'The Black' by Tim Stevenson
It caught every speck, every hair, every little crumb, that dress. Black as anything, it was; black and deep and infinite. You could fall into a black like that, fall up and out of sight, fall into the stars that weren’t even there, and keep falling until you looked back down at the earth and saw it shine and turn until the sun dipped away and all you were left with was darkness.
She wore it to the bar and brushed her hands over it every second. The men saw her and watched her hands, thought midnight thoughts, and sighed before turning back to their wives.
She sat alone and drank, the olives bobbing, the ice turning as it diminished to a sour pool at the bottom of the glass. She had another. Then another.
A woman in white trousers took the stool next to her, glamorous shopping bags, the murmur of scent, and a smile of recognition for the two of them drinking alone. Her white jacket hung on the high back, and a blouse, freshly washed and pressed, gleamed as it moved and rippled, a tide of soft linen.
She picked a bright thread from her black dress and flicked it away.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “That’s one of mine.”
They talked and came closer, shoulders angled together as small confidences were exchanged, then quiet laughter and a touch.
“What is it made of?” the woman marvelled. “It’s amazing, like ink.”
Her hands caressed the perfect darkness as she told the woman it was made of divorce, the seams were lawyers sinew, the label was the dotted line she’d signed. The colour, so they told her, was decree absolute, the darkest shade of all.
The woman laughed and bought them both a drink. On her hand a diamond made the ice seem dull.
“I can’t say I’ve got anything made of that,” she said. “We only got back last week, France, the Riviera, it was fabulous.” The woman sighed and teased her rings around her finger as the ice melted.
The shopping bags gaped open as their contents shifted; tissue paper rustled and was still.
“I’ve had a lovely day,” the woman said, and picked up her jacket to leave. “But there is one thing, when we were away, something he did…” her voice tailed off as she stared at her diamond.
In a bag at her feet a new grey jumper re-arranged itself and waited for the evening to come.
First published in Songs Without Music (2016)