BORROWED TIME

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Submitted Date 09/15/2019
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It was Belfast, the early 1990s. Two Special Forces types, the type they usually deny exist are tuning a high velocity sniper rifle. Several streets away, an equally incendiary and important figure in the IRA was sitting in the back of a car pulling up to an embassy. Shane, the younger of the two was peering through the sight. He turned to his captain, who was wiping his brow and mustache of sweat and looking down with contempt at inner city Belfast.

"In position, Captain McKensie."

"Fine, take the shot and let's get out of here. They told me Ireland was supposed to be cold and wet, I'm dying in this heat."

The captain watched the young private reach for the trigger, then pause.

"Why the delay?"

"Sir, it's a small child."

The Captain looked through his binoculars and sure enough, the man had taken his daughter out of the car and was standing talking to the gathering of press outside with his daughter in his arms. Enjoying the photo op, unaware of its true significance.

"Casualties of war. Take the bloody shot, boy!"

Shane shook his head, he argued but he was unable to look the captain in the eye.

"No women, no kids I'm sorry, I can't do it."

Captain Mckensie tried to push him out of the way. In the struggle Shane fell on the rifle. The shot echoed through the streets and screams followed—a different kind of scream. Mckensie looked with his binoculars and saw the crowd, gathered around the little girl, bleeding from her chest.

"Are you happy now?"

Before they could get into specifics they heard frantic footsteps on the fire escape behind them of three armed men. Captain Mckensie threw the young man out of the way, turned the rifle around from its position and shot two of the men coming up the stairs. The last one hid behind a wall. The Captain paused for a moment, looked through the sight again and shot a hole through the wall. And the final assailant. As they left he paused for a moment over their fallen attackers. "May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back."

After that, Shane was discharged from the forces. He didn't have what they were looking for. He was every bit the physical specimen, came from a broken home from the nasty part of a nasty part of the world; Glasgow. In theory he should have been their dream come true. But he refused to follow orders. He resided in London. He kept to himself, working no questions service jobs like dishwashing and kitchen porter. People who he worked with all said the same. "Shane is a nice guy, he's quiet and he keeps to himself." They say war changes people, like you leave a little piece of you out in the field. When he was alone, his mind would wander back to that rooftop. The day his life changed, he was looking up at the sun dreaming about Belfast. A girl got in the way of the sun; it startled him out of his thought process. She didn't look even slightly bothered that she's disturbed him.

"Hi."

"What do you want?"

"Can I sit there?"

"I don't care."

She sat down beside him and took her hat off. For a brief moment he thought that was the end of the interaction, he was mistaken. She extended an aggressively friendly handshake.

"I'm Claire, what's your name?

"Shane."

He reluctantly shook her hand. No sense being rude, after all.

"You're not much of a talker, eh?"

She took out a pen and a pad and started writing. Shane looked at her, she turned her back to him so he couldn't see, and looking back at him occasionally to make sure he wasn't still peaking. Unexpectedly, Shane smiled. She had caught his attention.

"What?"

"Nothing."

She smiled at him and went back to the writing. After a few minutes she finished abruptly and closed the book. She got up, put her hat on and said goodbye without looking back.

"Well, see ye round."

He watched her leave, amused by her aloof quirkiness. It was too late when he noticed she left her book on the seat.

"Hey lass you forgot your book..!"

He called, but she didn't hear. He opened it out of curiosity and found the last page that looked to be about him.

"At first, Shane just seems like an asshole. He barely gave me the time of day when I sat down. But I watched him and his eyes really caught me. The more I watched him and I looked at his eyes I started to see a real sadness in his eyes. He's angry, at himself. And he's built up this hard angry exterior to keep the world at a distance, but it's his eyes that let you in."

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