A piece of flash fiction by Marija Smits
Ever since Stephen had died, Maddie had experienced vivid images of him; they swam in and out of her consciousness, surprising her with their comfort when she least expected it. She understood these ‘waking dreams’ to be a normal part of the grieving process and found solace in the brief respite that they brought. A friend had suggested that she get away for the weekend, and Maddie, spurred on by the crazy hope that she would be consoled by visiting one of her and Stephen’s old haunts, packed a bag and drove to Llandrindod Wells. She walked around the town, going from one memory-rich place to the next. Yet the waking dreams did not come. It was only when she stopped at a water fountain, and drank of the spring water that she finally saw Stephen. It was then that she made the connection: the more she drank, the more real the image became. She drank until she was dizzy and then had to sit down.
A tourist asked if she was okay, and she said she was fine. And she was, because suddenly everything made sense. It was the touch of water on her skin that brought forth the images; this strange, colourless liquid, which had claimed Stephen’s life, had somehow remembered him.
Maddie longed to bathe her whole body in water, to sense Stephen’s touch; to feel his arms about her. She got up and started to run towards the hotel. She smiled at her good luck – if she’d made this discovery at home, she wouldn’t have had a chance to have a bath right away; their tiny flat only had a bathroom big enough for a shower cubicle.
When she got to her room she immediately ran the bath, and as soon as she stepped into the water she could see Stephen beckoning to her. He was standing at the edge of a lake, and as he walked into it, she watched herself run after him.
As Maddie’s body became immersed in the hot water Stephen pulled her into his arms and took her deeper into the lake. She took a deep breath and put her head under the bathwater. Stephen’s face came towards her and she opened her mouth for the long-awaited kiss.
Water rushed into Maddie’s lungs and drowned her, in sweet, sorrowful memories of Stephen.