For sale: baby shoes, never worn

Based on a six word short story attributed to Ernest Hemingway

John had never wanted children, had no desire to propagate the race in any shape or form, no desire whatsoever to continue his father’s line. His dad was a dick. Literally. He hadn’t seen him since he was a toddler. His mother had said that his father just did his business and then left. And it suited her just fine. She had her babies, that was all she needed.

So when John found himself holding a pair of soft white baby shoes in the kids section of Elys of Wimbledon, he was quite surprised at himself, but at the same time a feeling of rightness crept over him as he pondered the significance of what was happening. He. Was. Going. To. Be. A. Father. Shit! But also, wow! And then, oh crap, as he recalled the moment Shelley had broken the news to him. Her brown eyes shifting nervously as she tried to look anywhere but at him.

‘It’s yours’, she said quietly. ‘There hasn’t been anyone else. You know that don’t you.’ It was said as a statement but the question was there nonetheless. He knew that of course, but still he couldn’t reassure her as he knew he should.

‘I don’t want kids’, he said, almost shouting, his face hardening. Shelley took a step back, her eyes wide and her hand unconsciously going to her stomach, already protective of something that was just a cluster of cells at this point. She didn’t say anything, just turned and let herself out of the flat.

John stood staring at the shoes. Decision made he went to the cash till to pay. Shelley was a good sort. Too good for the likes of him really. Sweet, funny, clever and beautiful in her own understated way. And she put up with him. Rather graciously he thought. He could do this for her. For himself. For their kid.

An hour later he knocked on her door. No answer.

‘You looking for Shelley, love?’, the nosy woman next door called as she stepped out to put the rubbish in the bins. ‘She’s not here, love. She’s gone. Left last night.’
‘Gone?’, John asked blinking as a part of him inside began to fold and collapse in on itself.
‘Yes, gone. For good she said.’, the neighbour replied watching John curiously.

John looked at the delicate package in his hands. ‘It’s over’, he thought dejectedly. ‘It’s over’.

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