Kincaid dreams of Delia the same night he loses his job.
It’s midnight, Friday and normally he’s already at the plant, thrumming the combination to his locker, zipping into uniform.
She comes in fragments, shards of her everywhere, slipping through the fronds of his subconscious. Her laugh plays like an orchestra, rising with the action, her hands and pale hair whisper at the corner of his vision, taunting his brain, languid with sleep and drink. Kincaid never sees her face but just before he wakes he catches a glimpse of her purpled knee, a reminder of the time she’d tumbled off the school bus steps, catching herself against the pavement with her left knee and the soft pads of her palms. He would always remember the surprised look on her face, like she’d never once been hurt.
Despite the tears welling at the taper of Delia’s eyes, she hadn’t cried. She had let Kincaid blow the gravel and sand from her wounds and pour some warm water from his backpack over the bloody frets of her skinned knee. It took weeks for the injury to heal. Delia picked at her scabs when she was nervous or upset and it was common to see an errant ribbon of blood tickling its way down her shin. Even when the knee finally healed the scar kept its lilac tint.
At the end, it was how Kincaid identified her.
And it is how Kincaid knows it is Delia in his dream. Coming awake with a start, he wonders if she’d always been there.
He wakes with the absurd notion that she is still there, in his room. The way the curtains flap against the windowpane recalls the flash of her blonde hair, the birds, just stirring, sounding like the warble of her laugh. Kincaid’s heart beats furiously in his chest as his mind races to catch up with his body’s wakefulness. For years, decades, he’d waited for Delia in his dreams and she never came. Just like her, Kincaid thinks, to make a sudden, reckless appearance.
Kincaid is a sturdy kind of man. Had he been a sailor he might be described as the sort that always has his sea legs beneath him, and even though he’s remained firmly on land, the expression still suits. Steady, always, in spite of gasping swells and sickening falls. Even so, he feels the echoes of the dream reverberate through him, making him pant, making his hands tremble in the buttery light from the lamp he never switches off. He reaches for the glass of whiskey beside the bed, only to find it empty, the drink’s residue entombing flies. On unreliable legs he makes for the kitchen where he plays nursemaid to a quarter bottle of whiskey until his head lolls, seeking the cushion of the kitchen table.
This time, Kincaid does not dream of Delia.
This story was written by Emma Ea Ambrose. Emma lives in Lafayette, Indiana where she writes for work and pleasure. She spends most of her time reading, writing, watching, and collecting stories. The remainder of her time is devoted to her partner and Brandy, her 140lb Saint Bernard.
This story was inspired by the writing prompt: “Write a flash fiction story about someone who starts work at midnight on Fridays.” For Reedsy’s curated feed of writing prompts and the chance to enter our prompts-inspired Short Story Contest, HEAD HERE.