She Didn’t Look Back by Gail Warwick Cox

Something strange blew in on the wind that day. It tickled the tree tops and set them a whisper. It swirled about the street, sucking up leaves and cigarette butts, depositing them in front yards so folk would know that it had called. Its probing fingers awakened lazy dogs, they howled uneasily as it ruffled their coats.

‘What is it Momma?’ I asked, watching from her bedroom window. Momma was changing her dress, she slipped into the yellow polka dot, her Sunday best. But it wasn’t Sunday. She didn’t answer me right away, instead she sat at the mirror and rouged her lips, teased her hair and dabbed floral scent behind her ears. Then she looked at me, not directly but through the reflection of the glass.

‘It’s the winds of change,’ she said, holding my gaze….

A car horn broke our connection. Momma jumped up and all but skipped down the stairs, I followed. Opening the fly screen she hurried outside. 

My daddy emerged from the back of the house. We stood at the threshold and watched as Momma walked down the path to the waiting Cadillac. She didn’t look back. She got into the car, I lifted my hand to wave but she stared straight ahead. The car pulled away. 

‘Where’s Momma going?’ I asked my daddy. Without answering he walked back into the depths of the house.

That was the last time I ever saw my Momma. In the beginning I looked out for her every day. I sat at her bedroom window, each time a car rolled down the street I hoped that it was her. It never was.

My daddy began to work less and drink more. Hooch and moonshine were his friends. I was left lonely. 

After a while Grand-mammy came to look after me. I can’t say she was cruel but she wasn’t kind either. I longed for my Momma, how I wished she had just looked back to wave goodbye.

Time passed and so did Grand-mammy. My daddy was never sober. I lived my life wild as a bobcat, until one day a familiar breeze blew in. It tickled the treetops and woke slumbering dogs.

I sat at Momma’s dressing table and painted my lips red, combed my hair and sprayed sweet perfume. I gazed into the mirror and viewing the room behind me I could just about make out an eight year old girl smiling at her Momma……

The noise of a truck pulling up outside broke the spell. I ran downstairs and out into the front yard. I knew my daddy was sitting on the porch, I could feel his eyes upon me. I turned to wave to him. A tear welled in his eye, spilled and trailed down his cheek. I had never seen my daddy cry, not even when Momma left. I got into the truck and stared straight ahead. As we pulled away my heart broke.  

Finally I knew why my Momma never looked back.

About the author: Gail Warrick Cox enjoys writing flash fiction and the particular conciseness it commands. She has twice been shortlisted at the Mere Literary Festival and has previously won a micro fiction competition. Gail lives in sunny Bournemouth with her husband.

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