Future Imperfect

by Lucinda Hart

They both have futures, separately and together.

He’ll be over six feet by the time he’s eighteen. Blond, blue-eyed, wide shouldered. He’ll know he wants to study medicine, because that’s all he’s ever wanted to do. Ever since his first child’s medical kit. Yellow plastic scissors, a scrubby bandage, a syringe that jams.

She’ll be different. Elegant but shorter. Freckled. Copper-chestnut hair, but eyes like his. She’ll miss him when he goes away to study, but she will want to stay near home. She’ll dabble with an arts degree, give it up, smoke too much weed, drink, sleep with unsuitable boys, and even more unsuitable men.

He won’t like it. Because he’ll know. And she’ll know he knows. And she’ll feel sick opening his messages with a hangover headache, but she’ll understand it’s because he loves her. Because he’s bound to her. 

He’ll always be there for her. When she’s bullied at school he’ll hit a couple of creeps for her. A week of detention, but he won’t care. He’ll let her copy his homework. When the teacher asks her to explain a simultaneous equation she will pretend to faint.

Sometimes she knows what he’s thinking. She can finish his sentences. He doesn’t finish hers because he doesn’t want to frame the words, but he knows them.

She will walk out of her degree half-way through, get throw-away jobs in shops and cafés. In the late-night bar that stays open till morning. She’ll drag herself home at dawn, stinking of sweat and stale beer and the hands of drunken men, and she’ll think of him waking clean and bright, straightening his tie, striding onto the wards to a day of life and death. 

She’ll cry and drink and wish he were there to hold her, but he has someone’s blood on his hands, and someone’s tears on his clothes and, for this moment, he is not hers.

Do you remember? she will ask when they talk. Do you remember when we…? And he will, he always will.

His life is threaded with hers.

She will be a mother before he is a father. A red scrawny girl drawn from her body. She’ll peer at her daughter looking for similar features but there are none. A scratch of dark hair that favours the missing father. A tiny mouth rooting for milk.

He will have children too. Two boys and two girls.  But one of the girls is not his. He takes the child to his home because there is nowhere else on this earth she could live when her mother dies. 

A registrar, married, settled. He will watch his niece sleep, and sob, raw and unrestrained, for the years that have gone. 

In the morning his sister’s coffin will slide into the fragrant black earth.

Many years on cancer ravages his own organs.

This is the future.

Today they are two embryos in a glass petri dish.

***

This story was a runner-up in the GLASS Themed Flash Competition 2020.

About the author: Lucinda Hart lives in Cornwall. She has an honours degree in Fine Art and Creative Writing, and a Masters in Creative Writing, both from Bath Spa University.