'Not Gone Yet' by Rachael Dunlop

It was what my mother would have called a fit of the vapours. In all my seventy-something years I’d never fainted before, but I knew what it was. I could feel my brain sinking down through my body, like a counterweight sliding down a cord. The bath must have been too hot, that’s what it was. Not the other thing. As I folded towards the bathroom floor, I hoped I’d forgotten to lock the door.

I heard you coming, the door opening, the curse under your breath. I dragged my eyes open to the sight of the steel toes of your boots. Their worn leather belonged to the man you once were, the working man. And then your hands were under my armpits, hoisting me up, my limbs soft yet uncompliant, like an under-stuffed doll that won’t hold a pose.

The towel I had wrapped around me fell as you lifted me, and there I was, naked and pressed against the wool of your coat as you scooped an arm around my waist to steady the pair of us. Desire flitted through me, or maybe just the memory of it. Our younger selves would have been back down on the damp bath mat already, your clothes ready to join mine heaped in the corner. Those quick-scrabbled moments were the best.

You propped me on the side of the bath while you got your breath back and I watched the condensation from the too-hot bath smoke the contours of the pebbled window glass. You said: you scared me, and I said: I scared myself and then you lifted my chin with a finger and kissed me and said: I’m going to miss you, girl, and I said: I’m not gone yet.

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