Carol hadn’t been expecting that. When the doorbell rang she thought it would be a parcel delivery or a meter reader. Perhaps one of those nice men in suits talking about God. She hadn’t expected a loud and overenthusiastic game-show host shoving a microphone in her face.
“Congratulations! You have been selected as today’s lucky Swap Your Life contestant.”
Was that a camera? She felt up to her hair – no rollers, thank goodness.
“I beg your pardon?” she said.
“Carol Adams, we are giving you the greatest opportunity ever offered on live television. Swap Your Life! Have you ever regretted the choices you have made? Do you wonder how it could all have been different?”
He swept his outstretched palm in a wide arc, over the neat front lawn of the semi, past the tired Vauxhall, ending at Carol herself.
“Of course you do! In a moment we will be showing you glimpses of how your life could have been. Remember that party in 1978? What if you’d been a bit more – er – careful?”
Carol glanced back towards the living room door, which stood ajar.
“Or later, when you turned down that promotion? How might your life have been now if you’d taken it? What if you’d turned left instead of right that day in ’86. You know the one I mean.” He winked. Carol blushed. “Today is your chance to turn back the clock, see what would have happened – and choose that life instead!”
Carol took a moment. She smiled.
“No, thank you,” she said, stepping back as she closed the door, much as she had with the nice young men earlier in the week.
“Who was it?”
“No one, dear. Some salesman.”
Always selling something, these people: new life, better life, afterlife. No guarantees though. No refund if you changed your mind. And nothing was perfect, was it? Though some things came close.
She stood for a moment, one hand on the banister, repackaging the past and the could-have-been futures back where they belonged.
“Cup of tea?” she called.
“Yes, please, love.”
Sherri Turner is a writer of short fiction and poetry and has won prizes in competitions including the Bridport Prize, the Bristol Prize, the Wells Literary Festival and the Stratford Literary Festival. Her stories have also appeared in a number of anthologies. She tweets at @STurner4077.