ONE BRIGHT MOMENT • by Joel Willans

We were children, not lovers, but as we lay on the grass looking at stars, talking of angels, she took my hand and said that a moment can change everything. When I think of Sissy Zaleski, and I do now more often than ever, I always remember her that night. Splayed out on the earth as though floating just an inch above the ground, she told me in the strange quiet of the countryside, where silence is made up of infinite little sounds, that there would be signs, forever.

“I’m not tricking you, Tom. You know that, don’t you? I’m just telling you how it is and how it’s going to be. When we get older and we’re not friends like now, ’cause we’ve gone away or got a job or got married, I’m going to send you signs to remember us now, this very second. Do you believe me?”

“What sort of signs?”

She might have been about to answer when the lamplight came through the leaves, but I was already on my feet, tugging her up, dragging and scrambling with her hand tight in mine, keeping low to the ground as the lamplight swept to and fro, a hulking shadow stomping behind it.

“Sissy, you better not be out here with that boy! You hear me?”

Even now I can see her pa. A stomper, always a stomper, with dark eyes and a darker brow. And always dangerous, with tools in bulging pockets. That night he stomped the earth, and we rushed into the night. In the trees, near the stream, we stopped and sat on our haunches, breathing hard, breathing the woods. We stayed liked that, frozen in our fear, until I moved closer and whispered in her ear

“Why does he hate me so? I ain’t done nothing bad.”

She moved closer still. “He thinks if it weren’t for you, I’d stay indoors more with him. He’s got worse since mum left. He gets worse every day. Truly, he does.”

I looked into her eyes. Then, like idiots feeling safe and holding nothing back, we hugged together, so close I could feel her heart next to mine. I don’t know who kissed whom first. But once, thirty-three years later in a room in Blackpool, watching as my wife combed her hair, ochre red like Sissy’s, it came to me with force as crushing as gravity. If I’d kept Sissy closer, if I’d never let her go so easy, it could have been her combing herself in front of me then. I wonder now if that was the first signal, or if they’d been coming all those years after and I’d just blanked them out, pressed them down, scared of what they said.

I’ve had no worse parting than that night. I didn’t want her to go, but once we finished, and we realized what we’d done and how now I was more, much more than a forbidden friend, she was shaking so hard I thought she might die on me. With the taste of her on my lips, I sneaked us out of the trees. We scurried close to the ground, as fast as we could, and I took her back to the lair of her pa. I kissed her again then, in the shadows. It was the bravest thing I’d ever done. I wanted to show her that even though she was going back, I wouldn’t desert her. Not ever.

She didn’t come to school for a few days after that and then I found out it was  she who was leaving me. Going to back to Poland, that’s what my friend said, to the motherland of her ancestors, as far as the stars for me. I didn’t believe him at first, how could I? Since that night, she’d been in every one of my thoughts, colouring them like ink spilled in water. But then they announced it at school, last thing in assembly, after the morning prayers. And when everyone else filed out, I just sat there. Cross-legged and dazed.

I saw her once afterwards. She sneaked round my house, she couldn’t stay long, she said. She threw herself onto the sofa and started wrestling cushions, banging her fists and asking me that if there was a god, then what was he doing to make her pa so mad to leave. I wanted to say things to make her feel better but I couldn’t, because I knew that it was me that caused it. I wanted to kiss her again too, but my mum was lurking, so I just held her hand and said I’d write every day.

Look out for the signs, she said before she left. Little things, I’ll send them and you’ll remember me. I know it. And I did to start with. I looked out all the time, but as I grew up and as I changed from a boy to man, I stopped searching or maybe I just stopped seeing. Life does that to you, I suppose, clouds things over.

So why is it only now that my life is drowsy with dreams of her? And what does it mean that a smell, a word, the single sigh of an owl can make me think of Sissy? Nearly a whole life I’ve lived without her, got jobs, gone away and been married, but only now do I see that she was right. That one moment, one bright culmination of everything, can change you from children to lovers and that you can never, ever, go back again.

[01-Dec-2009] One Bright Moment by Joel Willans, read by Adam Kerby. “One Bright Moment” was originally published in EDF on May 27, 2007, and is included in The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008.

Joel Willans writes out of Helsinki, Finland.

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  • K.C. Ball

    Lovely story, Joel.


    • Simon


  • rumjhum

    Ver lyrical story. Thanks.

  • rumjhum

    Very Lyrical story. Thanks.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Joel, that is just beautiful! Beautiful and moving.

  • Patricia J. Hale

    Complete and engaging piece.

  • KJ Young

    Wonderfully written and quite compelling Joel. I found myself asking several questions as I read, which is a very good sign of hooking a reader and keeping his/her interest. This could be expanded into a much longer piece and could take several different angles. Well done!

  • Greta

    Amazing story, Joel. Wish I’d written it myself–the highest praise I give.

  • Gay Degani

    Love the content here. Very compelling stuff–the stuff of great novels.

  • DJ Barber

    Oh, this is very good stuff, Joel.

  • Alan Beard

    enjoyed this very much, wistful but not sentimental. A strong piece.

  • Viktor

    Amazing story. Made me remember being kid in love. I wonder how the ladies are doing now. Is one of them sending me signs?

  • JasonStout

    Wonderfully written – very evocative.

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    I enjoyed this one very much. Well done Joel!

  • sally

    Brilliant, proud to be your mum

  • kcball

    Oh, Sally — I love honesty. :)


  • Kevin Shamel

    Wow, this is a great story. It made my chest hurt a little.

  • M.Sherlock

    Inspirational….need I say more?

    5 stars my friend…..5 stars

  • Rena Sherwood

    Bloody brilliant.

  • Joel

    Cheers everyone!

    To be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the response to this. With the exception of the comments from my mum (Thanks mum xx), I didn’t know how well this would be received.

    But, I’m really pleased if it made you feel or think something a little different, or made you look at your life in another way because in my opinion that’s what writing is all about.

    Thanks again.


  • Hasmita

    Wow! Beautiful, Joel, this read more like an essay to me, but I didn’t care about categories, just enjoyed the time you let me be part of that story.

    I like that this *is* a story and not an essay, somehow, and that EDF chose it to publish here.

  • Tania Hershman

    Beautiful story, Joel, a traditional theme – children falling in love and then being separated – but looked at anew, very powerful, very sad.

  • Vanessa G

    Good stuff, Joel. Thanks for the read.

  • JasonStout

    Absolutely phenomenal – evocative and lyrical. Loved it.

  • flood

    I like the last line and the title. A good clear and simple story. Nice work.

  • Rosie Claverton

    That is heart-breaking, but beautifully written.

    Thank you.

  • mark dalligan

    Hi Joel,

    transcendent! Definitely one of the best things I’ve read on EDF.



  • Helena

    Just loved this. Beautiful sense of lost love echoing from the past. A very wistful story that really resonated with me.

    Thanks so very much for the read.


  • Terri

    A “heavy Sigh” story to be sure!

  • Lynn Hesse

    I send signs to a childhood boyfriend. I hope he thinks of me as a sweet memory. I’d not add or take away a word in the story. Thank you for writing. Lynn Hesse

  • Hanna

    Sad story that made me wonder what might have been.

    Liked it lots and lots.

    Thank you for writing it.

  • Sarah Hilary

    Great job, Joel, loved it.

  • Bethany

    You really have a way with words Joel, I look forward to seeing more of your stories in the future. Thanks for a fantastic read.

  • Eva

    Beautiful story, more of these!

  • Javier

    Great story man, promise!

  • Marko

    Way to go Joel, seems like the right career is decided

  • Paul T

    Oh yes! This sparked off some memories all right. You’ve worked a bit of magic here. Great work!!

  • Ama

    What a beautiful story. Right up my street; short and sweet!

  • Sarah

    A lovely story. The experiences we have at that point in our lives where dreams meet reality have the power to change us forever, I think, and you’ve captured that beautifully here.

  • doon

    really enjoyed it. very evocative

  • Anita

    beautiful writing that made me feel wistful. And a good choice of subject as I think everyone’s experienced something a bit like this. Thanks author.

  • Jasper Meadow

    Ah man that’s real touching. Great joel. Look forward to reading more of your stuff

  • jennifer walmsley

    That was wonderful, Joel.


  • Gemma Willans

    Shear genius!

  • Katerina from WWs

    This is great; it’s a lovely, wistful, moving story of lost love and ‘what if’s’, I enjoyed it and felt a bit sad at the end.

  • unitechy

    very sweet story

  • APCharman

    Great Story Joel. Some lovely lines and a superb opening with a superb ending.

  • Karl N

    Nice work. Makes think of times ways back i dont think about for a long time. Thanks Man!

  • ryu

    progressively beautiful…i left me wanting more! Keep writing son.

    Mr Yu

  • HelviJ

    Wonderful Joel! Really nice words. Made me think of good times and sad times.

    Thank you.

  • Rebecca Lloyd

    Hi Joel,
    It’s a fine and delightful story, I was ‘taken’ in reading it.

  • Bastian Weckburg

    You got a great way with words Joel. It’s a fantastic little story.

    Kiitos B!

  • Jasmin Virta

    A lovely, sensitive story beautifully written.

    I was very touched with this. Thank you so much for it.


  • JCD

    A great story, I wish it was longer!

  • Virginia Diaz

    A perfect little slice of fantastical memory, colored sweetly with bitterness. Part of me wished for them to find each other again by the storie’s end, but another part knew that would spoil it- they could never be the same, not even if they did meet again.

  • Anne Crane

    A wonderful, sensitive story which I enjoyed reading so much especially as I knew you as a young boy,Joel. I could picture your face which helped bring the story to life for me. Well Done & Good Luck with all you do in the future.

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  • Lassi K

    Finally got around to commenting on this story. I’ve read this a few times (the author is my brother-in-law) and I’ve been very impressed every time. There’s something that makes me come back to this story.

    Cool interview too, Joel. Congrats on getting the recognition you deserve as an excellent writer!

  • Chez Pauff

    Just spotted this. Well done, Joel.

    I remember the story!


  • Leena Vaher

    This was so beautiful a tale. Thanks for publishing it.

  • pooja

    That was beautiful Joel.
    You know its like they say – times change, people change, circumstances change..friends go away, lovers go away, memories start to fade and years pass by..and you are left wondering what happened..and as you stare blankly into space someone asks you, what happened – and you say “nothing.”


    Good story, ciould make anyone with a stone heart feel emotion 5/5

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  • Margie


  • bc

    Completely beautiful. Very moving.
    I love the man. He is such deep water.
    I have been trying to remember about short short stories
    that are complete.
    This one is, for me, complete.
    Thank you.

  • Pamela Tyree Griffin

    Very beautiful and evocative story.

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  • John “JAM” Arthur Miller

    That was a heart moving and wonderful story full of nostalgic longing which I believe is hard to pull off. Yet you accomplished that and more.


  • Kelly

    That was beautiful, loved it

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