll leave the girl with me, safe, I’ll tell them you headed toward Tucson.”
I shook my head. “I can’t leave her.”
He glanced at the television. “You can’t take her to jail, can you?”
He was right, and time was ticking. I set Lindsey on the counter and kissed her forehead. “I’m so sorry, but going back to jail doesn’t do either of us any good. Please forgive me.”
I peeled out of the parking lot, blurry-eyed and frantic to escape. A quarter mile later, I flipped a U-turn, and headed back toward the gas station.
I left the car running and ran inside. “Hello?” I spun around. No clerk, no Lindsey. “Lindsey?” I ran through the aisles. Gone.
I grabbed my head, trying to calm the rising panic, but it was no use. Sirens rang in the distance. I stumbled back toward the counter and tripped, falling backward over an arm.
A scream escaped my lips. A woman, eyes glazed over with a bullet hole in her head, stared back. Blood splattered her Gus’ Gas uniform.
“He didn’t wear a uniform,” I repeated over and over until a policeman yanked me up by my elbow.
I would never be free from my crimes… or from his.