Drama Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

T/W: A little swearing, brief physical violence.

The baby screamed. The wail echoing in Dave’s mind, even though he was at the bottom of the driveway and couldn’t actually hear it anymore. He blinked, stumbling through the existential swamp of newfound fatherhood. What time was it? What day?

No matter. He had a mission, a purpose for which he was deeply grateful. A bus passed by up ahead as the dim light of the corner shop came into view. A nearby streetlight illuminated the door and the sign marked “OPEN”.

Did they even have sanitary towels? Sally seemed to think so and he hoped she was right. He glanced down at his hastily scribbled note: Always Ultra or Maxi, thickest ones, blue packaging, and chocolate. He couldn’t bare the thought of returning to his brave and exhausted wife empty handed.

Suddenly, a familiar voice interrupted his thoughts, halting him in his tracks, “Dave!”

He turned to greet Mrs Havers from number 47; a friendly, nosy old lady who had knitted an adorable pink woolen cap and matching blanket for his daughter. She’d opened her living room window and pulled the white netting aside to lean out, “I heard you were already back from the hospital, my dear, but I didn’t want to disturb. How’s the baby? Was it a girl like I said?”

“Yes,” he said, “You were right.”

“And how’s dear Sally?”

“Tired, but good. We’re glad to be home. Listen, I’m just going to the shop to—”

“Of course, of course, my dear, I won’t keep you… How much did she weigh?”

“Uh, seven pounds… four ounces, I think.” He took a few tentative steps away.

“And what’s her name?”

He kept walking, half-turned back towards Mrs Havers, “We, uh, haven’t decided on a name yet.”

“Haven’t decided!” She looked genuinely scandalised. “You had better get your thinking cap on, young man. Fancy not having a name ready! You tell Sally to call me the second you’ve chosen one.”

“Will do!” He smiled, waving farewell as she slunk back inside and closed her window.

He shook his head; they really did need to come up with a name. Mrs Havers wasn’t the only one pestering them and—

Dave froze; the shop’s sign had been turned over and now read “CLOSED”.

He sprinted over, tried the handle and banged on the door. “Hello? Can you hear me? Please! I just need some, uh, things for my wife! Sally Edwards? She’s just had a baby and…”

After a few moments, he stopped. Inside, all was dark and still; no one was coming.

He ran his calloused gardener’s fingers though his thick brown hair and frowned, looking at his watch. It was only nine-thirty, why had?... Oh, of course, it’s Sunday. He cursed and stalked back to his driveway where his greying, though resilient Ford Fiesta awaited. The incongruous shiny new baby car seat in the back warmed his heart; he could still smell her, feel her tiny body against his chest. What was that smell babies had?

He sighed and rolled his shoulders. There was a twenty-four-hour garage two miles down the road, he could find everything there and—

He blinked, hardly believing what he was looking at; his rear right-hand-side tyre was flat.

Completely limp and flaccid, like a popped balloon.

Dave clenched his fists, feeling his keys digging into his palm and then… relaxed, exhaling slowly. No problem, he thought, I’ll just have to take the bus.

Invigorated by the cold air, he paused to text Sally, letting her know he would be a little longer. Her reply was immediate, “I love you.” He smiled, slipping his phone back into his coat pocket.

No one had told him his wife would bleed heavily for at least three days after the birth, although, he hadn’t exactly asked for details. He now wished he had. Sally shrugged off his concern, telling him it was completely normal. He didn’t doubt her, but it was still worrying and frustrating. He wanted to help. To share the time caring for the baby equally and let Sally get some much-needed rest, but she was breastfeeding exclusively, which made that impossible.

Never before had he felt quite so useless.

And to make matters worse, he couldn’t even think of a name! Sally didn’t seem worried, but he knew her parents would blame him for the delay and he didn’t want to give them any more ammunition. It was bad enough that he missed most of the birth – not the important bit at the end, he was there to cut the cord and hold her hand for the final push – but he was pretty sure they didn’t see it that way.

 The bus stop came into view just as he felt a few droplets of rain upon his cheek. Pulling up his coat’s hood, he picked up the pace and arrived in time for the next bus which – after examination of the timetable – he discovered was the following morning.

“Fuck!” He lashed out, kicking the metal seats and cursed again, limping on his injured big toe.

Fighting back a broiling sensation of despair, he breathed deep and forced himself to think logically. He gazed down the long dark stretch of road, lined with semi-detached brick houses and gloomy hedges.

It was only two miles; he would walk.

Unfortunately, the weather was not on his side. After barely five minutes, the rain intensified to a steady downpour which quickly soaked his denim trousers, making them heavy and stiff. An arctic wind insisted on blowing his hood back, exposing his head to the elements and chill rainwater found its way down the nape of his neck, pooling at the base of his spine.

Deep puddles already lined the roadside. He hadn’t really noticed until a car, passing too close to the curb, drenched him in the dirty water.

Not long after that, he stood in dogshit.

It’s fine, he told himself through gritted teeth, all this water will soon clean it off. Sally just pushed a human out of her body; he could walk to the shop in the rain.

He remembered the flash of light as what he now knew was the last bus had rumbled past. If only he hadn’t stopped to talk to Mrs Havers… no, it wasn’t her fault. He was always a little late for everything. He thought of his baby girl – snuggled safely in Sally’s bosom – and promised that he would change. He wanted to be the father who was always there, right from the start, without fail.

Suddenly, a shadow moved to his right.

“Excuse me, Sir?”

A young woman appeared at a fenced path between the houses, her thin arms hugging her waist, her face hopeful.

“Yes? Are you alright?”

“Please, could you help me? I dropped my phone somewhere down there…” She waved a hand behind her. “I can’t find it; it’s too dark. Can I use the torch on your phone to look for it?”

She was about seventeen, he reckoned, with long black hair, just like Sally. Would his daughter look like her one day or would she inherit his dark-brown waves?

“Of course, I’ll help you,” he said, sliding his phone out of his coat pocket. He illuminated the torch and shone the light down the pathway as she walked ahead. They passed two wooden gates leading into shadowed back gardens before he asked, “How much farther?”

“Not far.”

He stepped carefully. The sodden ground was littered with stones, discarded beer cans, take-away cartons and plastic. Thunder rolled somewhere in the distance. Up ahead, the path turned sharply to the left and the girl quickened her pace.

“Is this it?” he asked, “Are we there?”

This time, she didn’t answer.

The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he heard something scrape behind him. Immediately, he spun around to see what it was, his entire body tensed, but he was too late. Something hard hit his head, causing his teeth to jar together and his vision to spin. His cheek smacked against the gritty wet footpath as fast hands ferreted through his pockets. He groaned and tried to push himself up, but a tough-ridged boot found his spine and shoved him back down.

“Next time, pick someone smaller,” a deep masculine voice said, “Big guy like this is too risky.”

“S-Sorry,” the girl answered, “Shall I take this stuff back to—”

“Yeah, get going. I’ve got other work to do.”

It was over in seconds and darkness engulfed the pathway as his attackers fled. Dave pushed himself up into a sitting position and assessed the damage. A sore back, grazed cheek and a nasty bump on top of his head, which he thought was bleeding a little. It was hard to tell with the incessant rain. His wallet and phone were gone, but his keys – which he kept in his front trouser pocket – were still there.

The dizziness passed after a few moments, which reassured him that the blow to his head wasn’t too bad. Staggering to his feet, he began limping back to the road, his injured toe feeling much worse than it had.

A sadness rose up as he thought of the girl; she was so young. What had caused her to end up doing that? Whatever it was, he wouldn’t let it happen to his little girl. He would steer her right, keep her safe, away from men like that.

He winced, gently touching the swelling lump on the top of his head.

This was not going well at all, but the attack had only reinforced his desire not to go home a failure. Also, he was closer to the garage than his home, so he may as well carry on. He would get those blasted sanitary towels and he wasn’t going to let that mugger stop him.

But he had no money.

Abruptly, it occurred to him that he knew who worked in the garage on Sundays and Ed owed Dave a favour. Smiling, he set off once again, ignoring the dull pain in his toe. Ed’s garden would be overgrown beyond belief if Dave hadn’t allowed him to skip the last two payments, but it couldn’t go on forever. The stubborn old man should have retired by now, but he ploughed on, working nights at the garage to supplement his apparently pitiful pension.

Dave had known him for years; he didn’t want to pester him too much and his garden wasn’t that big a job. Ed had also lost his wife of forty years to lung cancer a few years back. A loss which had left a hollowness in his eyes that Dave wished he could change. According to Sally, he was too soft-hearted, though she said it with an approving smile.

The wind continued to batter him and the rain pelted down, stinging his wounded cheek and throbbing skull. Thankfully, he encountered no one else on his journey to the 24-hour-garage. Unless he counted the black cat that had hissed at him from the top of a dark-red brick wall, which he didn’t. His joy upon seeing the lurid glare of the lime-green garage sign, its petrol pump flashing into the night, eased the pain.

His toes were completely numb now. He shuffled unsteadily to the door, pulled it open and stepped inside. The warmth hit him like a slap to the face, making him acutely aware of just how cold he had become. Flexing his jaw, he pushed back his hood and touched his face, his fingers coming away with a tint of reddish-black. So, he had bled.

“Hey,” Ed said, he was stood up behind the counter, his expression alert and stern, “Look, you can’t come in here, this isn’t a…” He trailed off as he recognised his new customer. “Dave? Jesus Christ! What in God’s name happened to you?!”

Dave resisted the urge to look at his reflection in the shop windows and met Ed’s startled gaze, “I got mugged. Can I pay tomorrow or maybe the day after?”

“Of course, but… are you sure you’re alright? You look like hell.”

He felt like hell too, but he didn’t have time for Ed’s sympathy. Dave waved a hand, dismissing the question, “You got sanitary towels?”

“At the back on the right,” Ed said automatically, “Look, are you sure—”

“I’m fine, Ed.”

Dave made his way to the back, finding his quest items nestled between the toothpaste and deodorant. He paused, frowning. There were so many different types. Baffled, he searched his pockets for the note, but it wasn’t there. Why the hell did they take that? It must have fallen out when they took his wallet. He sighed and squeezed his eyes shut. What had it said?

He scanned the shelves. “Ultra” sounded vaguely familiar, but there was also one called “Super Delux” and another called “Heavy Nites”, all of which sounded promising. None of them were blue, which was the only detail he did remember.

He clicked his tongue angrily; he couldn’t get this wrong. Not after all he’d been through to get here.

Abruptly, the shop’s front door swung open and heavy footsteps resounded on the tiled floor. The quivering timbre of Ed’s voice caused Dave to freeze and duck, hiding himself from view with one hand gripping a pink packet of “Super Extra”.

“Not tonight, please,” Ed said. Dave frowned; the old man sounded frightened. He crept forwards, breathing low. “I’ve had hardly any custom this week. There’s no money.”

“Ed, Ed, Ed,” the man said, disappointment heavy in his deep gravelly voice. Dave reached the end of the aisle and peeked around. The man’s voice was oddly familiar. “This is not a negotiation. You know the score. Five hundred pounds. Hand it over.”

“Hell, I don’t even have one hundred pounds! Look, it’s Sunday, it’s been slow. Come back in a couple of days and I’ll have your money.”

The man tutted, shaking his head, “Why are you doing this? You know what happens to people who don’t pay.”

“I don’t have it. I’m sorry… look, why don’t you take something else instead? Beer? Whiskey?”

“Money. That’s the way I operate. If I start letting you take liberties now, you’ll get comfortable and things’ll start slipp—”

Two fingers suddenly tapped the man’s right shoulder, making him spin around. However, before he could complete his turn, Dave’s white-knuckled fist smashed into his face. The blow knocked the man to the floor, his head ricocheting off the tiles and his eyes took on a distant, glazed look.

Ed rushed around from behind his counter and patted the man’s face, “Jesus, you knocked him out! Do you know who this is?”

“Yes. Bastard mugged me about thirty minutes ago. Come on, I’ll help you drag him into the back office. We can lock him in there while you wait for the police to arrive. You can them where I live…. I’ll give a statement later.”

“You’re not staying?”

“No. My wife needs me,” he said, grabbing a couple of bars of milk chocolate and shoving them in his coat pocket, “I’m going home.”

“She’s had the baby then?”

“That’s right.”

“Felicitations, my friend!” He clapped Dave on the shoulder. “Fatherhood will suit you, I’m certain of it.”

Dave paused, feeling something click into place, and then he grinned, “Thank you.”

A short while later, Dave was passing the accursed alleyway when the police sirens whirred and bleeped in the distance. Despite everything, he couldn’t get the stupid grin off of his face… not that he was really trying.

He’d finally thought of a name for his precious baby girl and he knew in his heart that Sally was going to love it.

My baby girl, he thought, my darling Felicity.

December 23, 2021 10:13

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Zelda C. Thorne
10:18 Dec 23, 2021

Hello everyone, Little last-minute story from me. Still tweaking and as always, critique and feedback very welcome. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you all. Wishing you happy reading and writing. Rachel


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Moon Lion
18:09 Dec 24, 2021

Reminds me of that law where everything bad that can happen will happen and at the worst possible moment. I also loved how you took the relative simple nature of the prompt and spun it into a really complex story. The writing was great and I felt so much sympathy for Dave. At least he got a name!


Zelda C. Thorne
18:36 Dec 24, 2021

Thank you! I literally sat thinking - "Hmmm, what else could I do to him? Bit evil, but hey, he got there in the end.


Moon Lion
20:18 Dec 24, 2021

Every author is probably the worst nightmare of our characters.


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Alex Sultan
19:20 Dec 23, 2021

I liked the direction you took this story. I like how you built up Dave's character before the unrelenting misfortunes. My favourite part of the story was the mugging - I knew what you were going for the second you introduced the girl, and you wrote it really well. The constant barrage of conflict kept me intrigued - I think you nailed the pacing for this one. Great work!


Zelda C. Thorne
12:15 Dec 24, 2021

Hi Alex, Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm pleased to hear my pacing was on point! Cheers!


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Daniel R. Hayes
16:03 Dec 23, 2021

Wow, Rachel... this was incredible. You had me captivated from the very first paragraph. The descriptions and dialogue were fantastic and I have to be honest and say that I think this is my new favorite story from you!!! Great job as always, and Merry Christmas!!! :) :)


Zelda C. Thorne
16:15 Dec 23, 2021

Cheers! Glad you enjoyed. Happy holidays! 🙂🎊


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Keya Jadav
13:19 Dec 28, 2021

I absolutely loved it! How you managed to twist your story from a sweet family piece to a whole lot of adventure and gore. It was unexpected at every nook. The determination and love of Dave for his daughter and wife had him going and you have put that very well through your story. Keep writing! Looking for more awesome stories from you!


Zelda C. Thorne
06:23 Dec 29, 2021

Thanks for the lovely comment! 😄


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Akshara P
07:34 Dec 25, 2021

Do you mind giving my new story a read when you have the time? Gracias. ❤


Zelda C. Thorne
10:07 Dec 25, 2021

Of course! De nada 🙂


Akshara P
16:54 Dec 25, 2021

Thanks! Eres tan dulce. :)


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Jon Casper
10:30 Dec 23, 2021

This story has it all! A quest. Treachery. Action. Humor. Revenge. Victory. All tied up in a perfect ending with naming the daughter. Your descriptive abilities really brought Dave to life. I felt his determination and frustration. I was cheering inside when he punched out his mugger. Well done!


Zelda C. Thorne
13:04 Dec 23, 2021

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed Dave's journey to the shop 🙂


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