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Annette Billings

Website: http://anetfullofhope.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Anetfullofhope

Hello readers. In addition to poetry, I love writing fiction! Each month I will write a form of fiction, thusly named because of its brevity. Each story will have a Topeka connection. All characters and situations will be fictitious, but I'll include real Topeka locations. Enjoy and be generous with feedback!

 

"Six Minutes"

Talia’s errant thoughts were jerked back to the present by the honk of a horn. She glanced up to see the light had turned green. A look in her rear view mirror showed the expression of the irritated driver behind her. She smiled an apology and proceeded through the intersection. She was headed to Hazel Hill Chocolate and then she’d stop for a white chocolate mocha to go at Classic Bean. This chocolate-then-coffee routine was a Wednesday ritual that would inevitably end with her weeping. The tears would come from the next stop of her evening—the memory care unit in the nursing home where her father lived. His dementia had resulted in him forgetting  a plethora of things, but his love for dark chocolate and coffee was not one of them. Talia would rather he recall her name and that she was his daughter.

                                                                      ***

Purchases made and on the seat beside her, she enjoyed the aroma of coffee in her car. She loved the smell of it, but detested the taste—a fact her father used to tease her about endlessly.

“It’s cheating to smell it and not drink it, Tallygirl,” he’d say grinning.

It took her six minutes to get to the care facility. Talia timed it. She had begun to time almost everything in her life: a resurgence of her once well-managed OCD. Activities from showering to eating to driving needed to take an even number of minutes. Anything that would normally take her six minutes would be sped up to take five minutes or drawn out to take eight... It needed to be even. Perhaps because the rest of her life was turning out so oddly. She was unhappily single, underemployed, and an only child responsible for a parent in the late stages of an early onset illness. Added to that serrated truth was the illness made her a stranger to a father she adored.

She found him sitting by a window in the commons area. He startled slightly as she sat next to him. He nodded to her as he did to everyone who passed by. She offered him the chocolate and coffee. He took them with, “What’s this? Is this for me? How much do I owe you?”

She answered, “There’s no charge. It’s two favorites of yours. I checked the coffee and it’s not too hot.” He sipped the coffee and opened the bag of chocolate. They sat in silence except for his soft sounds of enjoyment.

Some time later she glanced at the clock. Their visit had lasted 27 minutes. She planned  to leave exactly on the half hour. The next three minutes drug by. She rose.

Out of habit and with no expectation of a response, she patted his arm and said, “I’ll be going now. See you next Wednesday.” She reached for her coat.

“Oh, stay longer, can’t you?” Talia looked at her father, surprised. He’d had no response to whether she came or left for months. She sensed something familiar.

“Dad?, she asked quietly. He smiled. “Daddy?”

“Stay” he answered. “Stay and smell what’s left of my cold coffee—even though it’s cheating to smell it and not drink it.”

Natalie sat back down. He handed her the almost empty cup. She hesitated then brought it close to her nose and took an over- exaggerated inhalation.

“There,” he said grinning, “you did that just like my daughter used to do.”

She smiled, patted his arm again and decided to stay a while longer—six minutes.

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