Day 3 of the Flash Fiction February Challenge. The prompt today is to write a story that references the color red.

Sam raised her face to the bathroom mirror and faced reality one more time. The red-rimming around her eyes had lessened but the puffiness was still there. Any remnant of her concealer had been rubbed off during her hasty attempt to dry her eyes on the walk over to the bar. The prominent dark circles under her eyes gave her the look of a loser in a boxing match. After shuffling around in her purse for a few seconds, she dug up a sticky tube of drug store concealer, along with a strawberry fruit strip wrapper and small green toy apatosaurus.

She heaved a sigh and pushed through the bathroom door out to the bar. It was a Tuesday and the only other patrons were young couples on first dates and old men watching the young couples with eyes tainted by beer and sour marriages.

She plopped herself down on the first stool she saw and the bartender put down her phone and walked over with a practiced smile.

“What’ll it be tonight?” The bartender was probably no more than 22, average height, and had artistic literary tattoos on her attractive arms. 

I bet she’s working on her next novel, thought Sam, not without a little jealousy. She had seen her around the bar before, whenever she and her husband had been able to escape for a date night after the COVID pandemic had finally disappeared.

“The best cab you have.”

“Sure thing.”

Sam waited for her drink and thought about her day. She had begged her husband to give her the night off. She told him it was either this or they would need to start paying for a weekly therapist for her. I know they always said it would be hard, she thought, but I had no idea raising kids would be this hard.

“What brings you in tonight?” The bartender set the ruby red wine in front of Sam.

“My children are monsters,” Sam replied after taking a long, savoring sip of the bold varietal. When the bartender raised her brows, asking for details, Sam continued.

“I’ve been with them all day and I haven’t had more than 5 minutes completely to myself. Do you know that feeling when your brain is constantly on? Well, imagine that feeling but also being limited to speaking only in ‘mom voice’ and having zero interactions with adults.”

The bartender gave her a weak smile that told Sam she had no idea what she was talking about. “I’m sure they are sweet sometimes, right? And don’t you get to play all day?”

Sam huffed a laugh before taking another heavy swallow of wine. The glass was already half empty. “I don’t think I was thinking about Legos when I got my masters degree in engineering.” Sam had left her job after COVID hit to take care of the kids and she hadn’t gone back. Without her steady income, she and her husband could only afford part-time daycare.

“My sister has kids. She said nannies are the best.” The bartender flicked back her black bob and leaned over on her elbows. Sam could see she was doing her best impression of an adult.

“Yeah, I bet…” Sam sighed.

“Do you have a picture of them?”

“Tons.” Sam pulled her phone out of her jacket pocket. There were three missed messages from her husband. She ignored them, already guessing at what he was asking. If it was important, he could call. She scrolled through her photos until she found one when both kids were standing next to each other and actually smiling. “Here’s a good one.”

“Ah, so sweet. That’s a really cute red jumper.”

Sam smiled and looked at the picture. Their goofy faces peered back at her through time. It had been a fun day at the waterfront. Her oldest, Colin, had just transitioned from his strider bike to a pedal bike.

“Ready for the check?”

“What? Oh, no, I’m not ready to go back to that yet. I’ll take another.”

Sam put her phone away and drank the rest of her wine in pleasant solitude.

Published by Leah Abbey

I write about nature, parenting, and fiction from my home in the San Diego area. I try to keep this blog updated at least weekly. If you haven't heard from me in a while, it's probably because I've been working on my novel. (Or, just trying to stay sane while my three-year-old runs over his baby sister with a toy school bus.)

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