Playtime

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium


A short story inspired by the first picture prompt for March 2018, from the Imaginarium House.

Submitted: March 10, 2018

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Submitted: March 10, 2018

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Playtime.

Mandi and Helena were sisters, but had always been more like friends. Helena was two years older, had always excelled at academic work and had moved away to pursue a career. Mandi was never very interested in studying, had never been really ambitious and still lived very close to where she had grown up.

Mandi had been happy to settle down, to get married, and motherhood had suited her. One thing that she regretted was the distance between herself and her sister. When Ben was born she could have done with the companionship, the support that her sister would have given, but instead had made do with emails, the occasional phone call.

Ben was now three years old and was about to meet his aunt for the first time. Mandi had spoken to her young son frequently about her sister, but how much could a three-year-old really understand. Helena had been sent photos, video clips, but they never seemed to capture the sheer energy and exuberance of that little boy. Would they like each other? Mandi could not help wondering.

She looked at the clock. Her sister would soon be arriving and she wanted to make some sort of effort with her appearance. Ben would be happy to watch the TV while she put on a bit of make-up, changed her clothes to something a bit less ‘mumsey’. She left the bathroom door ajar so that she could hear him laughing, singing along, and in a remarkably short time Mandi was as ready as she was going to be.

Ben go play outside,” the boy said, when she came back downstairs. “Me want to go digging!”

A difficult decision then; Mandi wanted the boy to look clean when Helena met him, but then she did not want him frustrated and weepy either. It was dry, quite warm; there was no real reason for her to say ‘no’.

Ben loved his little red wheelbarrow. It was already out there in the garden, together with his toddler-sized spade. Maybe he’d get a bit mud-spattered, but at least he would be happy.

Okay, Ben. But stay by the wheelbarrow. No wandering off.”

It needed no more than that for Ben to fetch his boots, and for a moment Mandi thought how much he had grown in his three years.

As Ben left the house through the back door, the front door-bell rang. Mandi was suddenly swamped with nerves, then scolded herself. It was just Helena, she wasn’t on show. She flung open the door and threw her arms around her sister who returned the embrace.

Gifts! I’ve brought lots of gifts,” Helena said. “Help me bring them inside, and then you can introduce me to that gorgeous boy of yours.”

So many bags! Her sister had gone way over-board on the presents. Mandi worried for a moment that her gift for her sister was woefully inadequate, but it was too late now.

So where is the famous Benjamin, then?” Helena asked once everything was inside and the door was shut.

He’s in the garden, digging in mud, of all things. I hope he’s not got himself too dirty.” Mandi eyed her sister’s light coloured clothing dubiously, easily able to imagine the muddy hand prints that would soon appear.

Opening the back door, Mandi called out, “Ben! Come and meet your aunt Helena!” When there were no running footsteps, she looked down the garden and felt herself pale. The wheelbarrow was on it’s side in the mud, and there was no sign of the boy.

Ben!” Mandi ran out into the garden, shouting his name. Where was he? She’d told him not to leave the wheelbarrow. The garden was secure, wasn’t it? She’d thought so, but her son simply seemed to have disappeared.

Mandi?” Helena could tell that there was something wrong.

He’s....he’s gone! He should be here and he’s not.” She drew in a sharp breath. “What if he’s been taken?”

Taken? You mean...kidnapped?”

Mandi dashed around the garden, looking everywhere for the little boy. “I don’t know, Hel. He should be here and.....he’s not.”

The squeal of car brakes froze the two women. He couldn’t have got out on to the road, could he? They braced themselves for the sound of an impact that never came. Both women dashed to the bottom of the garden, arriving as the vehicle drew to a complete halt, the door opened, closed.

Graham Kearn lifted the boy from the pavement and passed him over the gate. The look he gave to Mandi was one of total disapproval and disgust.

Thanks, Graham. Thank you so much! But how could he have got out there?”

Doggy!” Ben said. “Doggy gone!” His lip began to quiver.

All three adults spotted it at the same time, a gap at the bottom of the hedge. The boy must have seen a passing dog and crawled out after it. The dirt on his clothes confirmed it.

Oh, god, I had no idea,” Mandi said.

I’d make sure you get something a bit more secure than that hedge,” the man said. “I’m just glad I happened along when I did.”

So am I, Graham. Thank you so much.”

The man waved and returned to his car. Mandi suddenly found herself tearful, shaky. Helena held out her hands and took the boy. “So you’re Benjamin, are you?”

Ben!”

Well, Ben, I’m you aunty Helena. I think you’ve given your mom a shock so we’d better take her inside, get her a drink. Will you lead the way!”

Thanks, Hel,” Mandi said, wiping at her tears and putting on a brave smile. Once they were back inside, she turned the key, locked the door.

Ben, I told you to stay with the wheelbarrow.”

But the doggy....” Lip dangerously wobbling, Ben was on the verge of sobbing.

Come on, you two. All’s well that ends well. Let’s go and see what gifts I’ve brought.”

Presents!” Ben jumped up and down in excitement.

Thanks, Sis,” said Mandi.

 


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