The elongated shadows of the houses on the opposite side of the road fell on the cobblestones, as the sun sank in the horizon. The street was empty, but she could hear children’s laughter mixed with the rhythmic sound of a rope slapping against the concrete and the gentle thud of feet on the pavement. A soothing melody. Little light beings, full of joy, skipping solo and in pairs. She imagined them, swapping places with the girls turning the double dutch, as they practised, improving their skills.
As the sun set and the shadows melted into the street, she moved from the window of her sewing room. Passing by the girls’ dresses displayed on the mannequins, the seamstress headed to the kitchen. Time for dinner. She opened the front door and whispered, “Daisy, come home.”
Twilight had enveloped the village. She hated this time of the day. Neither dark nor light. Gloom invaded her thoughts as she opened the garden gate and viewed the street. She could see Daisy’s shadow against the far wall. Her braided pigtails swinging up and down, she soared into the air like a fairy. A silhouette etched in her mind, Daisy frozen in mid-air, singing a song.
She blinked and returned inside. Sitting at the kitchen table, she stared at a small plate and a colourful tumbler set out for her child. The seamstress sighed, and though she had no appetite, forked her dinner while concentrating on the deliveries for the next day. After clearing the table and the dishes, she returned to the sewing room to scrutinize her work.
Pretty dresses for girls, between the ages of 5 and 12. Children no longer jumped rope in the streets, played hopscotch or hide-and-seek, but some families still valued handmade frocks, despite the changing fashion trends in the ready-to-wear industry. Her work was expensive but special, and people were willing to pay. Some insisted on ordering tailor-made outfits for teenagers, but she declined. She could not imagine Daisy as a young adult. Even the dresses for the ages between 10-12 were a challenge, though she took a pragmatic approach as she needed the money. Her only income since her husband had left her.
Twenty years earlier, on this very day, Daisy had not returned home after playing with her friends, around the corner.
In panic, she had looked for her everywhere, knocking on the doors of Daisy’s friends, and searched the entire area with the help of neighbours. Finally, at the police station, tears streaming down her face, she had reported her missing, and begged the authorities to find Daisy. No one had seen or heard anything. She had simply vanished.
She’d spent that night, sitting on the cold steps of her front porch, waiting, hoping, and praying for the phone to ring.
Days rolled into months, and the search continuing for years, the file was eventually classified as a cold case. Grief, guilt, hope, despair, and accusations from her husband for being an irresponsible mother, obsessed with sewing, led her to depression. She became a shadow of herself until he finally left and divorced her.
One night Daisy visited her in her dream and asked for a pink dress with a fluffy skirt. “Just a ballerina’s,” she said.
That was how she’d returned to life, making dresses for Daisy, those she’d love to wear.
Daisy would have been twenty-five-years-old today.
About the Author:
Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently, she lives on the eastern shores of the Southern Aegean where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have been published on the Harper Collins Authonomy Blog, The Drabble, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Spelk Fiction, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Three Drops from the Cauldron, and The Rye Whiskey Review. She has a completed manuscript, The Child of Heaven and two works in progress, The Child of Passion and The Lost Child. Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in December 2017. Her stories have also been published in two Anthologies: Paws and Claws and One Million Project, Thriller Anthology. More information can be found at her website where she displays some of her work.
Connect with Sebnem through the links below:
In researching the image that Sanders submitted with her flash piece, I came across the fascinating story of the Hiroshima Shadows. There are images that can be found, if one cares to google, of photos taken in Hiroshima where shadows of incinerated people in the city are imprinted onto streets, walls and buildings. These are haunting images indicating the last minutes of life in this city devastated by an atomic bomb that killed up to 166,000 people, according to one news source I read.
The shadows are formed by the heat of the explosion which imprinted the outlines cast by human beings, objects, animals and plants onto the surfaces where they were last standing or found when the bomb hit the city at 8:15 AM on 6 August 1945. Effectively, these shadows are burnt onto the surfaces, their owners melting with the heat emitted by the bomb. The Japanese have a term for these darkened shapes, ‘Hito Kage No Ishii’, which means ‘Human Shadow Etched in Stone’.
Every parent fears the loss of their child. As a parent, Sanders story haunted me for days. I live with an obsessive fear of losing my children, as many parents do. What would I do if this really happened to me? Would I sew dresses like the protagonist in Sanders story to keep a memory alive? I type these words with trepidation as I wonder about this, not wanting to jinx anything. I whisper a prayer to the god of the world to protect my babies. Please keep them safe and please protect them from the evils of this world. I live with this fear because I know what it is like to lose a child. The pain is beyond description; I can’t even begin to list the throng of emotions that hit me when my baby died of complications. Her memory is still very much alive in me and she would have been nearly twenty-five-years-old soon. The shadow that her death has cast remains etched in my psyche like those Hiroshima shadows on the stones in the city.
As the world grows increasingly complex, ambiguous, uncertain and volatile, my fear increases daily. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I know that I also cannot let the evils of this world overtake the joy that my other two daughters bring me daily. So I go on, against all the complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility that this world presents and keep my fingers and toes crossed and hope. Hope is the last thing we all have against the odds.
Image Credit: Slone, Mark, ‘Innocent Shadow’ [undated]. Click here to see how Mark created this image.