Saturday, 18 June 2022

'Eventually, the Heart' by Meagan Johanson

Now, Emma finally gets what she wants, kneeling next to her husband in the ferns and salal. His beard catching silver in the morning light. His scar flushing pink from the cold. Warm white clouds escape from his mouth, again and again, proof of life.

She leans closer, as if they could kiss.

The night before, his eyes never leaving his phone, he’d protested her idea. “Take my banshee hunting? You’d scare away my game.” But she lifted his chin, flashed the promise of flesh. She swore to the sky she’d be quiet.

As if anticipating some sentiment, he raises a finger to his lips and points to the trees. A doe steps into the dappled light, plucking dark berries from the underbrush.

For a moment, Emma understands why he did it. The creature is beautiful. Wild and young.

An expectant rhythm climbs her throat. Some honing knot of worry.

Back home, how many times?—Had she watched him prepare the meat for the freezer. Had she envied that gaze of admiration down a muscled thigh, up the length of a neck. The careful slip under skin. The pink reveal. The teasing away of warm handfuls. Ribs. Loins. And eventually, the heart, red and rich.

He was faithful to this process, at least.

Still kneeling in the ferns, her husband raises the gun, silent and smooth, to his shoulder.

Inside her own chest, Emma’s heart strikes like a bell against bone, cocked again and again, landing wet and tangled on her tongue.

Before the gun splits the air, she opens her mouth and lifts her chin to the sky.

As if promises mattered now.

As if she could stop any of it.

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