Alice sat back on the old blanket and cradled the dandelion clock in her cupped hands. There wasn’t a breath of wind but still she didn’t want it damaged in anyway.
William, her husband, and Art, their son, had taken William’s precious digital camera and were trying to take pictures of the park’s wild deer. Becky, their daughter, was lying on the grass, a little way off from Alice, sunning herself in her almost indecently small top and skinny jeans. Becky had her IPod on, its little headphones pushed into her ears, causing tinny strands of music to drift over to Alice, but now she found it easy to ignore.
To come to Richmond Park, for a “family picnic”, had been William’s idea, as everything was that they did, but it had all been left to her to organise. She had bought all the food, and prepared it; she had worked out the route here and had driven their People Mover– William always said he drove too much during the week to drive at weekends. It was even left to her to argue with Becky that she “had” to come with them, Becky having a teenage girl’s allergy to any family events. Art, being a boy a few years younger, would follow his father anywhere, like a loyal puppy.
So far this “family picnic” had not been a success, certainly not the “bonding” experience that William had thought it would be.
The drive there had been slow, the traffic had been surprising heavy and Art had been bouncing with excitement the whole time, asking “Are we there yet?” almost every two minutes. The picnic, once she had lain it all out on their old blanket, did not seem as much as Alice had planned, suddenly it had shrunk in volume and Becky turned her nose up at almost all of it in one of her frequent skulks. As they ate, Art had been full of impatient energy, wanting to know when he could take photographs of the deer.
Even after they had eaten things got no better. William and Art went off with the camera, Art running around his father, leaving Alice alone with Becky. Instead of a “nice” mother and daughter chat, Becky had complained of being bored, plugged her IPod into her ears, laid back on the grass and ignored Alice; but Alice was used to this treatment when Becky was in a mood.
She had found the completely intact dandelion clock near to the blanket. It was an almost complete sphere, its white and fluffy seeds still intact. Carefully she picked it, careful not to disturb any of its seeds, and then holding it in her cupped hands she had sat back on the blanket.
Today had been so typical of William, all bright ideas and bluster but no thought to any of the partialities. Their family was having problems, Becky was increasingly being sullen and withdrawn, Art was failing at school, William’s business kept him increasingly away from them; but instead of actually trying to work through any of it William just wanted another “family trip out”. It was William’s response to any problem in their family, for all of them to go out together, but any hope of it working had ended ages ago.
William’s ineffectiveness was dragging her further down. She seemed to spend all her time now sorting out William’s messes, often as an unpaid assistant for his business work, rarely did she have the time for give to Becky and Art, and this she was finding so frustrating. William wasn’t the dynamic and imaginative man she’d married, seventeen years ago, and she was tired of having to always look after him and their children, with no time for herself. She was just so bloody tired…
When she had been a child she would always look out for dandelion clocks, had always loved blowing away the ripe seeds and watching them drift away on the breeze. As a child she’d always tried to blow away all the seeds in one breath, always after making a secret wish. It was something she hadn’t done in many years.
She raised the dandelion clock to her lips, as she had done as a child, and under her breath whispered:
“I wish my husband would die so that I can finally get my life back.”
Then she blow away all of its seeds in one, fast breath.