Choice

this is a prosaic story about choice, choice is thirteen. choice is growing up in a fairly well to do neighbourhod. she has all the things the other options in the street enjoy, a neat house built by free willy (her dad), an allocated amount of pocket money in return for contributing to keeping the house ship shape (as her dad always says), three meals a day chosen by responsibility (her mum), a bike for moving around her immediate environs (which she has never extended) and an obligation called obligation (her pet black cat with a collar and tinkling bell to warn away the birds).

choice likes her life. it is predictable and secure and fun and she never has to worry about what to do next because there is always free willy, responsibility or obligation to let her know.

the other options in the street are pretty much the same. they go to school to learn how to behave away from home, they join clubs and play sport to understand how to be organised and they sleep comfortably tucked into warm beds with soft toys and billowing duvets and down filled pillows and electric blankets for the colder nights.

they all think waffles for breakfast are a delightful Sunday treat and one hour of tv each night is enough to keep them talking all the morning after. it never occurs to any of them life could be any different.

then one night something different happens anyway. choice feels it in a change of the wind, a new taste in the air, she feels it when she wakes at 2.36am to cramps and a bitter chill that makes her turn up her electric blanket. something is not right and she squirms and twists fitfully in bed for the rest of the night such that she wakes to a crisp bright sunny morning exhausted and grumpy for the first time - only to look out her window and see old mr routine next door being wheeled out to an ambulance never to be seen again.

the new neighbours come from some other place. they play a lot of music and always seem to be fixing and constructing in their backyard, their front yard and their house. choice can see an easel in the bay window opposite her room and a mess of paints and palettes scattered around. choice feels very uncomfortable about this. she knows proper people are always neat and tidy, careful and predictable. she and her family avoid these disruptive new people. free willy and responsibility say they don’t want choice introduced to anything or anyone who might be a bad influence.

at school choice sees the new boy from next door. he is in the next year and he also looks untidy, but whenever he is around choice can’t take her eyes off him. he moves differently, acts differently, speaks differently and when he turns her way it feels like he looks into her instead of at her. choice experiences uncertainty for the first time in her life. this boy unsettles her in ways she hasn’t felt before.

days go by, choice making no choices, just being choice, except she finds herself looking for the boy at every opportunity. find him she does like a a bee finds a flower. she finds those deep grey eyes swinging toward her as if he knows she is looking, as if he wants her to be looking.

without knowing it choice begins to find reasons to be outside in the street more often, obligation gets a leash, the bike gets ridden more than ever, a daily constitutional becomes a health necessity, chores start to be delayed or missed altogether, other options are no longer considered of worth.

then it happens and nothing is ever the same. he is waiting for her at the gate after school. would she mind if they walk home together? they are holding hands in minutes without knowing how or when, they are talking without pause, laughing and listening in wonder. at his house to say good bye he brushes her cheek with his lips. his hand lingers. she never wants him to let go and choice finalises the choice she doesn’t even know she is making. every future choice flows from there and then.

This week the dVerse prompt comes from Christopher Reilly. It is about choice. I chose to write a poem, but I couldn’t make it stick. It turned into prose, a short story and that happened, so here it is.

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