This was first written as a piece of flash fiction (250 words or less) for one of my writing groups in 2011. Today I was browsing through my story archive and I came across it. No coincidence, I feel, as I am pondering today yet another High Court decision here in the UK that has ruled a terminally ill man cannot ask for assisted suicide so he can die with dignity whilst still of sound mind and before his pain overwhelms him.
A young man sits at a wicker table in the bright white light of a midsummer's day. A gentle breeze carries on its lips a whisper of the sea that ruffles the base of the cliff at the end of the lawn with soft, white foam. His mother is by his side, shadowed and silent, imprisoned in the diseased parchment of her skin; held in her wheelchair by a worn leather strap with a dull brass buckle. High above their heads a skylark sings and in amongst the lavender butterflies dance.
He mirrors her silence. She knows what she wants. He knows what she wants. He knows what he wants.
Guilt runs heavy in her veins. It is her fault, she is sure. There are no tests to prove it but she knows. A quirk of nature, a twist of fate. If only had been different. They might have walked together down the Spanish Steps or gazed out over Paris from the Eiffel Tower. Maybe they would have watched the pigeons in Trafalgar Square or laughed at silly sitcoms together on the television. Instead, nothing but the painful echoes of what could have been.
He turns and looks at her, his gaze vacant. Above his high forehead a fine wisp of blonde hair reminds her of his birth. He pushes her to the end of the garden. They can hear the sea in its endless search for for rest. They smile at each other as he walks away.
©Jacqueline Le Sueur 2011 All Rights Reserved