From A Distance

Entry by: jaguar

25th July 2016

Nick slows the car to a halt at the sight of a bump in the road, an impromptu speed-bump, certainly something to slow you down, It’s a grey lump like a beached whale, something out of place. But his throat has gone so dry he’s knows she’s more than that, he knows, even from a distance.

She doesn’t look like what he’s searching for, his headlights holding the night up for examination, metre by metre. He’s looking for a contrite figure swiftly restored to smiles and hugging by squeezes of forgiveness and Savlon. He’s looking for a happy ending, his daughter back in her bed, this endless, terrible night closed down,

Another bitter lesson to learn. His daughter isn’t who he wants her to be. She might still be there, under the tawdry line of trash-ups she’s chosen for herself, that perfect little girl might be hidden intact inside the gaudy painted Russian dolls of her teenage years. More likely not, the chemicals have hard-permed her brain, the insane appretites consumed all the sweetness in her.

He pulls over into a layby, making and not making a decision. As long as he sits in the car it might not be Sophie up ahead. It could be a pile of old blankets left by a tramp. It could be some covering dropped from a load on a car roof. He could even cope with abandoned kittens – just not Sophie – alive or dead don’t let it be her.

Yet someone had to go and check. Whatever lurked in that bundle wouldn’t be improved by something flattening it, separating it further from everything it used to be. He had to be big and strong enough to get it out of the road, whatever it was,. Dig even deeper into his reserves, however drained, if not for his little girl then for his image of himself as her father.

He directs the car headlights along the road and puts his hazard lights on trying not to scream at his safety conscious self, not to acknowledge how late it is for such care. What if he’d stayed with her mother, insisted on more regular contact, risen above the hurt when Sophie said she hated him? Could he have changed the contents of that huddle ahead, even from a distance? His heart flails at him, insisting he could even as his head shakes, knowing he couldn’t.

There is a body in the blanket, he can make that out from here. He walks towards it. A body in a blanket that looks sinisterly dark and wet in places. His mobile beeps but he ignores it as he lifts the edge of the material. A flash of red – the colour of her brilliant, contrary hair. Such innocent hair designed to dance as she skipped along, to stream out behind her on the swings, to make her out as different, so special. He can still taste it from all his greedy kisses on her small head.

This smells different, like something raised from the earth, a sour ripening. Nick pulls the blanket clear and sees the rear legs of a deer. He grunts as he releases his held breath. It’s nice someone had the decency to cover it but why have they left it in the road? Nick squares his shaking shoulders, grabs the blanket and slides the body to the verge.

He walks back to the car and slathers his hands in antiseptic gel. He can’t think about what he’s feeling, he doesn’t want to know if it’s relief or regret. He picks up the missed message: ‘At your place. Where are u? Sophie x.’ He’s on a journey he wouldn’t have chosen. He’s on a road he never wants to visit again. He’s about to go home and try to change the direction of all their lives.