I really wanted a Snickers but the love of my life was too much of an opportunity to miss, so I put the coin in the slot and pressed the button.
I don't know what I was expecting. I was on a deserted platform in the middle of the Scottish Highlands and hundreds of miles away from home. I turned towards the strange little vending machine and searched for the returned coins button and that's when I felt a small tug on my sleeve.
A girl of about 10 was stuck to me like a barnacle.
'Is it you?' she said.
'I beg your pardon.'
She seemed to be highly amused and excited about something.
'Which button did you press?' she said.
'That one,' I said, pointing at the love of my life button, 'But I have a feeling it's not you.'
'Of course not silly,' she said, 'because you're my new Dad.'
She pointed up at the new dad button and then at me. I hadn't seen that one and was sure it wasn't there when I looked the first time.
'I'm not your Dad.'
'Yes you are. I pressed the button and then you came.'
'Don't be ridiculous,' I said, 'I've been here all along. It's you that just appeared out of nowhere.'
'No. You're here because I pressed the new dad button.'
'And I asked for a lover, not a daughter.'
''It works every time,' she said.
'Where's your mum?' I asked.
'Haven't got one.'
'Then who are you with?'
'You,' she said.
She had Sarah's blonde hair. And the more I looked there were other similarities. Her stubby nose. Her pale features. And freckles. I was being ridiculous but the resemblance was uncanny.
'Why do you keep looking around?' she said.
'In case the love of my life makes an appearance.'
'You didn't ask for a lover,' said the girl.
'Yes I did. I want my money back.'
She laughed. A familiar laugh that took me back eight years.
'No you didn't. You pressed the Love of your life button.'
She had a point but it was screwing with my head. When Sarah died it wasn't just a wife I lost but our hopes and dreams for the future. And we hoped to have children.
I looked straight at the kid and I saw Sarah looking back at me.
'This is ridiculous,' I said.
She walked back over to the machine, placing another coin in the slot.
'Don't press that button,' I said.
I had seen that button from the beginning but hadn't had the nerve to press it. It was a word that filled me with dread and excitement in equal measures.
'No. Please don't press it. It's not right.'
She pressed it and we both held our breath. And waited.
(C) Ally Atherton
Written for Sunday Photo Fiction