Short story …
It had been 3 years since Mariam had last seen her father. Well, 3 years, 1 month and 3 days if you were being accurate, or exactly 1,127 days, 4 hours and 23 seconds -but that’s just being pedantic. Mariam liked numbers, she liked that the held memories, that they simplified things down and that they were a universal language the world over.
In the time of her father’s absence, Mariam could use numbers to describe a great many things. She could use the number 4 to describe how many boyfriends she had been with. This was greater in comparison to the number 1, which was how many women she had been with. Of those 4 boys, she had been intimate with ¾ of them, and only doing ‘hand-stuff’ with the remaining ¼. There was also the number 5, to count the number of times her car had broken down in the middle of the road. This was directly attached to the number 2,354 which monetized how much she had spent on fixing the piece of crap Volvo, that had once belonged to her brother.
Numbers surrounded Miriam. Being a qualified maths teacher, she used them at work, trying to fill the minds of uninterested teenagers with knowledge that dated back 32,000 years. It was often to no prevail, as their attention was already preoccupied with the latest T.V shows, who had the most likes on their social media pages and how many ‘selfies’ they could cram onto their phone before lunch. The new world was strange.
The day of March 15th 2017, Mariam had shut the green door to her classroom in hopes of taking a quiet afternoon break. Her head was resting on the desk, in hopes that the cool plastic laced wood would soothe her aching head. The pain perforated from every pore of her forehead, as though there was some terrible beast inside, pushing its way out into the world. Having already taken 2 paracetamols, just 2 hours and 32 minutes earlier, she knew she had to at least wait another 1 hour and 28 minutes, to avoid overdosing.
She was 14 minutes into her lunch break when there was a knock on the door. She did not reply. There was a second knock.
“Go away,” she mumbled feebly into the desk.
The third knock, had Mariam look straight up. She saw an eye squinting through the square glass panel that ran across the centre of the door. It was the deputy-head.
“Mariam, we must talk.”
“I’m not feeling that great,” Mariam replied, turning once again towards the desk.
“It’s important.” Insisted the eye. And, without waiting, he turned the handle, and entered the classroom. The door snapped shut behind him.
“I’ve been looking for you all morning. You weren’t at the staff meeting.” He said crossly, striding across the room towards her desk.
“Like I said, John, not feeling that great. Besides…” She said, turning her head to face him. “I came in didn’t I. Don’t I deserve some brownie points for that.”
“If it’s this bad, I would rather you didn’t come in at all. Fuck what Andrew thinks. He can afford to pay a supply teacher here and there.”
“I can’t afford to lose a day’s pay.” Mariam muttered, massaging her temples. “Babies aren’t cheap, you know.”
Well, actually you do. Mariam thought darkly. John must have been thinking along the same lines, because he strained his eyes, and looked at her with a forlorn expression on his face.
She observed his face. His two nostrils were flared, as they always were when he panicked. His eyebrows were raised 5 mm above their usual position. A gold band lay around his ring finger, and he twiddled it nervously, rotating it 180° clockwise, before turning it anticlockwise a full 360°. He seemed unsettled. His face was flushed a deep puce colour, which made him look unattractively like a bruised apricot.
“Will I see you tonight?” He asked finally, after an immeasurable silence. “I can come around after my tennis game.”
“I have to see my father tonight.” Mariam replied.
“Your father?” John hesitated for a moment, as though he had more to say, but he did not elaborate.
“Then tomorrow? We need to talk Mariam,” he added.
“Let’s see, shall we.” Mariam said, taking a bottle of water from her bag. “Please close the door on your way out, John.”
John looked taken aback, but said nothing as he strode out of the classroom. The heavy green door slammed to a close, and Mariam winced, as though it had been smashed over her head.
Mariam wanted nothing more than to be at home, wrapped in her purple duvet and sink into her bed. Instead, she was counting down the minutes to this impending meeting. She had not wanted to meet her father- he was a lunatic of the first order and conceivably the most selfish man on the planet. Yet, he was her father, and about to become a grandfather. He deserved a chance to meet her child. To atone for his wrongdoings by being a part of her child’s life.
Mariam pulled out her phone from her bag. Backing out now was inconceivable, after all, she had been the one that had asked to meet.
Just as she set the phone down, it pinged, buzzing noisily. The sound was so unexpected that it caused her to jump up in fright. The screen flashed, and she saw the symbol of an unopened envelope appear. She tapped on it lightly with her index finger.
The message read: I WILL BE WAITING AT THE RESTAURANT. SEE YOU AT 5.30.
Her heartbeat quickened, and her eyes glimpsed towards the time in the corner of the screen: 4 hours, 8 minutes and 22 seconds… 21 seconds… 20 seconds.