She was almost running, dragging the child by the hand behind her – through the Old City, past the castle – no time to watch the changing of the Royal Guard – and over the bridge, towards the square in the centre of Stockholm’s fashion district. He’d be waiting in front of the Nobis Hotel. It couldn’t be more than five minutes now. She wished that she hadn’t worn these shoes – high heels and cobblestones didn’t go well together. If there was one thing that she had learned in her time with him it was that he was a stickler for punctuality; he considered it an insult to be kept waiting. Nothing upset him more.
They waited for the tram to pass and crossed into the square. There were people milling around but she spotted him bending over to put something into his briefcase. As he straightened up, she saw that he was dressed, as always, in a dark suit and tie, white shirt. He checked his watch and scanned the square, squinting in the sun before he noticed her. With his case on the ground between his feet, he waited for them to approach him. Though she wasn’t late, she had to swallow the urge to apologise.
“Hello, Maria.” He folded her in a bear hug, almost lifting her off her feet. Before she would have taken it for affection, now she detected the underlying aggression. He was showing how much stronger he was than she. He turned and picked up the child, planting a kiss on his forehead. The little boy squirmed as he tried to get out of the grip and ran to stand behind his mother, grabbing onto her leg.
“Still a little mummy’s boy, I see,” he smirked. “You have something for me?”
She nodded as she took the flat brown-paper parcel out of her bag. She wondered what it contained. It was obviously something that they could not trust to the postal or courier service. When she had told Erik that she would not be coming to Stockholm again for a while and that she wanted to resign, he had told her that there was something that he needed her to do before she left. “Deliver this parcel to Marcus and we’ll be even.” Marcus was one of the reasons she was leaving but she suspected that Erik would not release her from her contract so easily if she said no.
“Coffee?” Marcus asked, gesturing to the café in the middle of the square. He seemed to relax now that the parcel was in his briefcase. He started walking without waiting for her to answer. She found herself following in spite of her intention to keep the meeting as brief as possible. He ordered an espresso for himself and a cappuccino for her as they walked in and then elbowed his way to an empty table near the window.
“You’re looking well. When did you arrive?”
“Thank you. Yesterday at 9. How have you been since the accident?”
She noticed that he was still squinting. He was also wearing his hair longer than the usual brush cut he favoured. There had been talk about a trip to Syria last year…a car bomb, being airlifted out. He had denied it. Said it was a skiing accident, something about going off-piste and hitting his head. She was more inclined to believe the bomb-in-Syria story. She knew that he was an excellent skier.
The coffees arrived. He leaned across the table to ruffle the boy’s hair and knocked her cup over into her lap. “Damn!” She jumped up pushing the chair over as the hot liquid seeped through her skirt.
“I’m so sorry. Here let me help.” He offered his napkin.
“It’s all right. The bathroom’s around the corner. I won’t be a moment.”
Holding her skirt away from her body, she pushed open the heavy door with her shoulder. That’s when she realized that she had left the boy with Marcus. Before she saw the empty table she knew. She grabbed onto the bar as her legs gave way.
This example of Flash Fiction was published in The New Contrast Volume 41, Number 4. 2013. Flash, or sudden, fiction has an upper word limit of 1000 words, that still offers character and plot development.