Seeing Through the Cracks

An Original Flash Fiction Piece By Jenn J Brewer

Hope dragged her feet against the pavement, every step heavier than the last, as she made her way to the third-floor apartment she shared with her dad. Her scrubs, crumpled and stained, hung loosely from her body, and her back wept from hours bent over hospital beds.

She walked the streets of her childhood. Bold fonts shaped into words painted across rooftops stood out from the patterns bursting with life and energy, defying the drabness of the street. The smell of seafood, fried chicken, smoked meats, and cinnamon played a game of tag with her as she walked down the street.

She rounded the corner and entered the dimly lit alleyway of their run-down apartment complex. Dumpsters full of week-old trash lay scattered along the walls. A flash of light caught her eye, and she noticed something shining in a small puddle of water near a dumpster. She wrinkled her nose at the rancid odors of rotting trash permeating the air and braved a closer look.

It was her father’s glasses, the lenses cracked, and the frames deformed. Hope gasped, her stomach twisting into knots as a wave of panic closed in on her.

“God dammit!” she said as she bent down and picked up the glasses. He wasn’t supposed to be outside. Tears blurring her vision, she gently gathered the glasses, as if trying to spare any further damage, and placed them carefully in her pocket.

Hope paused for a moment, her chest heaving as she attempted to breathe out the tension building in her chest. The alleyway seemed to stretch on endlessly before her. As much as she wanted to flee, an overwhelming sense of dread kept her feet glued to the ground.

She closed her eyes, leaned her head back, and took a deep breath, fighting against the conflicting emotions threatening to tear her apart. When she opened them again, her veins ran cold. Standing on the ledge of the ten-story apartment building was her father.

Panic filled her chest as memories of the last time he flooded her mind. Dread pooled in her stomach. Was this really happening again?

Hope darted up the stairs two at a time, her breath coming out in quick gulps. When she reached the rooftop, her heart sank. Her father was there, standing on the edge of the roof, peering down at the street below.

“Dad!” she yelled, her voice cracking.

He turned around. She saw the confusion in his eyes. “Who are you?” he asked.

Hope’s stomach dropped as she nervously took a step closer, her hands raised to calm. Scared of her father’s reaction, not knowing if he would welcome her with open arms or push her away. “It’s me, Hope. Your daughter.” 

“My daughter?” he said, his voice distant. He lifted his head and whispered, “Hope?”

Hope swallowed hard, her eyes filled, her mind blurry with fear. She ran towards him. “What are you doing here?” she said.

He turned around and looked at her with a blank stare. “I just wanted to get some fresh air,” his voice was barely audible over the wind.

She grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the edge. “You promised you wouldn’t do this again,” she said, her voice shaking.

He looked down at her, his eyes wide and pained as he came back to the present. “I know, I’m sorry,” he said, his voice low and weak.

She hugged him fiercely as his body shook with sobs. “I can’t lose you,” she said, tears streaming down her face.

He held on to her, his grip tight and desperate. “I won’t do it again,” he whispered.

Hope recognized a familiar ache. It had been living in her chest since her father’s diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Taking a step back, she looked at her father. His face had drawn and tired lines, his eyes distant and lost. She realized it was time. She couldn’t keep taking care of him alone. He needed help.

“Dad,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I can’t do this alone anymore.”

He slowly scanned her face, his eyes glistening with tears. He reached out to hold her hand and whispered, “I understand. I truly am sorry.”

Hope took a deep breath and wiped away her tears. “Come on, let’s go home,” she whispered, gripping his hand and leading him away from the edge.

Together, they made their way down the stairs. Relief washed over her as they walked into the apartment. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but she was ready to face the challenges ahead.

***Disclaimer*** This is a work in progress and as such is likely to change before reaching the finished product. Thank you for your understanding.

This story was written with the help of AI. I have found this fiction writing tool to be so helpful in stomping out writer’s block, and it is fun to use too!

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