This was the prompt for September’s Flash Fiction challenge on my other site Fiction Can Be Fun. For reasons of life getting in the way I missed the deadline, so I’m using our #TortoiseFlashFiction page which we created for these very times.
Quick plug: If anyone fancies trying their hand at a bit of fiction writing – even if you want to stay annonymous – do get in touch as we love to host new writers.
Here’s the story this photo inspired me to write …
Driven outdoors by the constant noise, Moira had decided to brave driving on the other side of the road to get away from the city centre. As a little treat to herself, she’d leased a Jeep Wrangler in a Fire Cracker Red for her visit. It was hard enough learning her way round a new town on top of it being in a new country where they drive on the other side of the road, she didn’t need to add the strain of losing her car after she’d parked it. She’d not seen another in the same colour as yet, but she’d not ventured far. Tonight, though, she was going to. Although her plan was just to drive, leaving the city behind her, she’d fired up the GPS. In a strange country, it’s purpose was to get her home, and to provide her with reassurance that the satellite could see her wherever she chose to wander.
Getting away from The Strip had been a really good idea. Moira loved big city life – as she was in the entertainment business that was a good thing – but sometimes a girl needed to clear her head and find some nature. Her Mum’d thought she was crazy going to Las Vegas to work at a place called Paris; she’d have laughed like crazy to see that her office looked out over the Eiffel Tower – even if not the real one, just a smaller copy. But Moira’d been ready for a change, and being bi-lingual English/French had added a little something extra they weren’t looking for and something the other candidates didn’t offer. The money was really good too – even if they expected their pound of flesh – and she was only there on a year’s contract.
Her colleagues had been lovely, welcoming and friendly, but – well, it wasn’t home. Obviously she missed her Mum, and her mates, and – yes, even John – but she’d come here to get him out of her system. That relationship was over once and for all – it had to be, she’d spent too many of her good years waiting for it to go somewhere. Realising she was a touch homesick, people kept telling her about stores where she could get some tastes from home, but what she really missed was the humour. Brits managed to make moaning not just a fine art, but add a level of wit and humour to it that the Americans not only didn’t get, but didn’t really approve of. All their relentless positivity was starting to get her down.
Pulling over to the side of the road, Moira’d gazed out over the desert towards Las Vegas itself – now just a big glowing mass off to one side of her view. Moira knew better than to get out of the car and wander off, so she simply opened the sun roof and looked up at the stars. She’d have to go further away from the city to avoid the light pollution, but the night sky was still quite something. Turning off the radio, Moira took a deep breath, tilted back her headrest and gazed up. Eventually, she felt her shoulders start to drop, her hands stop their death grip on the steering wheel, and her breathing become slow and more regular. She’d needed this. She’d have to set a regular appointment in her diary to make sure she got away before the stress built up again.
Feeling more relaxed, she’d stepped out of the car to stretch her legs – just to walk round the car, nothing daft – and that’s when she saw it. A glow, on the horizon. Smaller than the one coming from The Strip, but still, she wondered what it was. On a whim she’d hopped back into the Jeep. As she approached, she saw a hoarding announce “Last Vegas Water Lantern Festival”. But, when she attempted to go through the gate, she got turned away “Sorry Ma’am, we’ve been sold out for weeks now.” Turning away sadly and pondering if she could arrange to stay a little longer to catch it next year, she was stopped by the guy at the door asking – didn’t they always – “you English?” Everybody loved the accent and everybody always wanted to hear her talk. Unsure why she’d decided to indulge him, Moira enquired “so, what’s this festival all about then?”
An hour later, when Brad had been relieved of his duty on the gate, he’d slipped Moira in with him. As he seemed a decent guy, they were soon drinking soda (as they called fizzy drinks over here) while decorating a lantern each. Moira had pondered whether to make her “wish” personal rather than something generic, when Brad admitted his was a goodbye to a relationship gone bad. He was decorating the lantern with lots of positive stuff, but he acknowledged that lighting it would be akin to writing her a final letter and burning it. Listening to him, Moira decided she would do likewise. Not that she was going to share that knowledge with Brad; she didn’t know him nearly well enough for that kind of disclosure, but she would say farewell to John as she pushed the lit lantern away at the water’s edge.
On the way back to town, Moira’d stopped the jeep once more on a ridge Brad told her would overlook the water. It was a beautiful sight – all those lanterns floating across the water. There were beautiful reflections on the surface, and doubtless some beautiful messages being sent with them. She knew it was all mumbo jumbo, but still … she felt lighter somehow.
Back in her room, Moira rang her best mate – even at this hour she’d still be awake coming down after a night out dancing – “Doreen, you’ll never believe what I’ve just been doing!”
Much shrieking with laughter later, they’d chorused together “Tomorrow is another day Scarlett!” For even though it may’ve been symbolic, setting that lantern off on the water with her good wishes and a firm goodbye to John had felt like a proper ending – not like the messy one he’d contrived at the airport.
© Debra Carey, 2018