The Relapse – flash fiction

I started my ute and listened to the roar of the engine for a moment. For the first time in years and against my better judgement, my mind drifted. I let my subconscious take the wheel. The darkness – I could feel it encroaching on me. Past sins threatened to creep back, and I heard that little voice urging me to relive them.

Taxi-cab privacy screen locked in place, I have held myself at arm’s length even from my own family, situating interstates and time zones between us. Still in the darkest moments of my life, I had thoughts of Father.

My insides were twisted and useless. The day had been bad. I’m a broken woman. – I told myself. The doctors had confirmed that for me today.

It’s Barra fishing time. Sitting on the boat out in the lake, the sun is kissing my young skin. Acca Dacca is blasting from somewhere nearby. It was a normal Queensland summer.

The sun faded in the sky. I had driven for almost an hour, and I wondered if Heath was worried about me. He would be working at the mines for another few days yet, but he would have called me at six. It was much later now.

It’s dark outside. The fire is low on kindling, and the sound of Crowded House is circulating through the air outside our tent. The taste of XXXX still lingers on my lips. It’s our secret, Daddy says. I drink the whole bottle, and now I am half-asleep.

My ute turned down a street at a snail’s pace. The area looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite remember why.

Hands stroking my thigh make me quiver. My tiny hand is moved and placed on ssomething round but fleshy. I’m helpless and barely resist. 

“Our little secret,” Daddy whispers.

Then the pain comes.

I tightened my grip on the steering wheel and imagined I was choking the life out of him. I was only seven, you bastard! – I screamed at him.

But he wasn’t there. His sins made light long ago.

Instead I had arrived where I shouldn’t have.

Instinctively, I pulled up to the dark corner of the street and parked my ute – a wad of cash already in hand. Within seconds a cloaked figure stepped from the shadows.

“Lily? Is that you?” he asked.

“Hey, buddy. Long time,” I answered.

“Six years! Thought yous was dead. Where you been?”

“I moved,” I lied. “Whatcha got?”

“The ushe.”

I nodded and handed him the cash. “Cheers, mate.”

The tiny bag didn’t seem like much at the time. It would barely have given me a buzz in my hayday, but it would do for tonight.

I drove out of the slums back to my suburban home where my suburban life was waiting for me. Had it really been six years?

My eyes glanced up and down at the small plastic bag imagining the joy the contents could bring. Or at least the numbness. I wanted to feel numb. That was the part people never understood about ice. It never made me forget anything. It helped me care less about it.

Even now, I missed that feeling.

I told myself to wait until I was home. I had waited so many years. I could wait a bit longer. But the sweats threatened to make me lose my grip on the wheel, and my arms shook in anticipation. It was the longest hour and a half drive home.

I pulled up to the house, and within seconds, there was Heath, standing like a pillar of strength at the front door.

My heart leapt. I hid the bag and raced out of the car to embrace him. Unbidden tears streamed down my face.

“I… lost the baby,” I sobbed.

“I caught the first flight home when they gave me the news,” he whispered back.

He was genuine. The only real genuine person I knew. He never gave me that look. The “you did this to yourself” look that I had grown accustomed to in certain circles. He knew me as the junkie first, then a recovering junkie, and now a recovered junkie and a wife. With his presence, all thoughts of a relapse dissipated.

We fall into a comfortable silence for what seems like years until I remembered the contents of my pockets.

What if he found out?

I finally pulled him away, and with a smile, I said, “Snags for dinner… I’ll go fire up the barbie.”




7 thoughts on “The Relapse – flash fiction

  1. I have to admit that I was confused when I read your microstory first. Even though you had a photo, I had it stuck in my brain that the title referred to the doll and not a grill. Once I read the longer story, I stopped being so dense.
    I noticed many regional colloquialisms (that I had to Google) in this that added to the color of the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feared that may be the case. I did originally have it titled The Barbie (Q) but I thought it was too campy for such a story. That’s why I had to link it back to this story. I’ve been in Australia for 10 years now and I am always having to think about changing words from Aussie to American English so I’m not alienating my main audience, so it was nice to try something based here. Glad it worked in a sense. ☺


    1. Thanks, Laura, for all of the great advice! I tried to incorporate more from your notes. I’m pretty sure this is going to get the much longer treatment, even if it isn’t a knockout success. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The beginning is very engaging to me. The moments of inner monologue, and music, and things not being quite right is striking a tone that’s intriguing. They work well together; the notes of something terrible happening during an otherwise idyllic summer.


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