Welcome to the inaugural combined WEP/IWSG challenge. It’s been a while since I participated in this wonderful flash fiction challenge.
My story concept for this theme came to me in a flash. At first, it was all over the place. Then I had to work on getting it onto paper in a coherent way, keeping it to under 1000 words.
I’m still looking for a title to this suspense story. This is the result. Enjoy!
* * *
“We’ve traced your son.” Ms. Landers, from the Kith & Kin Family Search, smiled at the couple.
Brent’s heart lurched. It was a moment he had longed for and yet dreaded. “You have? Where is he? Is he okay?” The words tumbled from his lips.
“His name is Joshua Perkins.”
“Jo-sh-ua.” Paige’s lips moved softly, dragged it out, savoured the sound.
“He lives about half an hour away.”
Years of anguish to discover that his lost child was a stone’s throw away. Such is the cruelty of life.
“Joshua.” A gentle re-connection, as Paige stared at the baby photo she had unearthed from her bag. Brent had forgotten about that photo.
A fragile lull enveloped them.
Brent’s gaze latched onto the clock above her head. It ticked a slow, strange rhythm, reminiscent of a similar moment many years before. The day they had returned home, empty-handed.
“Brent, we need to go. It’s already late.” Paige dragged her eyes from the photo.
“Sorry, Ms. Landers. We need to get back to the hospital.”
“Oh, everything okay?”
“Yes. No. I mean…” Words stuck in Brent’s throat as the string of unfolding events wreaked havoc with his emotions.
“Ms. Landers, it’s our son. Gary.” Paige stopped, blinked, swallowed hard. “He’s in hospital. His heart…”
Brent’s mind went into overdrive. Joshua Perkins. Would he even want to see them?
The long-buried image of a tiny hand jolted him. “What does he do? Do you know anything else?”
“He’s an attorney. Partner in a law firm.”
“My son, the attorney.” A lifetime of pride in four words.
“Honey,” Paige’s gentle voice probed, “the hospital just called.”
“I’m coming.” He turned to the woman who had assisted them for the past eighteen months. “Thank you for everything.”
“I’ll be in touch.” They shook hands.
Upon their arrival at Addington Hospital, the specialist ushered them into his office. “Good news. We have a match.”
Paige paled, clutched her bag. “You do?”
“Car accident. Off the southern freeway. The helicopter is airborne. The organ should get to us shortly.”
Paige burst into tears. “Can we see him?”
“Just for a few minutes. We need to prep him for surgery.”
From the private ward on the tenth floor, Brent studied the panoramic view. The best hospital, best doctors… the best of everything. Yet Gary had turned out to be a major disappointment.
He was groggy but squeezed his mother’s hand. “I’m so sorry.”
“Shush son. Don’t speak. Everything will be fine.”
“Dad, I know I’ve let you down.”
“Not now, son. We’ll talk after the surgery.”
“I just wanted to say….. I’m sorry. For what it’s worth.”
Brent gritted his teeth. Too many slips and too many ‘I’m sorry’s’.
Months of pressure coalesced.
Suddenly something snapped. “I’m tired son. Years of saying sorry…and empty promises.”
Paige’s eyes misted. “Honey, not now. Please.”
But a life time of guilt, hurt and disappointment bubbled over. “They’ve found your brother.”
“And you know what? He’s a man of the law. Upright. Honest.”
Gary flinched and his mouth tightened.
“Honey how could you?” Paige’s dagger eyes pierced her husband’s soul.
“Isn’t that wonderful. Your long-lost son. It’s all I’ve ever heard. Day in, day out.” Sweat beaded Gary’s upper brow.
“Shhh. Calm down. You’re supposed to relax.” Paige patted his hand and wiped his brow.
“Are we all set? Got a new heart waiting, son.” As he waltzed into the room, Doctor Robertson’s warm tone cut through the suffocating air.
Gary gave a thumbs up – closed his eyes.
* * *
The drive home was in icy silence.
Paige prepared a scotch-on-the-rocks, her go-to liquid therapy. “That was heartless. Telling Gary about…”
“What do you want? To wait for the perfect moment? When he’s up and about, running all over town? Doing all the nonsense he’s been doing all these years?”
“You know what I mean!” Her voice cracked. “It was bad timing.”
“You’re blinded to his ways—”
“You’ve never forgiven him, Brent—”
“No matter what he does—”
“Still holding a grudge.” She downed the contents in one go.
“Oh, so that’s your defence. I’m the one who’s at fault?” He knew how to turn the tide.
“Why do you even stay? You threatened to leave. Many times.”
For years, a stark image of his wife staring at the baby photo had haunted him.
Blinding pain seared Brent’s temple. “He’s lied and stolen from you, remember?”
“He’s all I have.” Mary shivered.
“Not anymore… Ms. Landers said…” He stopped. God, what a mess.
She shuddered. “Thirty years have passed, Brent. Thirty years! What if it’s a mistake?”
Brent shut his eyes. God, forgive me for the years of deceit.
“Why didn’t we look harder?” She slumped onto a chair.
“I tried, have you forgotten?” The lack of conviction was obvious. Even to his ears.
The truth was, he had never looked for their son. Until recently.
* * *
Gary’s operation was successful and the waiting game began.
Ms. Landers left a voice mail. She was working on the lead and ready to make contact with Joshua Perkins.
After two weeks, a meeting was scheduled.
The three sat around the dining room table.
Brent looked at the agent. Something was off. “He doesn’t want to see us?”
Ms. Landers shook her head, a forlorn expression clouding her face.
“I’m sorry Paige, Brent…”
“It’s fine. We knew the possibility existed.”
“It’s not that.” She struggled with her words.
“Then what is it?”
“There’s been an accident.”
“An accident?” Brent couldn’t think straight.
“Two weeks ago. I was here. Remember? Authorities said it happened off the southern freeway.”
“The good news?” The hint of a smile on her face. “Joshua Perkins was an organ donor.”
“Nooooo!” A strangled sob escaped Paige’s lips.
“At this moment, his heart is beating inside the body of a lucky man.”
Brent put his head into his hands.
Such is the cruelty of life.
WORDS – 992
FCA – As per preference list below (I’m hoping to expand the story…)
I hope you enjoyed my contribution for the WEP/IWSG August challenge. For more information, visit the WEP website.
I’m going to be very busy over the next two days so I’ll only be able to visit other participants by Friday. I’m really looking forward to reading all the entries.