a robbery and a rescue

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

The young man hesitated.  Then, as the bus departed in a swirl of fumes, he made up his mind. Gripping his briefcase and holding his hat to his head, he ran after the woman into the clamor of the station.

A minute later he saw her. An elderly person, wearing a fawn coat and a plain black hat. He dodged and danced through the crowd, reaching her near the platform entrance.

 “Excuse me, madam,” he said, breathless, “please forgive my impertinence. But may I ask you something?”

The woman looked up at him in surprise. 

“I am sorry. I know this was rude of me,” continued the young man, “but you see I overheard something you said on the bus, just now.  About you catching the train to Pagford, and how you haven’t been back since 1916. You mentioned the name of a street...”

He flushed and looked embarrassed. 

“Oh, I’m sure this is completely mad. But I must ask you. You see, just before she died, my mother told me she was rescued, in 1916, from her burning house, in that street you mentioned in Pagford.”

The woman said nothing, but her face flushed.

The man continued, “My mother said she was robbed at the time, and the mysterious rescuer vanished. So, when I heard what you said…  Well, madam, on the spur of the moment, I had to ask. Perhaps you know something about it?”

The old woman looked down, rubbing her forehead. At length, she looked at him. The pale blue eyes behind her spectacles glistened.

“Young man, I do know about it,” she replied. “It was me.  I saved your mother from the fire. And yes… I took something.”

A silence followed, engulfed by the endless noise of the station.

Bewildered, the young man finally asked, “But why did you leave her? Did you rob her?”

“Your mother did not remember me,” she said quietly, “But I knew her. I was a nurse, you see, and she came to the hospital once. I got her address. After that, I used to pass by the house where she lived when I could. It was a sordid house.”

“On the day of the fire I was there. I saw the smoke and I rushed in. She was unconscious. Drunk, I think, or doped.”

The old lady paused. “But before the ambulance came, I took this.” She pulled from her coat a small package. It contained a good quality, gold-plated pocket watch.

“My husband gave this to our son,” she said simply. The inscription was succinct: ‘For Frank, from your Dad’.

“Frank was young and foolish. He visited that house of your mother’s. Not long after, he went to France and never returned.”

She gave the tall, young man a wistful smile.

“But I knew two things on the day of the fire. I knew that my son paid for your mother’s services with this watch. And I knew that she was carrying his child.”

Submitted: May 01, 2020

© Copyright 2021 GumTreeDave. All rights reserved.

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