Men in Different States – Rickey Rivers Jr

I want a good meal.
I want nice clothes.
I want a car.
I want a house.
I want a wife.

I have great meals.
I have nice clothes.
I have a nice car.
I have a nice house.
I have a great wife.

I had a good meal.
I had nice clothes.
I had a car.
I had a house.
I had a wife.

I want what I never had.
I have what I always wanted.
I had all my wants.
I want more than you have.

 

Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Mobile Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. He likes a lot of stuff. You don’t care about the details. He has been previously published in Every Day Fiction, Fabula Argentea, ARTPOST magazine, the anthology Chronos, (among other publications). https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/http://twitter.com/storiesyoumight

.Contents Drawer Issue 14

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Chickpeas – Qurat

My mother once told me
that goats have to be fed carefully –
that all too often, upon finding a bucket of chickpeas,
whether dried or swollen with water
to twice their size, bloated,
they gorge themselves, eating senselessly,
until their insides burst.
Not for lack of intelligence –
maybe the opposite,
barely chewing their chickpeas
before gulping them down, even though they
scratch against their throats on the way
down,
barely breathing in between mouthfuls
anything for something,
even if it hurts –
I’ve gotten too good at the dark
too used to my serrated silences,
uninterrupted by the stream of rotating images
and sounds, which I can hardly piece together
before they’re gone (not that I would),
the chickpeas are burnt, it’s all smoke, everyone’s
killing themselves slowly (it’s the only fashionable way)
and wondering why they aren’t dead yet
and wondering why they aren’t alive
and wondering if everyone else is
wondering the same thing.
I can’t seem to get myself
to burn.

 

Qurat is an engineering student, an avid environmentalist, and an emerging author. She has work forthcoming or currently in The Evansville Review, Augur Magazine, Tenth Street Miscellany, The Temz Review, Rag Queen Periodical, Yellow Taxi Press, and KROS Magazine. Find her on Twitter: @DQur4t.

Contents Drawer Issue 14

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Keeping Up With The Joneses – Alva Holland

Banks of scarlet azaleas and cerise rhododendrons mark the driveway to the double garage of No. 7 Maple Way. Mr. Powers nurtured the shrubs from cuttings and is proud of the privacy his colourful hedges provide for his double-fronted detached residence.

Next door at No. 5, single-garage Mrs. Johnson thinks her hybrid fuchsia and cotoneaster are far superior to her neighbour’s efforts in terms of display and colour. She covets her secret source of quality fertilizer which she refuses to share with No. 7 in case his display should surpass hers in terms of admirability as people pass.

No. 3’s triple-garage, vintage car owner, Mr. Bailey doesn’t like flowers but has a lawn fit for a Queen. Mrs. Johnson watches him vacuuming the leaves, almost reverently, each Saturday morning. She secretly envies his gleaming edge-cutters – a thing of shining beauty, glimmering in the summer sun as he creates the perfect right angle to his precious carpet where it meets the driveway leading to the polished doors containing his venerable collection.

No. 1’s granny-flat-instead-of-a-garage Mrs. Jameson is a container gardener, with terracotta pots full of brightly coloured bedding plants spilling over onto lustrous grey pebbles and glorious hanging baskets adorning the fascia board. Young widow Mrs. J and her elderly mother tend the baskets and pots in a prayer-like fashion.

Maple House sits at the end of the road. The house doesn’t have a number because it used to be the only house in the area before the wealthy owners died leaving it to a good-for-nothing son who wasted his inheritance. The estate ended up being sold to a hungry developer who converted the sweeping driveway to a wide two-lane road, split the estate into lots and sold them off to the Powers, Johnsons, Baileys, Jamesons and their like.

The competitive street befits the Jones family who’ve recently taken possession of Maple House. A sweeping renovation has commenced. The neighbours will spend the next year striving to keep up.

Winter arrives.

The Neighbourhood Watch man patrols.

A heavy snowfall blankets the estate in anonymity.

Every house now looks the same.

 

Alva Holland is an Irish writer from Dublin. First published by Ireland’s Own Winning Writers Annual 2015. Three times a winner of Ad Hoc Fiction’s flash competition, her stories feature in The People’s Friend, Ellipsis Zine, Train Lit Mag, Stories for Homes, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed and Jellyfish Review.
Twitter: @Alva1206

Contents Drawer Issue 14

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Metaphorically Yours – Ben Banyard

like a damp tea towel from Majorca
we are ineffectual
a reminder of happier times

like salt
I only need a pinch of you
any more and my blood pressure rockets

like avocado
you can be insipid
will often spoil a meal

like Colchester
few people know much about us
except that we once mattered

like cricket
I’m slow
and few people fully understand me

like my new trainers
although you’re stylish enough
you cause me discomfort

like Wham bars
your memory of me in the old days
can never match up to today’s reality

like GWR
you’re just as unreliable
despite a recent makeover

like that brilliant chip shop we found in Harlech
I often fancy visiting you
even though you’re no good for me

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, UK. He’s the author of a pamphlet, Communing (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and a full collection, We Are All Lucky (Indigo Dreams, 2018). He blogs and posts mixtapes at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com.

Contents Drawer Issue 14

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How Big Its Smallness – Peter J Coles

They’ve closed off the street. Both ends. Police cars strewn across at angles roped together with yellow tape. The threat of arrest hangs in the air. I want to get home. My dog, my poorly little cream-coloured lab, left alone all day with nothing but her chew toy to feed on. I’m laden with shopping. A rucksack full and two carrier bags in each hand. I want to go home.

“Can I get through?” I say to the policeman, except I have to say it in German and I’m not sure if I’ve said it correctly. He frowns, seems to double in size before my eyes and shouts something, a stream of hot stinking words, that spins me around on the spot.

“I need to go home,” I try, but he shoves me back, holds up a black-gloved hand and puts the other to the gun at his hip.

Moving away, I spot a neighbour standing to the side. An old Turkish woman, a flowered veil framing her face, who I’ve never had a conversation with except to say, ‘Guten morgen’ or ‘guten abend’ as I pass her in the corridor of our building.

“Guten abend,” I say, sidling over to her. She tries to ignore me, to look past me down our closed off road. She’s biting at her nails in rabbit-like nibbles; her cuticles are bleeding.

“What’s happening?” I ask her in English, but she won’t focus on me. She won’t give me the attention I’m after. So I step closer and block her view.

“Hello,” I say, “What’s —”

“No, no, no, no, no, no!” she says, wagging a finger in my face before shoving me out of the way so hard I stumble backwards, the shopping bags like pendulums in my hands propelling me back, only just keeping myself from falling hard into a man behind. His hands are on my back, there to stop us colliding, and chastises me to be more careful, to take this moment more seriously like the rest of us, to which he receives murmurs of agreement.

“Sorry,” I say, turning to look at him with his beer gut distending his stained polo-shirt and his razor-sharp sideburns making his bloated alcoholic face look almost angular.

“I’m just trying to find out what’s going on. Can you tell me?” I ask him, this time in German. German for Germans; English for everyone else.

“Isn’t it obvious,” he replies in English, pointing down the road, flashing anger red. “You only have to open your eyes.”

I follow where he is aiming with his finger, over the heads of the crowd, passed the line of police cars, to the bank of our apartment block, all sandy-yellow against the wet-blue of the tarmac. They look normal. Sometimes, in the mid-summer light, the buildings can glow, radiating a Mediterranean warmth. But in this dull, grey light, there’s nothing special about them at all. I check again to where he is pointing, to make sure I haven’t been mistaken. But I haven’t.

What’s different? What am I not seeing?

Is someone on the roof? A hidden figure getting ready to jump? Is there smoke billowing from a window? Are the police out with the weapons drawn, willing to take someone out? No, none of that.

Everything just seems to be how it always is. In fact, despite the crowd and the presence of the police, the street is so mired in its own mundanity as to look boring, not worthy of this attention, this amount of fear.

“I don’t see it,” I say. The man stares at me with the contempt of someone who is long tired with the stupidity of someone so ignorant. “Help me understand,” I plead, but he just dismisses me with a wave and steps back, mournful, to merge invisible into the crowd that has thronged around us.

I don’t understand. I want to, but I don’t. I just want to go home. To feed my poor little lab out of the tins of meat I’ve brought for her. To pack away my shopping and collapse on to the sofa and remain there for the rest of the day. To forget the day, to let it fade until there is nothing left and I can begin again tomorrow.

I don’t want to open my eyes, I want to close them.

But as I start to pick my way through that mass that has gathered, pausing on their terrified faces, watching bitten lips, and wet eyes, making my way closer to the police barrier, an anxiousness begins to pool in my temples. When I reach it, I shuffle along the front, giving a wide birth to the police who themselves can’t help but snatch glances over their shoulders. I step onto the pavement, pushing my way forward, hoping to get an unobstructed view of whatever the obstruction is, and I find a gap, a space wide enough to see and then…

When I first see it, I don’t.

Not at first.

It was only after does it become clear, and even then it is obscure.

A point, no bigger than anything I’ve witnessed before and yet, when I think on it, I think, God, good God, how big its smallness! How vast its emptiness. How solid can something so devoid of shape be? How endless its limits? I want to get closer. I want to run far away and the more I stare, the more I want to forget what I’ve seen, but also to make it indelible on my memory so that I can tell others about it, forever. Because that’s how long it will take. I will need forever to discuss it, and forever again to never talk about it, to never utter a word about it in case I misspeak and the dishonesty of its truth were to be made apparent.

I drop my shopping bags at my feet and hear glass smash and the pulping of fruit. I step back and merge fearful into the crowd.

 

Peter J. Coles is a blog editor for MIROnline.org, an editor for The Mechanics’ Institute Review 15, and a graduate of the MA Creative Writing programme at Birkbeck University. He is currently working on his first novel and has read short stories at MIRLive and the Writers Room. Find him on twitter @peafield.

Contents Drawer Issue 14

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Meet In The Middle – Chloe Smith

The dew from our coffee cups
Soaks into the oak, a temporary tattoo –
We were here, it says, as the remnants dry
And you lift it to your quivering lips.

I nudge mine, just slightly, with my thumb,
The way you used to tap me, gently,
To bring me out of a restless sleep.

It was always a relief, to have you there –
Now you just leave me be, let me wake up, moist with a cool sweat,
With those nightmares staining the fringes of my mind as I reach out into the empty space –

You haven’t touched me in months.

You eye it, the steaming mug,
A smoke signal, communicating,
More than we’ve done in a while –

I don’t know what the white wisps are trying to say, as they rise, weakly –
But it doesn’t seem like enough.

I pick it up, and notice a pattern in front of us –

A light Venn Diagram, etched almost artfully,
The ghost of our drinks, our last-ditch meeting –

On one side, you, and your soft hand, your fingers almost skirting the outside line,
But still hanging on. Just by a hair, by a nail.

And on the other, me, not even a part of it –

I steady myself
And then let a contender enter the ring

My slight hand, shaking slightly, just edging into the middle
The ring gleaming in the light –

You keep watching me.
I don’t know what you’re thinking,
Maybe of that piece of advice we got given on our wedding day –
I don’t think we were really listening…

Your finger twitches, almost beckons me,
But I was. I laughed it off, at the time.
How would that work?

My bliss was a firework –
Bright and joyous, but not everlasting.
The smoke always lingers, finds you eventually.

We just need to cough it out,
Let it leave our tired lungs…

But now –
Now you need to –

And you do.

In a quick swift movement,
Your hand reaches out, slots into mine,
Like it’s meant to –

Out rings shine together, the sky lighting up
With stars instead.

But in that quick swift movement,
Your elbow
You were always clumsy –

Knocks into our cups, which we’d hurriedly placed down,
Our hands too busy with other things,

And they fall, each in turn, like dominoes,
Like chips –

They paint the faded table a glistening brown,
Rewriting our game with lukewarm enthusiasm.

Somehow it avoids our laps,
And while we let go,
To clean up –

You beam at me,
Match my warmth.
The gleam on our hands reflecting in our faces.

I know we’ll be okay,
That knowledge tickles me as it lights up
The edge of my mind,
As we parrot hurried apologies to the waitress, and wipe each other’s hands.

After all, we have a blank page, now,
We can always play again –
Find each other as easy as breathing, as falling pleasantly asleep,
Now we are here.

 

Chloe Smith is a disabled writer and poet from the UK. She is a Foyle Young Poet of the Year 2015, and her poetry has been published in Rose Quartz Journal and Cauldron Anthology, with more forthcoming in TERSE. Journal. Her website: https://chloesmithwrites.wordpress.com/. Her Twitter: @ch1oewrites

Contents Drawer Issue 14

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Constructive Criticism – Jeanna Skinner

Brenda:
Since starting a romance writing course, I’ve noticed lots of ways I can apply the brilliant feedback to all aspects of my life. Okay, so the cashier in Waitrose looked at me funny when I suggested she was lacking in agency, and I’m not sure my boss appreciated it when I said she needs to stop telling me what to do, but show me instead.

But my sex life – it’s never been better. The other night, emboldened by half a bottle of chardonnay and wise words from my copy of ‘Romance Writing For Beginners’ imprinted upon my heart, I drummed up the courage to talk to Geoffrey about his serious pacing issues. Yes, he was a little shocked at first, but he’s improved so much since. Now he’s hitting all the right beats with every headboard-rattling, toe-curling thrust, and the final denouement is oh-so satisfying. And just this morning, he surprised me when he seemed to acquiesce to my idea of taking our story in a romantic, new direction.
It feels great to be able to pass on what I’ve learnt and help others.

Geoffrey:
Look. I get it. Maybe I didn’t pay her enough attention before, but since Brenda joined that ruddy creative writing course up at the college last month, it’s all she’s carped on about. I wouldn’t mind, but she’s become rather erm, unreliable around ‘ere – and some folks might say, unlikable too. It’s great she’s found her voice, but I do wish it wasn’t quite so snarky.
Anyway, I’ve been reading that ruddy book she keeps leaving lyin’ around, and I can’t make head nor tail of most of it. But there’s this one part that gave me an idea – and Brenda’s all ’bout ideas lately.

So I’ve arranged a surprise for her tonight; I hope she likes it. I’ll try anything to give her the happy ever after of her dreams. Even if it means “your protagonist sometimes has to share the page with well-developed, yet sympathetic, secondary characters”.

Like Miss D’Meanour, the dominatrix from next door.

 

Contents Drawer Issue 14

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The Making – Amy Alexander

In the beginning,
We stood taller than houses
Three stories hit our shoulders
And we could see the disappearing rim of dirt melting sky.

I wore your shirt for years,
and then sliced through it with scissors
I wouldn’t touch with paper,
cut only silk,
lay the tatters black as blood and bruises down in glue.
Lay down and got dizzy from glue.
Counted how many brain cells I’ve lost to you,
you should have inked yourself in warning,
a permanent tattoo

You complained of me never wearing a watch,
not caring about whether I could beat anyone on a clock
or show up before the starting shot
but, here I was, captain of all that was or will be,
a you you would never recognize,
a woman who seeks,
an asker.

I had to lose you in layers.

In the art of the collage,
last goes first on the page,
for the past,
then come the concerns of the day,
diapers and other loves tended,
my fastening fingers
buttoning shut a sweater
or is that a suit of armor?
A lionness,
a girl balanced between elephants,
a skeleton inside a star womb
to signify the dead.

 

20180616_123419_Amy_Alexander

Artwork: Amy Alexander

 

Contents Drawer Link

Amy Alexander is a writer and homeschooling mother living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her husband and two kids. Her work has appeared most recently in Mooky Chick, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Ginger Collect, The Remembered Arts Journal, Cease, Cows, and many more. Follow her on Twitter @iriemom.

The Imprint of Leaves – Liz Xifaras

The trees are talking.

Beneath my feet the ground thrums as whispers slither from one to another. No-one knows how they do it. No-one knows how they move.

We came here in search of space; sky between branches and the scent of wet earth. Ground that fermented with the movement of insects, creaked with the growing of plants.

Rory’s idea. We lay in his sour sheets, staring out at the view of curry house walls.

‘Fresh fucking air,’ he said, blowing his morning cigarette smoke away from me. ‘That’s what we need. Bastarding leaves above our heads and the sound of twatting birdsong.’

‘Eloquent,’ I said, dashing for the bathroom. ‘You’ve talked me round.’

‘Christ.’ He stubbed the cigarette out in the ashtray he’d stolen from the Red Lion years ago. ‘You throwing up again?’

Ella’s imminent arrival made the dream more appealing, made it solidify into a plan. Rory waxed lyrical profanities about our child running through fields, feeding lambs and breathing air that was not laced with toxins. He scrolled through pictures of dilapidated farm houses and came home with armfuls of random baby equipment.

‘Look,’ he said, waving a potty with a picture of a yellow elephant on it and a pair of pyjamas at me.

‘You’re getting ahead of yourself,’ I said.

‘They’re cute.’

‘They’re huge. They’d fit a toddler.’

He shrugged. ‘They’ve got rockets on.’

The house was collapsing into the ground, nestling into the hillside, cracked windows looking out onto trees bent to the will of the wind and ground dusted with heather. The air smelled of wet earth. It was bare, and beautiful. It was all we could afford.

Rory filled its crumbling walls with any creature that blinked baleful eyes at him and appeared in need of rescuing; kittens, a scruffy mongrel with wiry hair and overzealous tail. Chickens in the garden. I built the hen house myself.

Ella slept in a second-hand cot in our room, growing from tiny red-faced bundle to fat-limbed toddler wearing rocket pyjamas. Rory picked her up, their two ginger heads touching.

‘Told you they’d fit,’ he said.

‘Two years later.’

He bounced her up and down. ‘And they’re your favourites aren’t they, the ones Daddy chose? Yes, they are. You love those rockets. So you can fly the fuck away from this shithole planet.’

She laughed and reached for his nose. ‘Shithole.’

‘Don’t say that,’ I said, taking her from him. ‘Naughty Daddy.’

‘Daddy,’ she said, clapping her hands.

‘Naughty Daddy has to go to work.’ He kissed Ella and blew a raspberry on my cheek. ‘Bollocks, wrong way round,’ he said, and left.

‘Bollocks,’ Ella called after him.

Dressed in shorts and wellies, she and I fed chickens and collected eggs, weeded vegetables, walked the dog. He scampered far and wide while we meandered at toddler pace, rescuing a grit-crusted worm and watching the slow, droning toil of bumble bees amongst the clover.

We saw them when we reached the hilltop. Down in the valley below, where the trees grew straight and the stream quivered, a bustle of activity so unexpected we both stopped short. Dog cowered behind my legs, half-yelp, half-growl bubbling in the back of his throat.

We had never seen another person on our walks before.

They wore white, head to toe, a bustling body of insects planting saplings. It should have felt benign. One stopped, looked in our direction, brought a white-gloved hand up to shade eyes, and I imagined us silhouetted against the skyline. Woman, child and scared, scruffy dog.

‘Time to go,’ I said, taking Ella’s pudgy hand.

‘Fuckinell,’ she said.

‘Don’t say that.’

The people disappeared but the trees remained. Day after day we watched; woman, child and scruffy dog. Still he growled and barked, bounding forwards and then returning to circle us, though nothing moved down there.

They were spindly at first, branches supple and leaves pale, a translucent green sea, wafting gently, filling the air with a soft swish and rasp. As though you could hear them growing.

Every day they were taller, broader, more widely spread.

Though that wasn’t possible.

But they were. Reaching now to the bottom of the hillside, obscuring the stream. They were like no tree I had ever seen, beautiful branches stretching skyward, leaves shimmering in the sun.

I could not let a day pass without seeing them, drawn to feel their ridges and welts under my palm.

The dog snarled and barked, whimpered and wagged, ran towards them and away again.

Ella remained unperturbed, sitting with sturdy legs out on the scrubby grass, watching silently as branches performed a slow, exquisite dance.

‘What the fuck are they?’ Rory asked, arm around my shoulder, ginger hairs glinting in the sun.

He whistled, moved forward. They were half way up the hillside.

‘They’ve moved,’ I said.

He shook his head. ‘You’re off your shagging box.’

‘They have.’

He wasn’t listening. Hand outstretched, he stumbled forwards until he stood beneath the sprawling branches, face tipped up to see sunlight flicker between them.

I lifted Ella and held her to me as he touched a pale leaf and examined it. The dog, hackles raised, howled and barked and ran to the tree, to Rory, to me.

‘They’re so fucking beautiful,’ he said. Shuddered. ‘So fucking unnatural. Let’s get out of here.’

That night he lay still but breathed fast and shallow, and I know he didn’t sleep. The scent of sap hung in the air around us, the whisper of branches. When I closed my eyes the imprint of leaves threaded across the darkness.

At last Ella stood and rattled the bars of her cot.

‘Mama. Out,’ she said.

I rose, grateful to give up pretence of sleep. Pressing her against me I longed not for her soft, warm flesh but the scrape of bark against skin, the scent of soil and sap.

Rory sat up, hair spiked like a ginger hedgehog. ‘Where’s the dog?’

We walked without need to voice the plan, without questioning it. They had reached the top of the hill.

‘They’ve shitting moved,’ Rory said.

‘Yes.’

The air chimed with the sound of leaves stroking one another, branches reaching out, roots gliding under our feet. Sunlight speckled the ground.

Ella flopped onto the ground with a sigh. ‘Shitting.’

‘Don’t say that.’ The sound of them so sweet. As though they whispered my name.

I heard the breath flow from my lips, watched my own fingers reach out until the nearest trunk lay coarse beneath them. It moved. Just a little – a throb of recognition. Leaves reached down to stroke my face and I looked up, gazed through slender branches to the glimpses of blue sky, and knew this was where I belonged.

The nearest leaf shivered in the corner of my eye, and I caught it, held it. Examined it.

They were like nothing I had ever seen, broad like an Oak, smooth like an Ash, pale as though newly unfurled. Except on this tree. These were edged with a dark red.

‘Look at this.’

Slowly Rory tore his gaze from the trunk, nodded. Eyes large, face pale. He pointed at the trunk, licked his lips.

There was a patch of bark, just above my hand, that was discoloured; grey and damp. The texture dense and rough, different from the rest of the trunk.

My heart crashed. ‘What is it?’

Rory pulled me away. ‘Hair,’ he said.

*      *      *

I must have slept that night. Dreams still scarred my mind; the whisper of roots, call of breeze in branches.

Dawn spilled down the hill and Ella yawned, stood and rattled the bars of her cot.

‘Mama. Out.’

I glanced at her, fat fingers waving, hair spiked like a ginger hedgehog, rocket pyjamas rumpled to reveal a chubby belly.

I felt his absence, the cold, the quiet. He had been gone hours.

Ella looked at me, sighed and sat down with a thud. ‘Shite.’

‘Don’t say that.’ I lifted her, breathing in the warm scent of her morning skin.

‘Daddy,’ she said.

I fed and dressed her, held her to me before placing her in the cot. All the while I imagined the shift of green against sky, the snarl of bark beneath my hand. Her accusatory gaze was tearful, bottom lip sucked in and I knew the wailing was about to start.

‘Mama?’ she said. Crack in her voice breaking my heart.

I kissed the top of her head. ‘You’ll be all right. Safer here.’

She stood and lifted her arms to me. ‘Fuckinell?’

I stroked her face. ‘Don’t say that.’

‘Daddy.’

‘Yes.’

The trees are talking. Beneath my feet the ground thrums as whispers slither from one to another. They have reached the hilltop.

Even now they call to me, my arms reaching to touch them. Straining to hear them whisper.

I struggle to hold onto the image of Rory, ginger hedgehog hair and cheerful barrage of obscenity.

I look for red-tipped leaves.

Enveloped by the trunk, he can still be seen. Face visible, tipped back, eyes closed. Hair spread and absorbed into the tree. What can be seen of his body is twisted, limbs swallowed, just tangled swellings of bark and cloth.

The whisper is strong now and I know, if I were to just reach out, let myself be taken, I would be part of them forever. With Rory forever. Taste the salt of my own tears.

The skin on his face is mottled, crusted and split as the tree invades. I trace his lips, still his own, with my finger. I can barely see through the vision of roots and branches and leaves.

‘Rory.’ Voice thin, dry.

His mouth quivers under my touch. Breath sticks in my throat.

‘Rory?’

His eyes open. A gossamer of fine green lines.

‘Get away,’ he says. ‘Stay away.’

Sap wells in his eyes, tracks slowly down his face.

I nod. Remember him. Laughing, swearing. Smoking. Rescuing stray animals, holding new-born Ella with his face masked in wonder.

‘Fucking love you,’ he says.

I press my lips to his. He tastes of soil.

By the end of the day the car is packed. Cats and chickens freed to take their chances. Ella fed and dressed in rocket pyjamas for the journey.

I don’t know where we’re going. Just away.

She is in my arms and I am about to take her to the car, strap her in. We are ready.

I open the door. Evening sunlight pours in, and Ella reaches for the golden specks dancing in the air, laughs. I can smell sap, hear the melody of branch upon branch. My hands twitch for the feel of bark under them.

Hesitating, I lean against the door frame, glance towards the hilltop. Close my eyes, and a bright, beautiful filigree pattern sprawls across the darkness.

My breath comes slow and deep.

Too late to leave now anyway. Dark soon.

One more night.

Sleep is filled with dreams so enticing that Ella struggles to call me from them.

I am rooted to the ground, reaching deep under the earth, one with the creatures that writhe there. I stretch to the sky, fingertips grazing clouds.

The bars on the cot rattle.

My skin thickens, stiffens and cracks. Hair rustles in the breeze, gaze shows the world through a web of green.

‘Mama,’ she says. ‘Out.’

I am once again in the room with her, groggy from a sleep I do not wish to leave. Still dark.

‘It’s not morning.’

‘Out,’ she says. ‘Mama. Out.’

I glance at her ginger head. Remember Rory. Hold her to me and chase away the night.

She points to the window. ‘Out.’

‘It’s still dark,’ I say. ‘Look.’

I pull back the curtain.

Darkness, but not night. The view from the window is obscured, completely covered with branches, crowding in, scratching the glass.

‘Fuckinell,’ she says.

Green leaves tipped red.

 

Contents Drawer Link

Liz Xifaras is a member of Writing West Midlands’ Room 204 Writer Development Programme. Her work has been selected for Penguin’s WriteNow Live, placed in a number of competitions and appeared in Idle Ink and The Sunlight Press. Find her on Twitter @LizXifaras

 

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