Their Own Good by @NeilSehmbhy (497 Words)

The uniform doesn't look right. It's pristine but not right. But for the uniform his name would come to me. The name badge is wrong as well, as if it doesn't fit his face. Seeing me looking he smiles, whilst I panic at the familiarity of him. Why does his badge seem so wrong and why can't I put a name to his face?

Katie is seven today and has decided on new trainers as a present. Decided with a little coaxing from me. It's for her own good.

We wait by the seating area for our turn. It's taking ages for our ticket number to light up the amber display. Everyone is buying new school shoes but Katie already has hers. She keeps complaining that they are too loose and that her feet keep slipping out. But I know best. Its for her own good. The trainers are wholly inappropriate, bright colours and glitter,  but it's Katie's birthday money we are spending, so I keep my mouth shut.

If only I could name that boy. He's about eighteen or nineteen. It's ridiculous, how flustered I am. I try to remember if he mowed the lawn for us once. Surely, I would recognise the face of someone who had been around the house.

I steal glances at him as he smiles at the children whilst measuring their feet and  chats with their parents. There is something achingly familiar in the curve of his cheek. The flippant tilt of his head and his smile reminds me of someone I used to know. That is all it takes, one quick look into the past and heat prickles up the backs of my legs and goose bumps lift the hair on the back of my neck and along my arms. Sweat slickens my palms, the shop shrinks, and all its sounds fall away. I turn to my daughter, but it's too late.

29 flashes up on the screen.

Katie jumps up with her arm outstretched,  ticket held aloft like she has won a prize. She races over to the seats and sits down,  kicking her old shoes off with glee.

The man is bending down to my  daughter, and as I walk over to them, my legs like jelly.

'Cool trainers. You being treated little lady?'

'Yeah it's my birthday.  But it's not what I wanted? '

The man smiles at Katie and laughs.

'Well these are great trainers. All the cool kids are wearing them. What did you want for your birthday? '

I am jolted by Katie's reply, so certain.

'A baby sister.'

'What about an older brother?' he lifts his brown eyes to me and smiles.

'Don't be silly,' Katie tells him.

He's not being silly. I know those eyes and that smile. The name badge Mick. It should be Michael.  My Michael. A ghost from my past. The son I gave away because I couldn't cope has come back. It was for his own good.

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