'Laundry' by Emily Devane
It’s Suicide Sunday and she’s lost her friends. Tottering down Green Street in the shortest of dresses, tomorrow’s hangover already laying its claim. She keeps her movements small and careful. The hot air circulates dangerously between her legs.
Passing the place that smells of washing powder, she stands for a moment, breathing in – it smells of clean, it smells of wholesome – until the thought of herself makes her want to puke. Then she’s off again, bumping into herds of boys in navy blazers with brass buttons (the jocks in jackets of palest blue), who drink her in through Pimms-glazed eyes.
‘We think you might know our friend,’ says one.
‘Missing something?’ says another, taking a long look at her thighs, then back to the herd. The boys stagger left, right, onwards: to the next garden party on the circuit, the next stricken patch of green.
An unfamiliar blazer slips from her shoulders; the brass buttons catch on her dress. She steadies herself against a shop window. Fresh As A Daisy says a sign inside.
From ahead, she hears a familiar voice. ‘How’s it going?’ says the will-be-a-poet, in that drive-the-girls-crazy way.
‘Fine, fine.’ She looks from one to the other of the will-be-a-poet’s friends. They’re on the corner, just the right side of sober. In their un-grubbied hands, they carry punnets of strawberries.
‘Want one?’ says will-be-a-poet.
She shakes her head.
Slumped by a lamppost at the end of the street is a half-dressed boy: no trousers, no blazer. And on his head, a pair of knickers with a black lace trim. His hair pokes through the holes where the legs should go.
‘Poor sod,’ says will-be-a-poet’s friend.
‘Yes,’ she says, pinkening. ‘Do you think he’s okay?’
Pulling at her dress, she walks overs, bends close.
‘Sorry, so sorry,’ he says. Sour breath pours out with each word. Chunks of cucumber, mint and apple decorate his tie: the ghosts of Pimms’ past. She doesn’t recognise his eyes, shrunk small behind their glasses.
Inside, she feels rearranged. But how, exactly?
And the worst thing: she cannot remember. She simply cannot remember how this all came to be.
First published in Flash: The International Flash Fiction Magazine.