Where the Heart is by Emma McEvoy

Standing by the window, she stares out at the dark country lane. Electric blue lights pulse through the night. The young policeman was back, despite her rudeness to him earlier.

‘We need to evacuate you now, ma’am,’ he’d said, standing at her front door.  ‘We’ve been advised that the river will breach its banks imminently.’

‘Evacuate?’ she’d sounded out each syllable, incredulous, trying to process it all. 

‘I’m very sorry ma’am. If you don’t have anyone you can go to, we can take you to the Salvation Army Shelter.’

‘I don’t bloody well think so,’ she’d spluttered, before closing the door on his earnest looking face. If she’d had the strength, she’d have slammed it.

Now, she leans against the wall, willing her furiously fluttering heart to steady itself. His words have left her quite dizzy. She ignores the knocks that follow, but doubt creeps into the edges of her mind, and she no longer feels brave, here, alone, on the edge of the village. Maybe she should have gone to the shelter after all.

Poor lad is only doing his job, says the voice in her head. But that’s always been her problem: act first, think later. Her heart has always dictated everything. 

Frank had wanted to move after the children left – fancied a little bungalow closer to the centre. She’d refused. This house has been in her family for generations. No, she couldn’t leave then, and she won’t leave now. She casts her eyes around at trinkets that tell the story of their lives: pictures of Frank and the kids, shells they’d collected from seaside holidays, ornaments they’d given her. This is all she has left of any of them. Parents should never outlive their children. Mind you, when has she ever done anything she was supposed to? 

There’s a thud, and she jumps; her heart sets off racing again. Sandbags are being slumped against her door. This rallies her. She gets to work, laying down towels and mats. What next? She gathers up the photograph albums and keep-sakes, labours up and down the stairs. Finally, she takes Frank’s urn from the mantelpiece and makes her way up the two flights of stairs to her bedroom. She’ll wait it out there – keep an eye on it all from on high; wonders if Frank is looking down on all this. What would he make of it?

A walky-talky crackles through the dark silence. From the open window, she listens to the unfamiliar soundscape: a torrent of water advancing, voices and shouts of alarm. The flashing blue lights are moving away now, no doubt seeking out higher ground. Heart hammering, she watches the dark liquid mass advancing across the fields, rippling ominously. In seemingly no time, it’s moved closer, up her drive, lapping at the door. The sink gurgles. There’s an electrical buzz, and the lights go out.

Emma McEvoy is a teacher who enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction in her free time. Her writing has appeared in various online and print publications. After growing up in Ireland and living in France and Japan, she is now based in the north of England where she lives with her husband, two teenage children and beagle.

Image: unsplash.com