‘No,’ I say, but when she tells me the news, I realise I had heard; a comment I picked up but didn’t understand. I understand it now.
‘I’m upset,’ she says, and I want to tell her not to be silly. Instead, I feel my eyes well up.
We talk and she hangs up. I realise I’ve burnt the toast.
I see the calm colours of autumn in the jam-jar on the windowsill – cinnamon, sage, red apple - but the sky is overcast and the colours are dull and shadowed. There is no sense of purpose to the day; no list of things to do. Time hangs on a nail behind the kitchen door. I take it down, shrug it across my shoulders and go out.
My walk takes me through the cemetery and I see the damage done by yesterday’s weather. A young couple are tending a grave. I don’t look at the headstone – I know what I might see. I’m reminded that nothing is permanent, even underground, and the peace I expected to find here escapes me. What do we leave behind when we die? A name and a memory... If we’re lucky, a touch on someone’s soul.
I cross the road to the park, narrowly avoiding death by BMW, the female driver of which has mistaken the 30mph road for the autobahn.
A man is putting tables and chairs out in front of the cafe. It’s not open yet, which means the Winter Gardens aren’t open either. Why did I think they would be? I tell myself it doesn’t matter but I’m lying. The Winter Gardens are my thinking place; the place for sitting by the giant thistles and fitting pieces of my life together.
I cut across the grass to avoid the woman who cannot control her dog and continue down to the boating pond to sit on the bench. There’s nobody here except me.
That’s when I feel it - the warmth of the sun on my face. I hadn’t noticed it come out. Across the water, diamonds of reflected sunlight sparkle - so bright they bring tears to my eyes.
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…