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My flash fiction story, The Stranger, was published in Pure Slush’s Appointment at 10.30 Anthology Vol.22 of stories, essays, and poetry, together with the works of many talented writers and poets. Many thanks to Matt Potter, writer and editor of Pure Slush, who kindly edited and accepted my story.

The link to the book is as follows:

And here’s the full story, if you wish to read it:

The Stranger

Snowflakes dance in the air as she leaves home for her appointment at 10.30 and walks to the underground station. False alarm, she thinks. It hasn’t snowed in town for the last three years. Can’t blame climate change for this, but the massive wall of tall buildings that interrupt the flow of air from the north into the city’s heart.

The snow whirls as she approaches the station and skips down the steps. Rushing through the turnstiles, she catches the red train heading to town centre. Settled on an empty seat, she closes her eyes and ponders. How would she know him? Was that a real photo on his profile? How does one deal with virtual friends? He’d said he’d be carrying a copy of The Stranger in his hand. She’d said she’d be holding a red umbrella.

By the time she steps onto the platform at Taksim Square, she’s decided to hide the foldable umbrella in her backpack. She could stop somewhere and observe the passers-by discreetly. As the steep escalator rises to ground level, she has doubts about her plan. The rectangular opening at ground level reveals a shower of fine, persistent snow and behind that, a granite sky. Pulling the hood of her coat, she fastens its cords tightly around her neck. Hands in pockets, she ambles around the square, several times, as people scurry about, fight with their umbrellas, hail cabs, and grope in different directions as though visually impaired. Her movements are similar until she stops beside a concrete box containing withered plants in pots. Behind her, the ghost of Gezi Park peeks at intervals through a white curtain; facing her, the twinkling lights of the Marmara Hotel invite her inside. She takes refuge in the coffee shop. Sipping a hot drink, enjoying a delicious piece of chocolate cake, she laughs at herself. The Stranger probably couldn’t make it, and if he did, he’d never find her. Just as well.

Wrapped up in her coat, she heads back to the underground. Wading through the crowds, she steps onto the packed train, squeezing between passengers in wet coats. As the wagon jerks, she grips the back of a seat, and finds her balance. Someone pats her arm. A young man rises and offers her his seat. Grateful, she sits and taking a deep breath, places her backpack on her lap. She watches the commuters disperse as the train stops at various stations. The young man stands by the door, holding onto a pole and tapping at his phone. Well-dressed, clean shaven, and attractive. How come she never meets guys like this? He catches her gaze and smiles. She looks away and closes her eyes. Three more stations to go, she could doze off. She wakes as her station is announced. Someone else is holding the pole while standing beside the door. She finds a note attached to her bag. ‘Sleeping beauty, call me if you want…’

A blizzard carpets the sky as she steps outside. She opens her red umbrella to shield her face from the whips of snow, and negotiates the pavement, eyes on the ground. Once inside the compound, she runs through the portico to the front door. As she enters the flat, the aroma of a familiar dish fills her nostrils.

“Mum, I’m home.”

“I’m in the bedroom.”

Her mother peeks above her reading glasses. “I was getting worried. Glad you’re home safely. It’s treacherous outside.”

“I know. What’s for lunch, soup with meatballs?”

“Indeed, the remedy for cold weather. Any news about your interview?”

“Not until next week. I’m not sure I’ll be accepted. Probably there are many who are more qualified than me.”

“Do you want this job?”

She nods.

“Then you’ll get it, I’m sure. If not, you’ll find something else close to your heart.”.

“I hope so, Mum.” She steps to the window and looks outside. A blanket of snow covers the trees and the bushes in the garden. “Even the ugly blocks next door look prettier now. Nature is clever in its ways, but not with Taksim Square. It’s so barren, hostile, just a vast rectangle of concrete. I felt like a stranger there today.”

“I can imagine. There are no trees or flower beds anymore. Things change, but your memories don’t. No one can take them away from you.”

“I know. It used to be a special place for me.  The parades Dad used to take me to there. The park no longer resembles the one in my childhood.”

“Perhaps, they’ll change it back once they get tired of the concrete. What were you doing there in this weather?”

“Meeting friends from a book club. It wasn’t so bad when I left. I didn’t think it would snow. I thought that was another thing of the past.”

“There you go…”

She lies in bed, thinking of the stranger. Would she call him? Call a stranger? Why not, she wonders. She had seen him standing before her, in flesh and blood. The other was only a virtual one.

(840 words)

Many thanks for reading. 🙂