Flash Fiction: Juniper

Note: This is something a bit different for this space. I have mentioned that I write in the past, and this week, I decided to write somewhat on one of Chuck Wendig’s Friday Flash Fiction prompts. No bets as to whether this will become a regular thing, but here is my offering.

“Juniper”

There may be a few things in the world a nice cup of tea cannot cure, and this was one of them. That special sort of painful that is waiting for inevitable bad news required something a bit stronger. Besides, a cup of tea would only transport her back to that chair by his bedside, waiting and watching. Listening for his breath and wondering if this would be the moment it stopped. Sipping a cup of tea in the cold silence of a room where an uninvited presence clung to her shoulder, leaning in to see if it was time for him to make himself known. That room where she marked the time by how cold her tea had gotten.

So she went to the cabinet and pulled down the bottle that she had bought ages ago. She never touched the stuff now, but somehow it seemed appropriate. She opened it and inhaled. The sharp tang of alcohol, and earth, and trees, and juniper. It smelled of bad decisions in college, and parties at Christmas, and a hundred other small things. So many memories in this bottle. But not that one.

It would do.

She went to the fridge and found a bottle of tonic pushed way back from a party she’d had that she couldn’t remember. As she cracked it open, it hissed. It hissed at her, asking why she wasn’t still there. Why did she leave? She didn’t really have to leave, did she? Why was she here and not there?

Quiet, she told the tonic water, as she topped her glass off. She didn’t have a lime, but it didn’t really matter. She had had to leave. She couldn’t put her life on hold just because his was ending. And he had wanted it for her, as he watched her grow up. He had wanted her to have this life, this life of busyness and travel. Even if it meant she couldn’t be there up until the end.

She had spent a month by that bed, dammit, why couldn’t she forgive herself this.

And yet, sleep still eluded her. Those cups of tea taunted her. She turned to her glass, the first drink she’d allowed herself through this whole ordeal. The first since a half a glass of beer, shared with him after he’d finished his last round of chemotherapy. She took a sip and pulled a face at the familiar-yet-unfamiliar tang of pine that touched her tongue. The second sip was easier. She sat for a long time with her drink and her memories, sorting through them all, and trying to file them away.

And then the phone rang.

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