Flash Fiction 2nd place - Katherine Becker '22

Everything was a reminder of what was left of her childhood. She was trying to forget, grow up, move on, but nothing around her would allow her to progress. It was everlasting, her childhood memories. Inescapable. Even as she grew up, seventeen now, the remnants remained, little pieces of patchwork fabric left sewn into the stairway, the teapot sitting on the kitchen table, the American flag that hung out front of the house. 

She got a job as a newspaper boy to begin to make money, to learn responsibility, not to spend. Getting up early wasn’t a crime, though her parents seemed to think that serving up unhealthy burgers and learning to communicate with strange customers was. 

Her alarm went off when she was still cloaked in darkness, the weight of the black encircled her, begging her to stay in the warmth of the bedsheets, but her body fought to waken. The darkness, it would keep her safe. Against her gut feeling, she let the light beginning to sprawl across the floor enter her eyes. It wasn’t welcoming. It wasn’t warm. Darkness was warm. She pulled herself out of bed anyway, pulled on a blue cardigan, and clomped down the stairs sleepily, ignoring the fact that her parents were still slumbering. The pounding on each step reminded her of cruel and unusual punishments, and storming the opposite way to her cell and her safety.

This morning, she reminded herself, she was free. Nobody else had left their warm bed sheets. She was alone, and she was free. She opened the screen porch door to let in the cool fresh air of a morning rainstorm. Her mother said it would be cold in the morning, but to her it was refreshing. As she entered the kitchen, the little white teapot came into view. It reminded her of scalding water, you can’t leave until you’ve finished, the call of the wind inviting her to join him in bare feet and cornflower blue raincoats, the sinking feeling of knowing it won’t happen, permission will never be granted. 

But, she reminded herself, permission was granted. She could deliver the papers to her neighbors in the dark of the still night morning. She couldn’t bring herself to make the warm drink that she knew her mother would want her to. Instead, she drank cold milk, straight from the fridge. And as she put on her still-pristine slightly small cornflower blue raincoat, and walked out, an American flag flying in the tortuous wind slapped her face. It was cold, wet, like when it had been dipped in puddles of muddy water, as the child attempting to fold it let it fall on the ground. Her father had been angrier than ever, how dare she disrespect her country like that. 

It was an accident, it was an accident, it was okay. 

She peeled the flag from her face and stepped across the threshold. 

Deep breath. 

She reminded herself that she was outside, she was alone, and she was free.