Mommy’s on a business trip.

Prompt by Peter de Wolf”Voicemail is left on your phone, but it isn’t for you.”



The evening was crawling in as I shut the computer. Sundown was being slow, last few rays of light piercing my eyes with a familiar kind of sting. It was raining a little, half of the sky cloudy, half of the sky a brilliant blue. I pretended to be inside a bubble as I sat, curled up against the greenhouse wall. I had carried in an old, ragged armchair last summer to have my own secret hideout, mostly for reading or late-night writing. I sat there now, my toes a little hyper from the cold, moving around in that way my mother used to call disgusting.


My God, quit that already! You don’t want your toes to stay like that, do you? All curvy and in wrong directions — that is disgusting, disgusting…


I dug out my phone to hear it again. Wrong number, but it was beautiful. A man’s voice, echoing as though in a church or a concert hall, it was breaking up every time he reached the high note of a consonant-filled word — as though he was singing within his speech. He was drunk. No other person in my life had sounded so beautiful when drunk.


I held the phone to my ear, listening.


No new messages.


I searched through my calls to find it, only a few missed calls from my mother catching my eye. He had to be there. He had to be in my phone. I looked through my phonebook for a name. What was his name?




I dialed the number.


A woman answered, leaving me wordless for a moment. “Hello?”


“Yeah—“ I stammered, curling my toes. “Is William there?”


“Oh, dear—“ she muttered. Her voice was edgy, like his.


“What is it?”


“I, uh—“ she mumbled, as though moving away from the phone. “Who am I speaking to?”


I shut my eyes, thinking. “Lily.”


“Lily?!” Her voice went up a notch, breaking up at the end.




“I hope you’re happy now.”


I opened my eyes, staring at my reflection from the glassy wall. “What are you talking about?” I said, my voice shaking.


“You filthy little—“ she paused, breathing noisily. I began to panic. “When I get my hands on you, you bitch—“


I threw the phone to the wall.


I could hear my mother call my name outside the greenhouse.


“Fiona! If you don’t come out this instant I will lock the greenhouse for the rest of the week! Do you hear me? And give me back my phone!”


Playtime was over. I kneeled down, crawling to the phone. It had come to pieces so I put it back together before holding it to my face while deleting William from the phonebook.


That is disgusting, disgusting…

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