The Scent of Innocence: A Flash Fiction Story

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We’d like to thank Kim Hart for her flash fiction story ‘The Scent of Innocence’. A heart-wrenching tale about remembering a son after his passing.

Kim Hart is a writer who enjoys writing drabbles, micro-fiction, flash fiction, short stories, and screenplays. She loves reading mystery novels and hopes to write one someday. She is a mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to a 3-year-old grandson, who lives too far away. She lives in the Snowy Mountains with her husband and German Shepard cross, Kody.

When Kim isn’t writing, she can be found walking to her local coffee shop for a much-needed chai latte, or in front of her T.V. watching crime dramas, renovation shows and baking competitions.

You can follow Kim on twitter at @kimh8765

Photo by Fabrice Nerfin on Unsplash

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Emma knew there were 11 children in the cemetery. She had counted. She needed to know she wasn’t alone in her suffering. Sometimes she wondered what their stories were, how their families were coping. She never saw anyone at their graves. Did nobody love them anymore? Were they lonely? Occasionally a toy would appear, leaning against a headstone, but she seemed to be the only parent who visited her child regularly. Would she ever stop coming?

Jacob’s headstone bore a crescent moon above his name. They had always ended each day with a chorus of ‘Love you to the moon and back’. Night-time had been their special time. After the chaos of the day, they’d settle on his bed and read; his pirate doona pulled up to his chin and Charlie bear tucked in safely beside him. Emma would breathe in the fresh scent of him as she read. Cuddles were given freely, no big boy embarrassment like at preschool drop-off. He had taken to shaking her hand the weeks before his passing. She had thought it was cute but longed to feel his little body pressed against hers. The warmth sustained her through her long days without him.

Now here she was missing everything; the warm cuddles, the soft handshakes, the whispered words before bedtime, the smell of his hair.

Emma took the store-bought flowers from her basket. A fresh bunch every week replaced the dry, drooping ones from the week before. A spider had made his home in last week’s bunch, weaving his intricate web between the leaves and petals. Dewdrops shimmered like magic diamonds between the strands. She’d take the spider home and put him in her garden. Jacob would like that. He had always loved animals, especially insects. It drove her to distraction finding bugs in boxes beneath his bed, and she was never allowed to kill anything that had made its way inside her home. She relocated everything.

“Hello there. Lovely day,” a groundskeeper said to her as he tended a nearby rose bush. Emma smiled and nodded, unable to return the pleasantry. She worried if she started talking, even to say hello, she would start crying—again. The well of tears never seemed to dry up. The only time she had been unable to cry was at his funeral service. She had been numb from head to toe, as if she was floating above the scene, watching another’s tragedy playing out like a tableau beneath her.

She took a bottle of water from her basket and filled the vase cemented to the little grave. She’d paid extra for that. She trimmed the stalks of the flowers she had brought— yellow roses and white carnations today—with scissors from her kitchen. Yellow was Jacob’s favourite colour. The ritual was almost complete. Emma said a silent prayer to a God she no longer believed in, gathered her things and began the long, lonely, silent trip home.




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Calling Mum…Home: A Short Story



We’d like to thank Maura Maros from the US for her nonfiction story ‘Calling Mum…Home’. A touching true story about grief and the special bond between Mother and Daughter.

   Maura Maros has a master’s degree in Human Resources Administration from the University of Scranton and Creative Writing from Wilkes University.  In 2018 she completed her Master’s in Fine Arts at Wilkes University.

   Maura’s short story, Hidden Gem (February 2016), and her book review of The Self-Care Solution (June 2016) were published in Mother’s Always Write.   Her short story, The Warrior, was published in the anthology I AM STRENGTH Maura’s poem A Mother’s Guide to Getting By is in the summer edition of the American Writers Review 2019.

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Calling Mum…Home

I padded into my parent’s bedroom like I had countless times over the past forty-one years. Usually, my mom wanted to show me a dress or a pair of shoes she bought at Macy’s or maybe get my opinion about a necklace. But this time was different. She called my sister and me upstairs to show us the leopard dress she wanted to be buried in.

“This is the one she said, with my black sweater to cover up my arms,” she said, holding the dress out in front of her.

My sister and I humored her, “Okay, Mom.”

After dress selection, we carried her jewelry box to the kitchen, surveying its contents like fine purveyors of jewelry. My mom pulled her favorite pieces out and asked us who wanted which one. We tossed the old costume pieces and left only the items that she valued. My sister and I went along with this charade, confident she would rally against the cancer she fought for eleven years.

I showed up a few days later, carrying her vanilla latte from Starbucks when my dad came down the stairs to the kitchen.

“I can’t wake her up,” he said.

I didn’t believe him and went up to the bedroom, gently shook her shoulder, and said, “Mom, wake up.” Nothing, no reply.

Not a week later, I walked back into her bedroom; it was quiet, heavy with anticipation, no TV sounds, or chatter. The fall breeze blew through the window and injected some air into the room billowing the sheers. My mom laid in the bed on my dad’s side. I’m not sure how she rolled over to his side, maybe his body had created a tiny slope over the years, and she gravitated to him, even when he wasn’t there. Her body made a C curve, and her eyes opened, but she didn’t really see me. My mom flickered in and out of consciousness over the next few days.

I crawled into the bed next to her. I moved slowly, trying not to jostle the bed. I curled her hand in mine and laid my head on the pillow. I stared at her face, taking in all the lines, praying she would wake up. The hospice nurses weren’t giving us false hope, but no one knew what to expect. We were unprepared for my mom’s sudden decline. Although she wasn’t, she knew and was trying to prepare us the best she could. The dress, earrings, sweater, all picked out for the funeral home, the notes written about the service, all clues, that she knew she was losing the battle.

The days dragged on and she remained semi-conscious as we circled around her in a heightened state of awareness. Then a few days into our new normal, she was more awake than other days. “I love you, Mommy. Do you remember when I used to sneak into your bed as soon as Dad got up?” I whispered to her. I don’t know why I called her Mommy. I never called her anything other than Mom. I felt like a child again, needing my mom to comfort me when I was in pain, but our roles had reversed over the weeks.
Her eyes opened, and she nodded, a faint smile on her lips, “I love you too,” she murmured.

I wanted to beg her to stay, but I knew she was in pain. Tears ran down my cheeks as I continued to hold her hand. There were so many things I wanted to tell her, but my mother, only sixty-seven years old, was fading away, and I wanted to make sure she left the world feeling loved. Our family and friends sat vigil with her, taking turns perched on the edge of the bed or the vanity bench we moved in next to her. Every night I watched Jeopardy with her, me answering, her mostly unconscious, just like we did night after night when I was on bed rest with my daughter.

When I was a little girl, I crept across the hallway to my parents’ bedroom, dragging my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag behind me. I paused in the doorway and listened for my mom’s breath to determine just how asleep she was. I tiptoed to mom’s side of the bed and whispered, “Mom, are you awake?”

“Huh?? What? You scared me,” she mumbled as she slowly realized I was standing there.

“Can I sleep on your floor?”

“Okay,” she sighed.

I laid out Strawberry Shortcake and snuggled down on the hard floor. I sandwiched myself between the side of the bed and her closet doors, hoping I didn’t hit my head on the sharp edge of the nightstand as I threw my pillow down. Still, l couldn’t calm down and fall asleep, “Mom, can I hold your hand?”

“Yes,” she said as she dropped her hand off the side of the bed.

My fingertips stretched up to reach hers’ in the dark as I entwined my fingers between hers. I felt my mom’s skin melt into mine, and I didn’t care how uncomfortable I was in my contorted position when I was holding her hand. I was safe. My fears dissipated, and my sleeplessness faded into slumber when I was tucked away in my sleeping bag, my mom inches away.

In the morning, I heard the closet door squeak open as my Dad tried to navigate around me as he got ready for work. Once I knew he went downstairs, I jumped up and scurried into his still-warm spot. I loved lying next to my mom in the mornings when I had her to myself.

My mom looked at me, “What was wrong last night?”

I didn’t have an answer; I was afraid of everything. The excitement of Christmas kept me awake every year, or a scary movie, and forget about it if I heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller song. The narrator’s voice, in the beginning, was enough to keep me up for days. When the movie Seven came out, I was nineteen-years-old and slept on my parent’s floor for three nights. Me and Strawberry Shortcake made numerous trips across the hallway.

But today, as I held her hand in mine, I was most afraid of losing my mom. The thought of her not answering the phone or giving me advice on raising teenagers suffocated me. Year after year, she battled back against cancer time and time again. It was easy for me to believe cancer wouldn’t kill her. Even when hospice came to manage her medications, I thought she would rally, but seeing her in the bed for the last week was making it difficult to deny the reality that my mom wouldn’t be here.

Each night I left my parent’s and went home to my children who needed me, I tried to make their lives normal. I feared that my mom would be gone when I got there in the morning without saying goodbye. And then it happened, the ring of the phone pierced the early morning silence, and my dad said she slipped away in the night. It was 5:00 AM when I picked up my sister to see her one last time. I raced from the funeral home to my parents; I couldn’t let the next time I saw her be in a casket.

As I approached the bronze coffin, I touched her folded hands; they would never hold mine again. I wanted them to squeeze my fingers reflexively, but there was nothing but papery coldness. I wouldn’t feel her aged skin or see her painted nails, entwined with my younger, less manicured ones for the rest of my life. I wasn’t sure who would comfort me again or answer the phone when I called. As we said our final goodbyes at the cemetery, my heart sunk with loneliness as I walked away from her grave. It was unbearable to leave her there alone, in the cold and dark, when I was going to my warm house and pretend to carry on with life.

I spoke to my mom at least twice a day. No one cares about your mundane nonsense, except for your mom. Ten 0’clock, that was our first phone call of the day; she was home from the gym, and I needed a break from work. We only deviated from the routine when one of us was on vacation, or I had a conference call. It took months of practice not to pick up the phone and dial her number each morning.

I listened to her voicemails. I needed to remember her voice, but how can you remember how someone felt? The feel of their hand in yours, their hand on your back as you cry, it’s not possible. I felt the ache on my heart for the warmth of her touch. Again, I’m reaching for her in the dark, but I’m unable to find her hand.

She’s been gone a few months, and my phone contact was still labeled, “Mom.”
When I sync my phone to my car, I instruct my Bluetooth, “Call Mom.” My car replied, “Calling Mom, Home.” I knew she wasn’t going to answer. I should have updated my contact to something more appropriate, like Dad or Parents. But parents would be misleading. I cleaned out my voicemails, all but two. The lone messages were from August 26th, 2017, from Mom- home.

“Hey Maura, it’s Mom. We were out working on the pool. So, uh, I will be here ironing. Call me if you want. Bye.” Eleven seconds. Her voice was clear; she seemed strong, helping my dad close-up the pool for the summer. The last message was from September 14th, 2017, from Mom-mobile.

“Hey Maura, calling you back. I just got on the phone with Mary Fran, so obviously I’m here. Call me back when you have a chance. OK bye-bye.” Fifteen seconds. She sounded groggy and like her tongue was thick, or she had been crying.   The calls were two weeks apart, not enough time to come to terms with her declining so quickly. One month later, she was gone. The message totals 26 seconds; that was all I had left of her voice. I should change her name in my phone. I know that once I do that, I’m admitting she is gone. Gone from me. Gone from my dad. Gone from my sisters. Gone from my kids. Irreversibly, gone.



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