Fatima

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Fatima’s foot sank an inch into the ground as she stepped off the bottom back step and onto her lawn. It was a ritual she had come to count on over time: breathing in the scent of grass, feeling the air cool on her forehead, nose and neck. The wind fluttering across her ears. It got her away from those endless hours in the same few rooms, surfaces slightly tacky from disinfectant, and gave her a place to breathe a bit, fresh despite fabric three sheets deep.

But today was different, and it hadn’t been different for so long. Today the plague was declared dead. Life was to resume. She was ordered to be free, told to have faith, advised to go about her business as if… as if. Now, where people were once to be feared, thought to bear disease, distrusted, avoided, she was supposed to embrace them. Figuratively, literally, totally. And the places she used to race through like a life-or-death game of laser tag – the grocery, the pharmacy - she could now browse. She could linger. Even the air was deemed clean.

I’ve wished for this, thought Fatima. I prayed the day would come and that I’d be alive to see it.

But it felt less like liberation than a fraudster’s dare now that the time had come. Russian roulette with the slim reassurance of positive odds. Oh, she knew she could trust those in charge– not the figureheads, of course, but the ones really running the show, the ones in the know – but trust was slippery and kept spilling out of her grasp. It had been so long in those same few rooms. It was difficult to leave them.

Fatima kicked rocks around the backyard. Sounds of children screaming a joyous cacophony of freedom – like birth! – rang out not far away. And some cars passed out front. She knew she should do it, “one small step for woman” and all. But the chain link fence hovered like barbed wire, and she couldn’t bring herself to move.

What if they were wrong?

What if they missed a bit?

What if she fell right back in line, in step with herself, and loved it and missed it and got accustomed to the gait, and it was taken away again? Could she bear to lose her life again? Could she bear to risk it now?

The gate swung open silently despite the rust, and she pushed herself through the opening, sliding the fabric mask off her face, elastic gliding up under her hair and off, and flung it aside.


Submitted: April 14, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Jen Harrison. All rights reserved.

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