I Should Never Have Laughed At Zack Hardy by Nicola Ashbrook

“If you could go anywhere now, where would you go?” he asks.

We’re lying on the bonnet of his car, like they do in American films – I’m having to push my heels into the metal to stop myself sliding off. I try to edge back up without him noticing.

“I’m not sure, maybe Paris,” I say, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to say – somewhere romantic and cosmopolitan?

“Mm,” he says.

“Where would you go?” I hitch myself onto my elbow to see his face.

“Jupiter,” he says.

“Sorry, I thought you meant really, like somewhere you could really go”

“I did,” he says, blinking at me.

A giggle erupts from me. I can’t help it. I try to swallow it down but there’re more, tears of mirth parading down my cheeks.

He jumps down, gets back into the car. I bite my lip hard, compose myself.

“You can go to Jupiter,” he says, when I get in.

The drive home is silent.


I text him in the morning but he doesn’t reply.

He isn’t in third period English.

After lunch, Mr Thomas herds us all into the common room. He’s never done that before and I’m supposed to be in history. Fear creeps through my gut.

“I’m afraid I have some awful news,” he says and I already know what it is. If only I could travel back through the space-time continuum to obliterate my stupid laughter. “I didn’t mean it,” I want to scream, “I think you’re lovely,” but it’s too late and Mr Thomas is explaining what really happened and I hear my voice yelling, “He’s gone to Jupiter!”

Daniel Leroy laughs, doubled-over hysterics. So I punch him, hard as I can, fist to flabby cheek because you should never laugh at someone’s dream. Never.


Nicola Ashbrook is a fairly new writer from the north-west of England, having had a previous life in the NHS. Her flash fiction can be found in various places, including at Storgy, Reflex, Lunate, Retreat West and Capsule Stories. She tweets @NicolaAWrites and blogs at nicolalostinnarration.weebly.com.

Image via Unsplash.