I was nine and Richie had just turned ten--an older man, but safe as an unloaded gun. He must have talked about me with his mother. Who else would have instructed him to extend his hand as we approached the trail that led from the playground, and say “Evelyn, may I walk you home?”
Perhaps she thought it possible I would be kind to her pleasant-faced, sweet son. Women change when they have boy children. Their hearts soften and vision blurs and they forget the primordial laws of the jungle.
I was skinny and blond then. School pictures of that year show me an elfin creature with a serious mouth and overlarge eyes. My hair had been cut short, close to my scalp; some weeks earlier my habitual long braids had dipped into the last campfire of the summer, terrifying my mother into pushing me head first into the lake. One small red oval on my neck where a cinder had rested too long was the only resulting mark on my skin. A trim would have taken care of the singed portion of my braids but the odor of burnt hair had so offended my mother that the next morning she marched us into the Bobette Salon, shoved me into Inga's chair and glared as Inga snipped and snipped. I could see the other hairdressers smirking behind me, in the mirror.
Inga dismissed them with a dangerous wave of her manicured nails and declared me a pixie. Cute, she said and the others slunk away like beaten dogs. I was somehow better as a pixie girl. New clothes appeared in my closet- tiny replicas of Carnaby Street florals and dizzy geometric prints, stiff low-heeled boots made of white imitation leather. I felt hurtled toward some kind of transformation and began to dream that little lick of campfire had been a roar of flaming teeth and tongue. I often woke aching, in twisted bed sheets. Ikept my fevers to myself.
I took Richie's hand and felt nothing until another boy threw rocks at us from behind a battle-scarred maple. The boy cawed and gave my free arm a nasty pull as he ran past.
Where the trail opened out onto the road, I disengaged my hand and shook my head when Richard invited me over. He didn't throw anything at my back, where I was beginning to grow wings.
Yes, it's that time again. We're back and we're getting ready to flood the internet with flash-fictions to celebrate National Flash-Fiction Day on Saturday 16th June 2018.
The rules are the same as ever, we are open for submissions for just one week. Stories should be no more than 500 words (not including the title) and should be on whatever theme you fancy. You can submit up to three entries, and there is no cost.
7 editors (one each day) will read your work, and make their decisions, and then the deluge begins at midnight on the 16th.
I’m going to ask her tonight, definitely. Dad said, you’re not even twelve son, what’s next – extra pocket money for johnnies? Mum told him not to be vulgar, then smiled at me; that smile that makes me want to yank her to the knees by the hair: shout, I’m not a baby, Mum.
It’s in the sports hall like always, but this year they’ve got a proper DJ, not just one of the dads. There she is, all curled hair and sprayed-on glitter. I go to tap her shoulder, but James and Jeremy, in the opposite corner, look at me all, why are you going up to a girl? So, before she turns around, I jump on her back: mime a lasso at them one-handed. Dig my knees into her skinny hips and breathe in marshmallows. Then I’m falling forwards. I put out my hands but my landing is broken. I roll off. And her blood’s on my knees. More of it trapped in the grooves of my trainers.
What happened? says Mr Miller, with a face like a father’s instead of a Head’s.
And she looks at me through the bloodied fingers at her nose. …
Marina’s lover delivers a mug of milky tea before his shift starts. She snakes her arm out from under the bedspread and grabs his wrist. He is ready for her: he clenches his fist around the sturdy clay handle and sets the mug down on a ring-marked, unopened paperback.
“Don’t go today.” She says that every day.
“I have to.” Always the same.
The top sheet is stretched across Marina’s lower face like a surgical mask. Her lover kisses the bridge of her nose. She holds her morning breath. He will leave. They all do, when days like this become weeks and months. God knows, she’d leave her miserable self, too, if she could.
“I’ll see you tonight.” They say stuff like that, when they’re just about to vanish. He smiles like a patient GP. Marina’s bowels twist.
Marina’s lover leaves the bedroom door ajar. She calls him her lover because he reckons he loves her to the moon and back. Plus, she’s too old for a boyfriend. He has created an unsettling draught. A vicious stripe of light interrupts t…