A Short Story


Bright pink nails peaked out from Alison’s sandals as she teetered on the concrete curb opposite her childhood home. The usually quiet street was lined with a rainbow of family sedans, and a sports car probably belonging to her younger brother. She plunged the bus ticket into her pocket and tightened her grip on the lead. She smiled at her son, obediently standing beside her. His eyes remained on his tablet, clutched in his hands. His headphones ensured no sound would penetrate the necessary barrier to the world. In the eight years since Percy’s diagnosis, he’d only met his aunts and uncle four times. Once when his father had left them. Once for his grandfather’s funeral. But this was the first time she’d brought Percy to her family by choice. She chose to be here. She’d accepted the invitation. She’d decided to come.


As she crossed the street, she could hear the celebrations through the door. What does one do, when returning to the family home? Ring the doorbell? A trembling hand reached out, an aged finger punched the bell. No one came. Percy rocked, rhythmic to a tune only he ever heard; he already wasn’t coping. The door handle turned in her hand, unlocked, a silent welcome to a place she wasn’t sure she had ever belonged.


Percy’s tablet flashed. A red-faced icon blinked on the screen. She waved her hand in front of his eyes and signed, ‘We will only stay a few minutes, okay?’ He rocked harder. As Alison pushed the door open, music and laughter filled the air. A familiar lemon-scent drew her back into childhood memories of sliding down the hallway while her mother mopped the wooden floors, yelling at them all, ‘One of you will break your neck; I don’t have time for hospital today!’


Alison pulled Percy’s lead in close and began the long walk toward the kitchen. A splash and more laughter filled the air. When did Mother get a pool? A multi-voiced cry of ‘Alison’ accompanied three faces – her three older sisters – and they ran towards her, all three wearing one of the variety of aprons Mother had worn. Instinctively, she thrust forward her hand. Their eyes turned to Percy.

‘Percy?’ Pauline asked.

‘Does he need the headphones on? It would be nice to have a conversation with him,’ said Harriet.

Judy reached out a hand to touch him. ‘Is he still like he used to be?’

Alison placed her hand on her sister’s. ‘Yes. You can’t touch him; he’ll go into meltdown.’

The four women stood in a circle, Percy cowering behind his mother.  

‘We can only stay a few minutes.’ Alison pulled a small present from her backpack, the pink ribbon reflecting the pigment in her cheeks. ‘Just long enough to say hi to Mum.’

Pauline smiled. ‘It’s good you came, Ali. She’ll be glad to see you.’

And for the first time in a good many years, Alison felt a twinge of the pain of missing them.

Story criteria (writing prompt):

  • The story had to begin on the side of a road.

  • It had to include the words APRON, PIGMENT, RIBBON, ICON, LEMON (plurals are okay).

  • The story had to include a splash.

  • Maximum word count: 500words