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[Flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words)]

One glimpse of your face was all it took for me to know that something was seriously amiss. I stood to one side of the open door to let you in and you walked inside without a word. No hug, no kiss, nothing. The slump of your shoulder as you sat on the sofa had defeat written all over it. My heart constricted with pain. What cruelty had the world unleashed to let my fearless one feel this way?

When you called this morning saying you were at the airport and would be home in an hour’s time, I was ecstatic. Another of your business meetings in town, I thought. I had busied myself dusting and sprucing up the already clean house. Your critical eyes were sure to pick out something or other that wasn’t in the right place, or was not clean enough. I smiled remembering. It was not too long ago that it had been my role to nitpick. Time changes everything, does it not?

When I returned, you were looking out of the window with a fixed gaze, your lips pressed together tightly as if keeping something in resolutely. The pinched look on your face made my heart ache. There were too many questions crashing into each other in my mind. Was someone ill? Was it Roshan? Cancer, heart… No I wouldn’t think of all that. Perhaps Roshan had lost his job and you were freaking out? Or were you the one who was let go? Times were bad for sure and people were losing jobs everywhere. But would even that bring such a distraught look on your face?

As I sat next to you, I ran my hands through your lovely soft shoulder length hair. It had been not so long ago that it was long, almost to your waist, but then you cut it short to free yourself from the hassle of taking care of it. You were worried I’d be heartbroken. There was no reason to be, darling. To me you are you, long hair or short. It is you I love with all my heart.

With the sips of tea you took, some color seemed to return to your wan face, and with it, a look of determination as well. Suddenly, you stood and took off the jacket you had on. To my surprise, you then pulled off your tee as well and I gasped as you turned. The bruises on your back were fresh and an angry red. Now it was my lips pressed together tightly, holding back the anger that frothed inside. This was not the time to rant or rave but to offer silent comfort. I let you come into my arms and held you as you sobbed. Let it all out, baby, I said. I am here for you.

‘I don’t want to go back to him, Ma!’ you said through the tears. ‘And you will not’. My voice was firm. I have taught you better than that, haven’t I?’ I asked. Do not ever tolerate violence. And also remember, you are always welcome in my home. How many times had I told you that? You nodded. Gradually, your sobs subsided. ‘I have some work to do, Ma!’ you said after a while, pulling your laptop out of your bag. ‘I will go freshen up and get to it.’ ‘Yeah, you do that darling’, I replied, as I walked to the kitchen to wash and put away the cups. You were safely home, that was all that mattered.

© Shail Mohan 2020

Updated to add:
Apparently, I have already written a story in 2016 with the same title as this one. So I went to take a look at the that one. Then I sat scratching my head for a while wondering which one’s title to change. For the life of me nothing else would suggest itself as a suitable title to either one of them. So I am letting both of them stand as is. In case you have a better suggestion, don’t hesitate to drop a line. Much obliged and all that. If you want to read the other story, here is the link: The homecoming (2016)