by Alexis Hummel
Alexis won second place in our Magical Muse Moments flash fiction contest ending April 12, 2020. The challenge: write a story of less than 500 words about the photo by Watson Brown. His photo was borrowed with permission from his Instagram account.
She hated that room. The house was a barren wasteland of dying dreams and all-to-real unenviable futures, but that room was the worst. She had spent summers in that room, under the care of her eccentric Aunt Rose, who fancied herself a lost queen and told tales of fantastical lands and mythical beasts. She longed for summer all year, so she could once more listen entranced to Rose’s yarns while sipping on pink lemonade that tasted of sunshine and happiness.
By her 14th year, however, Rose’s eccentricity got the better of her and she was “sent away.” No one liked to talk about it much. Even now, as she absently played with the matchbook in her hand, she stiffened at the memory of her parents’ grim faces telling her the news. She was never allowed to understand then what they meant, or what had happened to Rose, only that she was gone and she could never go back to summers of sunshine in her lemonade or magical stories told around the tea table dressed up in the blue room.
She walked purposely through the room, looking at the walls where the pictures used to hang, all paintings of Rose’s stories, done by her hand. Her father had thrown them in the rubbish when she died, discrediting them as the work of insanity. “Genius, more like,” she thought to herself, as she found scraps of newspapers and other miscellaneous papers she started piling in the floor. She opened the closet one last time, grating at the familiar screech it made, protesting its use. The trees grazed nonchalantly across the window, and she took one last longing look around the room. Though whether she longed for her aunt, for summers in the blue room, or for the innocence of childhood, she couldn’t say.
“Goodbye, Rose, and thank you,” she whispered as she dropped the lit match into the pile of dry newspapers. She listened to the crackle of the pages and smiled to herself, turned, and left her past behind her as she shut the door.