Delicate Strength – by Rebecka Pettersson (College)

A knock on the window almost had me drop the book; dad mimed sorry and gestured towards the gas station. I nodded and he disappeared from my sight. Nothing in his walk revealed how he felt, but I knew. After all, the world he knew was dying and we had left behind our last sense of security.
I kept my eyes on the illustrations of animals long gone, plants never seen again. Had there ever been a moment in my life when they still existed somewhere? Dad didn’t seem interested in talking about it. He soon returned and opened the car door. “No coffee left”, he muttered, before tossing a brown paper bag on my lap. “But I nicked the last bag of liquorice”, he added with a raised eyebrow.
We tried the liquorice while dad checked his phone. He tried to seem occupied but I know he was just looking at pictures of them.
“Dad, are all those cars abandoned?”
He kept his eyes on the phone. I gently pulled his hand and nodded in the direction towards the cars that stood scattered around the gas station.
“The cars, they are all abandoned.”
He looked up.
“Oh. Uh, they are just parked, I guess.”
An obvious lie, but I stayed quiet. How long would we be able to use our own car?
“Alright, ready to continue?”
His voice had that higher pitch again. I just shrugged. He seemed to hesitate before turning on the engine, as if wanting to ask something more important. I wish he had. We drove for another hour and a half. It got harder to distinguish the shadows of people walking along the roads. Finally at the motel we checked in and went to bed without much talking.
This morning he was gone. The note says he went back to look for them again, and that I needn’t worry. He says he knows I’ll be okay, that I have a delicate kind of strength, just like bluets; the only flower still growing around here.
I wish I was as certain though.
Learn more about the author:

 Rebecka Pettersson

Learn more about the contest which inspired this story:  Nutshell Narratives 2019-02
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