Content warning: Grief, loss of child, death.

Jolted with recognition, a familiar face stares out from the screen in my lap: two blue eyes like the widest of winter skies, two plump cheeks and a little smile that beams out, melting even the iciest heart.

Addy used to smile at strangers and I would watch as no matter how strong their frown, it would morph into a gentle smile and she would give a gurgle of pure glee.

Sickness wended its way into my chest where my heart beat too quickly. It wasn’t her. It couldn’t be. But that was her face, her image, attached to another child’s name, another family, a different life.

There was a tightening as if the little fist in her lap was clutching at my heart and I felt suddenly so sick and dizzy it was all I could do not to faint, right there in the middle of the crossed commuter bus.

I remembered that photograph, I remembered taking it and posting it online to one of the many now-defunct photo sharing sites, the influx of hearts and of comments and the momentary glow they brought.

Addy hadn’t needed any of that to share her smile; she was generous that way.

I looked again, peering with over-eager interest at the screen. This picture wasn’t quite the same, I could see that now the initial shock was wearing off.

My eyes moved greedily over the image, at all of the details of the image and I noticed her hair was different, my Addy had never liked it to be tied too tight and here, the ringlety curls were bunched together in a top knot. I didn’t recognise that carpet, either.

Who owned my daughter’s face, her image, now that she was dead?

I tapped the image and saw it led to others; another life for the girl with Addy’s face. A life where they had money – they must have, that design-a-baby package didn’t come cheap.

On and on, the scrolling pictures went: trips to the park, birthdays, Christmas, the first day of school, a kindergarten play Addy never got to be in, a birthday she never reached. A million milestones she could never quite get to.

I stopped. My chest hurt and there was something in my throat which made it hard to swallow.

I paused long enough for the screen to go dark then, panicking, snatched it up again, peering intently at image after image, soaking up those eyes and that smile until my thumb began to ache.

Swallowing,  I took a little breath before bookmarking the page. I let the screen go black again, this time noticing my own tired and puffy eyes staring back.

Then, I slipped the phone back into the quiet darkness inside my pocket. She’d be safe there. Always.


Want to read more?

If you’re interested in reading more flash or short fiction:

5 minutes short stories

A super short flash about how it is to be a mermaid. A guy realising the meaning of life is the game of tiddlywinks.

10 minute stories

Clarice is trapped inside a garden party, when all she wants to do is escape from this life and become a bloodthirsty pirate. That’s until a murder gets in the way of her plans.

A little more time to spare

A three part urban fantasy romance about a werewolf and water-nymph in “The Woman By The Lake”:

Geraint is miserable, until one day when the mysterious Lila comes into his life, with her beautiful brown eyes and the faint aroma of wet dog. But is she all that she seems? And will embroiling himself in her life introduce him to a whole new, dangerous world. 

Psychology stuff

Or, if you’re interested in the psychology of social media, you might want to take a look at my other posts on social influence and social media. Or how reading reviews might change your opinions before you know what they are.