Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
I based this story on the #sunscribbles Twitter prompt, Star, the film Sliding Doors, and my recent musings about autobiographical fiction.
Wishing on a Star
On a hill, above a sprawling city, a sniper readied his rifle and aimed towards the middle of a parade snaking its way across the landscape. I followed the barrel and sucked in a breath when I spotted his target. I couldn’t let him kill her. I barrelled into him as his finger squeezed the trigger, and the bullet went wide and clipped the side of his target’s head. A thin trail of blood trickled down her cheek, but she was alive and barking orders to her entourage. Crisis averted.
Well, one of them.
Within moments the sniper was upon me. He pinned me, but froze mid punch. ‘It can’t be!’
I caught his fist and hit him hard. Knockout. Those boxing lessons paid off. I donned his hoodie, wouldn’t do to be recognised after all, and nodded to the approaching bodyguard.
‘Prime minister wants to thank you personally, ma’am,’ the bodyguard said, radio in hand. ‘Although I’m not sure, given your, um, appearance, whether letting her is a good idea.’
‘What, you don’t like the hoodie?’ I made a show of looking down at myself. ‘I thought it was very fashionable.’
A hint of a smile. I had him right where I wanted him. I’d always been good at talking myself out of, or into, situations: Not always for the best, but I needed to speak to the prime minister.
‘All right, c’mon. Car’s waiting.’
Perfect. Time to get to the bottom of this mess. ‘Lead the way.’
I was shuttled away in a fancy black car, to the outskirts of the city and up an endless driveway, towards the largest mansion I’d ever seen. Up close anyway: When I was a kid I used to sit on the very hill where I’d caught the sniper, staring at these houses and wishing they were mine.
Inside, through ornate archways and up a flight of stairs, the guard stopped by a door. ‘Go ahead. She’s expecting you.’
With a final glance at the hallway’s numerous portraits, and a glinting star ornament on the sideboard at the end of the hall, I entered the room. Her back was to me, but her profile was achingly familiar. She’d achieved her dreams where I’d failed: But it was hardly my fault I was unable to resist his charms. Was this what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t pursued him?
She turned, and her eyes raked up and down my tatty form. ‘You’re the one who saved me?’
‘Yup.’ Keep it simple. Let her do the talking.
‘I thank you, of course, but I think a reward is in order. Perhaps a new set of clothes?’
‘Is that all your life is worth to you?’
Her face scrunched up in a disapproving frown, the kind I got when Jaden tracked mud in over the carpets after football practice. It was like looking in a mirror. She dabbed at her bullet grazed head with a tissue. ‘I’ll see to it you’re compensated.’
‘Good.’ I boldly stepped forward and picked up the picture frame on her desk, only to gasp and drop it with a clatter. There was no mistaking his wispy curls and crooked smile. My first boyfriend stared back at me. I bet he had all the latest gadgets now. Her sons too.
‘Something the matter?’
I pulled back my hood. ‘You could say that.’
She blanched and took a step back. ‘Not again-‘
‘Again? Last thing I remember was sitting on that hill, wishing on a star and wondering what my life would’ve been like if I weren’t such a screw up. Next thing I know it’s mid afternoon, there’s a sniper, and he’s gonna shoot you. Me. Whatever, I dunno.’ I picked up the picture again. ‘Should’ve let him kill you an’ took your place. We’re practically identical, no one would’ve noticed.’ It wasn’t ideal, as plans went, but if I were stuck here it’d have to do.
‘Many have tried, none have succeeded.’
‘There’ve been others?’
She nodded and sank into a chair by the fireplace. ‘You all want my life for yourselves. No doubt the sniper you stopped was sent by another of our doppelgangers.’
‘So what? This is another universe?’
‘Exactly. My advisers tell me there are many parallel universes, but I’m the only version of us who made something of herself.’
‘Right.’ I settled in the chair opposite her and kicked my feet up on the coffee table. ‘Well, for the record, I’m not here to kill you. I came here by accident.’
She grimaced. ‘Right. So, tell me about yourself. Did you marry Stephen too?‘
I laughed. ‘Not a chance. Stole him the latest iPhone when we were dating, but when I got caught later on he said I sold it to him. Lost my internship in politics an’ struggled to get a job after that. Met my husband working retail, stackin’ shelves part time, an’ still work there.’
‘Sounds… nice. I work so much I barely see the husband, although I’m sure he married me for my money anyway, and spend my free time buttering up people I don’t like.’
I stood and stretched. Maybe losing the internship wasn’t so bad, if all it led to was a loveless marriage and working myself into an early grave. ‘So, can I get home, or am I stuck here?’
‘You don’t want to take my place?’
‘Nah. You sound miserable.’
Her face screwed up. ‘I have a mansion, a Mercedes, and riches beyond your wildest dreams.’
I scoffed and began to pace. ‘You work, what, 70 hours a week? What’s the point of all that shit if you can’t enjoy it?’
‘I get holidays!’
‘What about the rest of the year?’
‘I- Well I bet you don’t have much of a life!’
‘We get by, and we enjoy most days, holiday or not.’ God, what an attitude. Perhaps I wasn’t as “shit out of luck” as my mum always said I was.
The prime minister sighed. ‘If you really want to get back, go back to the hill tonight and look at the stars. It’s something of a crossing point.’
I span around and left, without so much as a thank you or goodbye, tore ahead of the guard, and pocketed the golden star ornament on the way out for my trouble. I had a long walk ahead of me, but it, like every other uphill struggle in my life, would be worth it.
I reached the hill at sunset and settled on the grass as a city so similar to my own came to life with light and laughter. The prime minster here was as out of touch with the everyday folk as the one back home. She had no idea what counted, how we struggled and lived in spite of her. I thought of my son, my husband, and our little flat, and smiled. The parallel prime minister version of me may have fancy cars and a mansion, but when it came to the things that mattered, I was the richest woman in the world.
Thanks for reading!
I’ve been watching too much Doctor Who again, as evidenced by the parallel universes and different lives! Also, you wouldn’t believe how many times I typed ‘spider’ instead of ‘sniper’ during drafting. That’d make a very different story!
Share lines with #sunscribbles every week on Twitter, or write a short story based around the prompt and share a blog link.
Next week? My monthly updates post: Where the heck has September gone!