“The Exchange”



He holds my baby, his tattooed fists clenched around her waist, keeping her close to his chest. He watches me walk towards him. He can see I am shivering. He doesn’t know it’s fear. I am exhausted, cold, my breasts and buttocks wrapped like a sex toy in my rubber wetsuit. He must be thinking it when he laughs to his sidekick. Smug bastard. He hasn’t rescued my surfboard; he’s holding it ransom. I made it to shore only to be surrounded by sharks, common thugs with nothing but time on their hands. He must have seen me collapse on the sand, vomiting whitewash from my burning lungs, my leash still clinging to my ankle. Waiting. Watching. But he doesn’t see me coming. I start to smile and wave, shouting ahead for the beach to hear, “Thank you. It’s so kind of you to rescue my board. What a life saviour!” The words rush to his naked feet, stinging fresh cuts, finding cracks in old wounds. His fists tighten, ready to defend his prize. But I refuse to meet him on his turf. Instead, I call him to mine, sending out gentle waves of gratitude to wash over him. A baptism, not an initiation, into my gang. Today, he gets to choose. To be a man, helping a woman, in distress. A cord has been broken. We both see it. I smile, looking up at him. And then I meet him, eye to eye, daughter to son.

Categories: Flash Fiction

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