(This is a submission to the Rue|Lou Prompt Flash Fiction submissions from Twitter (#ruelouprompts)
Every Thursday, Rue (@sparkswrites) or Lou (@lw_writes) submits a prompt for any writer to submit Flash Fiction for. Each piece must be 500 words or under, and either include the prompt or be inspired by it.)
TW: Child death (referenced), Grief, PTSD)
Ten nanoseconds. It’s my mantra. My saving grace and my kryptonite. It alternates between a lifeline and the rope to hang myself with.
Ten nanoseconds. That’s how long I had to move, to make the decision between my life and my daughters. Elijah calculated it, thought it would help. From footage from a nearby traffic light, he’d deduced that’s how long I had to think clearly enough to pull my daughter from her fate. To save her.
He believed it would help me come to terms with the idea that there was nothing I could have done. But no matter the logic he throws at me, that it was impossible for me to change the course of events, it doesn’t matter. It becomes a vice- ten nanoseconds for my daughters’ life.
Today I live a half-life. There is a part of me still living in those ten nanoseconds. It’s a perpetual, infinitesimal loop of the living, breathing me and my daughter during a time where I could have made a difference but didn’t.
I make lunch plans. Work the same nine to five job I have for fourteen years. Go to dinner parties with people that knew her, knew my daughter, and can’t understand that there is a part of me that died with her.
I get good at it, pretending. Those ten nanoseconds, that place I live, I bury it deep into myself where no one can find it. Until the people around me tell me how proud they are of me for surviving. Until my husband hugs me and says we can make it through this and we will do the best we can to make her proud.
I get good at it. But not perfect.
I excuse myself from lunches to choke back sobs in the restroom. I explain I have an early morning when out at dinner in order to go to my car, turn off the interior lights so I remain unnoticed and sob hard enough that I wonder if I’ll ever breathe the same again.
The years go by and those ten nanoseconds become a festering wound. It’s a blackened part of my heart that won’t mend, and the longer I live, the deeper the hurt becomes.
I lash out in anger for odd reasons, or no reason at all. Instead of words of comfort or condolences, I am met with misunderstandings and resistance. I feel like you’ve left, a friend tells me. I don’t feel like I’m connecting with any part of you anymore. Where did you go?
It never left her, I want to say. I’m still buried with her.
I lose friends. Family. My husband. Those ten nanoseconds take everything from me, and then they take me too.
I stand on the cusp of destroying myself and starting the climb up a sheer cliff of pain. There are no easy solutions, no answers.
Ten nanoseconds. Enough to save me, or enough to destroy me.
Which should I choose?