One of my favourite writing activities to participate in is writing prompts. They help me stretch out my writing muscles or at least, give me a workout when the words don’t flow on my current WIP. Here’s what I came up with for a recent photo prompt.
“John, there’s a call for you on line one,” said Jasmine, interrupting the meeting I told her was not to be interrupted under any circumstances.
“Take a message,” I instructed and turned back to my clients, who were already sighing impatiently at my pitch.
“John, you need to take this call,” she insisted.
“It’s the police.”
When I envisioned what a perfect life would be, Lisa and I were married, living in a modest house filled with beautiful children. I never stopped to appreciate how lucky I was when my dreams came true and our sweet triplets were born. Midnight black hair like their mother, and my sterling eyes. Each morning, I’d wake to my jubilant little girls jumping up and down me with glee. Each evening when I returned from work, they’d greet with squeals of, “Daddyyyyyyyyyy!” Six tiny, vicelike arms wrapped around me, squeezing me with all their strength, and nothing felt better. We didn’t have much, but we had each other, and it was perfect.
I got my first promotion when the girls were three. Shortly after, came another step up in the company. I was climbing the ladder at an unprecedented rate, making a name for myself among the higher-ups. Business trips to meet with out of town clients meant I missed birthdays, but my girls never faulted me. Late night meetings ran into anniversary dinners with Lisa, but she still kissed me with fiery passion when I finally made it home and happily microwaved the dinner she’d cooked for us.
My girls decided I couldn’t miss out on all the fun of their birthdays since I couldn’t always be there to see it for myself. On the night of their sixth birthday, I returned from my business trip to find a wooden box on the kitchen counter. Inside were photos from their birthday party. Missed moments of cake-covered faces, plump lips blowing out candles, and silly poses filled the box. How did I get so lucky?
I sit on the floor of my living room in our giant house that my high paying job afforded us. It feels somehow bigger. Hollow even. The early morning sunlight shines through the Venetian blinds, leaving bright lines on the hardwood floors. Dust particles dance on the shafts of light beams. My girls love to chase the “fairies”. No, they don’t chase fairies anymore. They’re wearing makeup now. Lisa told me Kassy has a boyfriend. When did they grow up? How did I miss it all? I stare at the wooden box in front of me. I don’t remember it ever being this full of photographs. How have I missed so much? Birthdays and Christmas concerts, soccer games and dance recitals, all stare back at me. I have no memory of any of it. I wasn’t there. Tears leave my eyes and crest my cheeks, landing on the photos, swelling the inked paper. I frantically wipe them clean. It’s all I have left of them.
For the sake of yesterday’s stupid sale’s pitch, I missed their junior high graduation. If I had been with them instead, maybe they wouldn’t have been on the road at that moment. Maybe I would have been driving, and the drunk driver would have killed me too.
“My dear, sweet girls. I’m so sorry.”