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Braving Paranoia

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This is painful.

I shuffle down the brightly lit aisle, lights glaring on my face, blinding me.  I don’t want to do this, I don’t like it, I hate it, I can’t – getting ahead of myself.

I must keep calm.

My knuckles are white on the trolley handle; I’m gripping so hard, I can’t feel them.  I begin to tremble.  He was too young.

Are people staring?  Paranoia claws at my head, and I instinctively hunch my shoulders and lower my head, as if I am ashamed.  Am I?  It was not my fault, I know, but visions of that car slamming into him…my lip trembles and I try desperately to focus on something else.  I look at the floor.  My fingers grip the trolley again and the grey speckles upon the floor tiles swim before my eyes.

Only a little boy.

It’s the first time I’ve left the house since…it happened.  I’m still not sure that was such a good idea.  It’s stupid, I know, but are they all looking at me?  What’s that a mother is saying to her daughter? It’s warm here, but I’ve broken out into a cold sweat, my hands grip even more tightly on the trolley, which is empty.  My knuckles are so white, almost like these white lights, so bright…What must they think of me?  A tired, nervous, madwoman, shuffling down the aisle, muttering.

I’m not mad, no, I can’t be.   The smell of fish clings to my nostrils as I push the empty trolley towards the fishmonger.  He asks me if he can help, and I hear his voice, distantly.  It is mingled with pity.   What must I look like?  This horrid baggy white top, and equally baggy greying jeans.  The fishmonger hands me fish I don’t remember asking for and I thank him in a hollow voice.

Move on.

I’m dragging my feet, I know.  Like a child, but I’m a grown woman, and it’s pathetic.  I’m pathetic.  I pick some Asda’s own pasta.  I spend a long time running my fingers over the packet, looking, feeling.  The pasta is immaculate, smooth, unspoilt.  Like a child’s skin, fair and beautiful.  Immediately I see a child playing in the aisle.  It’s him, he plays on the dusty floor, giggling and evading the noisy shoppers.  He is so happy, and that makes me happy.  For the tiniest moment, it’s all not true, and I smile, and stretch out my hand to ruffle his hair.

I drop the pasta.

It spills out onto the creamy floor, and everyone looks at me.  Stares.  A woman stops fingering noodles and stares, eyes piercing me.  Everyone is gazing intently at me, and now it’s silent for me, as the vision of my beautiful son fades into the background.  The faint pop music dies away and the harsh, harsh lights seem to burn my skin.  I turn and flee.

All courage drains out of me and blind panic thrashes about in my head as I fight my way through the shoppers, pushing, scrambling for the door.  I have to get out of here!  I have to leave!  Please…let me leave!  Some woman curses angrily as I shove her in my desperate reach for the exit.  I don’t care, I don’t, I can only think about getting out of here.

Cold air hits me in the face.  A tiny bubble of relief expands in my stomach as I walk, shaking, to the back of the building.  An employee is having a crafty smoke behind the back door.  He gives me a strange look as I lean against the wall, pale and haggard.

I don’t blame him.  I’d edge away too if it was me.  He looks sideways, and I want to yell out.  Doubts erupt again, and the ‘What If…?’ questions trouble me once more.  What if I hadn’t let him go out? What if I had made him wear a bicycle helmet? And what if I had watched him?  I sink down to the floor as sorrow eats away at me.

I know it was my fault.
© 2007 - 2019 Cazilu
Well, this Short Story I wrote in a Creative Writing workshop with Sherry Ashworth, our writing theme being 'Bravery' She was very nice and was telling us how to plan. She said my story was A* material ^^

Anyway, this Short Story got through to the last round of a competition Miss enterered me in. Hope you enjoy reading it, and please comment. =]
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