By Tipp Hex
Her mother had always told her she was a lucky child.
‘Listen to your instincts, Sara, and you’ll be just
fine. You should always trust in yourself.’
Of course, a mother's advice is often not heard by
their children. But Sara was different. She listened. And now
sixty-three years later if she listened hard, that inner warning
voice, was still there.
It was busy nibbling at her equilibrium as Sara sat
alone at a table close close to the door in one of the many small
coffee houses hidden down one ancient side street in Jerusalem. She
had discovered this spot only the previous day and because she liked
to watch the bustle of life passing by outside, it was perfect.
Placing her pen on a still blank postcard to her
grandchildren, she brushed her greying hair away from the droplets of
moisture beading her forehead. Her thoughts drifted back to that day
when her mother saved her life, but lost her own.
Sara shivered. The noise and heat of the Middle East
wasn't entirely extinguished by the cafe's rattling air
conditioning, each new customer brought a blast of heavy heat. But
the shivering intensified. Once again she was immersed in the
numbing grip of the Irish Sea, her mother desperately holding
her head above the waves, telling her again and again that everything
would be fine. Everything would be fine. But it was never going to be
fine. Never again.
Sara pushed the memory away, drained her coffee and
picking up her pen, began to write. Again the cafe door opened
letting more hot air wash over her. Her chill grew colder as she
looked up. A young man dressed in traditional Jewish attire had
entered the shop. But there was something different about him. It
was there in his eyes. Large and dark, they should have been
beautiful and serene; instead they were dull, almost blank. As
if time had run out.
Sara dropped her pen, stood and wrapped herself around
him, her mouth close at his ear, whispering rapidly the few words and
phrases of Arabic she had learned: ‘Salam alaikum , La! La’
He jolted back at her touch, trying to twist away. But
she held him, repeating the phrase rapidly: ‘Peace be with you,
Peace! No! No!’
His eyes wide and the two of them, as if in a grotesque
dance, began to spin. Chairs, tables all fell to the floor as
the stampede for safety began. It was as if everyone understood at
once. The boy’s hand, for he was no more than a boy in reality,
began forcing its way between their bodies, searching. Sara felt the
ugliness of what could only be explosives beneath his clothes as
she clung even tighter, anything to deny him his twisted goal.
In a sense, Sara knew, she'd been lucky; the café now
almost empty. She whispered again into his ear, pleading ‘La! No!'
Only then did he speak.
‘ALLAHU AKBAR!’ God is Great!
A timeless moment after her death, Sara
watched a newborn child cry against his exhausted mother's breast and
she fell in love. There could be no other person, he was for her and
she would remain devoted to this new born babe throughout his life.
And then, in less than a heartbeat, he was no longer an
infant but a grown man. But still a child.
And right now, the child was struggling.
‘When will you be back home?’
‘WHEN later? Tonight, tomorrow … ’
Mike’s mother drew her hand through her hair in
exasperation, ‘Your dad and I need to know, Mike.’
He snarled at his mother over his shoulder in
frustration, refusing to meet her eyes, ‘I DUNNO when! I’ll
call ya. Gota go now, ok? See ya.’
Slamming the front door behind him, he stalked off. The
bike was waiting and he wasn’t listening.
Viciously twisting the throttle, he let he engine drown
his mother's plea in a scream of defiance. Dropping the clutch and
pulling on the bars, he let the front wheel lift. Then, leaning into
the sudden acceleration with the front wheel high in the air, he
Sara quietly watched Mike’s mother shake her head as
she moved back inside the house and closed the door. Then she was
riding alongside him, whispering into his mind. Like the Sara of old,
perhaps he listened. He slowed, reaching that first intersection a
fraction later than he otherwise would.
The car of course had appeared from nowhere, as cars
always do. Mike's quick reflexes saved his life: a touch of front
brake, a push on the left bar and the bike answered enough for him to
pass without contact. For the next few miles of road to his
girlfriend’s house his heart was thumping and Mike rode that little
more carefully. Sara smiled.
There was Janie, waiting. He could see those intense
dark-brown eyes of hers fixed upon him as he pulled up alongside her.
He’d barely removed his helmet before her lips found his own as the
engine pinged and popped between them, the engine cooling even with
the heat of their embrace.
Mike’s heart was still racing from the near miss, or
from meeting Janie, he wasn’t sure.
He let her brush a single matted hair from his
forehead. ‘Mike, you’re sweating like a pig!’
‘Yeah, I was pushing it a bit, nearly lost it back
Janie’s dark eyes narrowed.
‘What do you mean?’
Mike twisted his head away, ‘Jesus, don’t start …’
‘Why the shit shouldn’t I start! You know how you
scare me sometimes riding like that.’
‘For Christ’s sake Janie, you’re beginning to
sound like me Mum …’
‘Mike, if you don’t take it easy on that thing, I
just know you’re going to get killed!’
He couldn't defeat her, so instead pulled her to him.
She rested her forehead against his chest.
‘No, no I won’t,’ he reassured her, ‘I always
know when to ease up – it’s my “sixth sense.” ’
'Sixth sense my arse... you’re trembling,’ she
said, looking up into his face.
Mike checked his hand. ‘Yeah. So I am. Shit.’
Janie stood on tiptoe and kissed him again.
‘I want you fully functioning Mike, not injured or
even worse. In fact, I want you right now.”
‘I thought you wanted to go for a ride?” Mike
‘Oh, I do,’ Janie giggled. ‘But the bike ride can
wait – this one can’t. You do know my parents aren't in, don’t
you?’ she said, her smile radiating more warmth than the
‘Oh, well, that’s much more interesting,’ he
said, smiling. ‘I guess the bike can wait …’
Later, in the evening dusk, they walked to a nearby
pub. Mike felt more content at that moment than he’d ever been in
his young life. But, just as he thought that awkward question
wouldn’t be asked by Janie, it was.
‘So, any news about the job then?’
Mike rolled his eyes as his heart sank.
‘Janie, you know this job is my ticket out of here …’
‘Yeah, and away from me.’
Traffic rumbled past them unheard and unnoticed.
‘That’s not true,’ sighed Mike. ‘It’s only a
couple of hundred miles away, we can still see each other.’
‘You’ll find someone else, I know you will …’
‘Look, we’ll see each other at weekends or you
could move down with me, why not?’
‘You know why not – I’m not yet eighteen, my
folks would never let me go and I’ve got Uni and … oh, why can’t
you just stay?’
‘Because, well, because …’ He said, unable to
find any words she would understand. ‘It’s the
opportunity of a lifetime …’ he finished off lamely.
‘It’s the opportunity of a lifetime …’ she
mimicked. Folding her arms and pouting.
Janie stared into the sky as the silence between them
deepened. Finally she spoke, ‘Fine, it doesn’t matter, I
don’t care, you just go, don’t think about me, just do what you
‘Janie, look, you’re being silly …’ Mike bit
his tongue as he spoke that last fatal word.
‘Silly?’ Janie growled. ‘Oh, I’m being ‘silly,’
am I? Well screw you, Mike!’
Mike stood stock still, hands balled into fists as he
watched her march away across the road. He was furious with her and
himself. He turned away, determined to leave her to her tantrum, yet
something stopped him walking. As he paused, the sudden and deafening
sound from a truck air-horn rent the air. He swivelled and saw a
huge truck, on the wrong side of the road, and bearing down upon his
Janie saw the truck at the same instant, but froze.
Mike reacted instantly.
Her eyes met his for just an instant as he launched
himself across the road, knocking her sprawling and out of harms way.
There was a brief blowtorch of pain from his shoulder as he hit the
tarmac which was instantly erased when the truck passed and with it
took his life away.
Sara had, as always, had been watching, even as he gave
his life to save another. It was the hardest thing she had ever done.
Knowing that her whispered insistence into his mind for him to wait,
to not walk away. All of that she knew, would lead to his death.
A timeless moment later Mike watched as a newborn child
took her first breath. He knew, as Sara had known before him, there
could be no other. She was for him, he was in love.