The Long Flight

by Rhoda Greaves

They ask if you have anything to say. You look up towards us in the gallery, and I hope you can feel me there with you, holding you. I think you’re going to say something, just for me. And I’m trembling. I want you to. But I don’t want to be recognised. Not that I’d deny you. Not even here.

My aunt and uncle lent me the money for the flight, even though they thought I was crazy to come. I spent it drinking mini wines and trying not to tell the nice man in the smart grey suit next to me, why I was travelling to the States alone. My parents gave me the money last time. But made me pay it back when they found out why I’d gone.

You shake your head, and my heart falls back into line. The journalists take out their pads and scribble. And to my right she flops into her hands, weeping. An older man props an arm awkwardly around her shoulders, but instead of it soothing her, she just gets louder.

My babies,’ she wails. And as she pulls her hand from her mouth, tendrils of snot contaminate the arms of her long black jacket: she clutches herself in a hug. Pushing her silver-threaded hair back from her face, she looks towards you; her eyes ragged, her cheeks streaked with sticky black makeup. And I can’t understand what you ever saw in her.

Why aren’t you sorry?’ she shouts at you. It comes out a slur; as if she’s drunk.

Evil bastard,’ the old man says, like he’s just taken a gulp of raw sewage. Evil? I just know you as you: letter writer, lover. You’d said that if you’d been granted one final wish, it would have been to spend half an hour alone with me, so we could be like the Bible says; as one.

Your face remains impassive. You can’t hear them. But if you could?

Another woman, a younger, better kept version of her, kneels at her side and offers a tissue: she blows so hard I almost shush her.

You stand. You walk proudly like you told me you would. And I want to tell all of them: ‘That’s my husband, you murderers.’

I look away. You’d warned me it would take longer than I’d think to make the pronouncement; more than just the flick of a switch to turn the body off. There are some like her, weeping for their own loss. And others. Men, whose blood-baying eyes shine in the falsely bright lights. I wrap my scarf a little tighter to better hide my face, then glance at my watch, and wait. For their cheers.

     

– Rhoda Greaves is a PhD Creative Writing student at Birmingham City University, dog blogger, and Mum. She was awarded second place in the flash fiction competition Flash500 (2011), was longlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize (2012), and shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize (2013). Her work has been published by The View From Here and Litro Online.

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