Flash Fiction: Catherine Wheels

This piece was written for Ronovan’s Friday Fiction writing challenge. The subject this week is ‘A friend shows up.’


She sat at a window table, not because she was particularly interested in what was going on outside, but because it gave her somewhere to look that wasn’t at the other customers in the café. Her coffee settled. The foamy swirl slowed and stopped. The steam blew away. She stirred it again absent-mindedly, just to set the Catherine wheel going again. Sound flaked off the walls, ran down the window glass, and she retreated into the tiny bubbles in the coffee foam. Round and round. Like her thoughts. His face, black as thunder, turning away, his back, the door closing. His face, black as thunder, turning away…

“Jen! It is you.”

She looked up, startled.

“Do you mind if I…?”

He didn’t wait for an answer, slid into the seat opposite, leaned his arms on the table.

“Dan…” The greeting failed, a damp squib. She didn’t know what to say. He reached out a hand to hers. She flinched and laid her hands in her lap. This was what she had longed for for so long, she couldn’t bear it. Through all the years of tears and fights and sullen silences she had wished that Dan would come and take her away from the stupid trap she had let herself fall into. She glanced at his face. The eyes were the same. She flinched again. Bright as sapphires. They shot sparks.

“How are you?” he asked. “I heard about—”

“I’m fine,” she said quickly and gave her coffee another stir. Mangled sounds crackled and spluttered, cracked and flaked, dripped and pooled on the floor.

“Sure you are,” he said, with a sad smile. “Leaving him was the best thing you ever did.”

She looked up sharply. It hadn’t been like that. She had clung to him as if she would break into a million pieces if he left. Dan was just trying to make her feel better.

“If you like…if you don’t mind, we could go for a meal somewhere. Talk over old times. Maybe pick up where we left off.”

His eyes were earnest, eager, but the sapphire glitter prevented her telling if he was sincere. She so wanted to reach over and take his hand, tell him she’d been dreaming of this meeting for years, cried herself to sleep over the possibility that he might get in touch. Behind his head she could almost see the falling glitter of fireworks.

He looked at his watch and frowned. “I have to go. Think about what I said. Call me when you’re ready.”

He pushed a business card across the table, and with a last smile, turned to leave.

The rattle of cups and plates was deafening. Bright flashing light, sun on car windows maybe, blinded her, and he was gone. She looked at the card. Yellowed. The number was odd yet familiar. It was one of the old eight digit numbers. It was ten years at least since they had been changed.

Tears dropped into the stationary Catherine wheel of coffee foam. It was fifteen years since Dan had been killed in a car accident. Fifteen years that her life had been running along the wrong road, a rocket that never took off. They hadn’t had time to know one another. He had never even told her he loved her. She stirred the coffee again, listening to the sounds dripping off the walls. Flaking. She would never hear those words spoken with his voice. Only in her dreams.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Catherine Wheels”

  1. Great story – very intense. I love the twist.

    “Sound flaked off the walls, ran down the window glass, and she retreated into the tiny bubbles in the coffee foam. ” I love this, the way your descriptions melt into sound and image and voice all at the same time.

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