Writing Catalog

Areesha Nouman

Grade: 9

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor(s): Candace Hisey

A Broken Promise

Flash Fiction

A Broken Promise

Wedged between the two people sitting on either side of her, taking up her leg room in the crowded airplane seat, the woman shifted uncomfortably, shaking first her left leg, then her right. Left then right, right then left. The bouquet of red roses, their petals not yet wilting, wrapped in shiny paper, twirled between her fingertips as she moved them back and forth. It had taken her weeks to save up for this plane ticket. Weeks of working late hours, of coming home to her daughter sitting on the creaky wooden rocking chair near the front door. When she would come home on late nights, the moon high and shining over the empty streets, her daughter used to rise from the chair, greeting her and asking where she had been.

Her daughter didn't ask anymore.

But none of that mattered anymore, at least not for the moment. Setting the flowers into her lap to pick up her phone, she checked the time, the date, just one more time to make sure she was right. February 17th. Current time 12:03 pm. Flight scheduled to land in two hours. A quiet sigh of relief, nothing louder than a light breath, escaped her mouth as a wave of calm washed over her.

Just three hours and four minutes left. One hundred and eighty four minutes. Eleven thousand and forty seconds, until she would be able to see him again for the first time in a year. And there was no way she would miss it.

The anniversary was a date, a time she would never forget. February 17th, 3:07 pm, forever etched into her memory, ingrained in her mind. It wasn't a marriage anniversary, or a birthday, or a proposal - it was more important than that. More important than showing up to work. More important than calculating how much the loaf of bread, the frozen dinners, the countless bottles of Diet Coke cost. More important than opening the front door to the young girl, silently hunched in the creaky wooden rocking chair.

She had gotten used to feeling less guilty about that one. It was hard at first, but now she convinced herself it was just a shadow, just an illusion.

The woman loved him, the person she was going to see. She truly did. She fondly remembered the times he would pick her up, swinging her around in his arms as she giggled. He was the dad who would show up at every school event, the one who spent extra time helping her with homework or the class project she forgot about until the last night. Every year, every February 17th, without fail for the last sixteen years, she had saved up for the plane ticket, packed her suitcase, and left. As the flight came closer and closer to landing, her plans of all she was going to tell him, the things she would talk about, filled her mind. She was going to tell him about how she was trying harder and harder to be a good mom. She was going to tell him about the fourth job she got fired from, pour out the guilt on her mind, empty out the intrusive thoughts that weighed her shoulders down. Because she knew she could trust him no matter what.

The woman's steps turned to strides, then to sprints, as she hurried across the bumpy sidewalk, suitcase lingering behind her as it almost slipped from her hand. The time on her phone blinked back, a beacon of light illuminating the gloominess: 2:57 pm. She was so close. She could almost feel his hand on her shoulder, his arms around her, her face nestled in the warm collar of his jacket. The bouquet of roses no longer twirled between her fingers, but was clutched tight in her sweaty palm, a treasure she couldn't bear to lose. They had always been his favorite flower.

The minutes passed as she got closer and closer to him, each step fueling her excitement. It had been so long, but it was finally time for her to say hello. To meet him again.

Everything seemed to turn silent when she reached the entrance of his home, the place he had been living for the last sixteen years after the frantic phone calls, the money spent, the hopeful discussions with the doctors. It was like everything held its breath suddenly, not daring to interrupt their moment. She tried to contain herself, but it was all too much, too real. The suitcase clattered to the cold ground, the bouquet torn out of the shiny wrapping paper, as petals fluttered from the roses. Her shoes slammed against the dirt, her breath in short pants as she reached closer and closer to him.

"Dad! Dad! I'm here!" the woman's excited cries, shouts of joy, pierced the air and echoed through the trees.

Motionless, cold silence was her reply.

The woman smirked, slowing down once more. How foolish she was to think he would come back in some impossible way, that he could rise back up. How naive she was to turn up at this desolate place every February 17th, 3:07 pm, and bring his favorite flowers every time. February 17th, 3:07 pm, the exact time he decided to leave her. Clicking her phone screen, the three numbers shone back at her. They were laughing at her.

She reached a hand out, her fingertips lightly grazing the surface of his gravestone as the cold nipped at her face. Brushing the dust off, the glimpse of her father's name appeared, engraved in the stone for over a decade. The woman took each rose, plucking the petals off one by one, crushing them, tossing them in front of her father's grave. There was no such thing as sentiment, just the cold, icy anger that made her chest tighten.

The words she spoke to the air, spat out sentence by sentence, made her blood boil.

"You said you wouldn't leave me. You promised."