She carries the stones in her mouth. They match the ones in her shoes. Sharp pointed uncomfortable grit and pebble clashing and rolling and making her conscious of every bad thing she ever said or did.
This one (sharp pointed) is the glance she gave. These (grit and pebble clashing), the words she spoke. That one (uncomfortable), the silence that fell. And here (rolling) is the look that fell around the room, never landing where it ought, for fear the silence would shift.
She is bad, and the stones carry the evidence of her misdemeanours. Insolence. Self-determination. Lies. Impatience. They shift and rattle in her mouth. They shift and rattle in her shoes.
She tries sitting still. She tries not to move her tongue, her feet, but freedom itches in her veins, trace electricity seeking release, laughter bubbling, and not the beneficial kind. There is madness in her isolation. If she laughs the stones will spray, sharp pointed and uncomfortable, from her mouth, flaying her lips like tiny flints embedded in a whip.
The smart of a whip, another of her misdemeanours. But she can’t stay silent, and she can’t sit still. The stones in mouth and shoes impel her.
The morning clouds are pink and blue like a bruise across the sky. Pure white vapour trails crisscross them like scars. Thin skin laid bare. Her eyes graze the sky as she casts her gaze to the horizon.
The wind rises from the shore, losing momentum as it climbs the headland. When it reaches her, it is a breeze smelling salty rich like bladderwrack. The sea is a gunmetal green expanse stretching out before her. The coldness of its aspect is a balm to her soul.
In the kitchen, on a shelf of MDF covered in chipped white melamine, stands a tea caddy. Its blue is deep, its pink is sugared, fans and cherry blossom on an evening sky. It isn’t muted like the colours in the clouds. It isn’t muted like her button mouth. It isn’t muted like the still and endless sea.
She stretches out her arms and the blanket she has wrapped around her body for warmth falls to the ground in a heap of red, blue and green tartan. She stretches out her arms, in love with the world and the canopy of sky surrounding it. In love with the world yet hating everything in it.
She squints against the shaft of sunlight streaming through the broken slat in the blind.
“There’s sun in my eyes,” she says.
The hint of melanin, the strands of collagen bounce the light around her iris, pulling the light waves this way and that so that her eyes resemble the clear, turquoise depths of the Aegean Sea. He tries not to be affected by it. He maintains his dour aspect, his unshaven face grizzled by greying stubble.
“You don’t have to like it,” he tells her, liking her all the same.
She hums distractedly as she fiddles with the blind, pulling on the useless strings, trying to close the gap. She squints up at the blind in its high window. The strings twist around each other, but the slat stays broken.
She sits down again and sighs, shading her eyes with one hand, balancing her book in the other.
“Sit somewhere else,” he tells her, enjoying the curve of her arm and the angle of her wrist. She has fine wrists. He would touch the bone that rises from the curve, but he isn’t touching her today.
“I like the warmth,” she replies.
He smiles, but she doesn’t see him.
She was never fond of the niceties. And now she finds that you have served your purpose. Her distraction has been distracted. New horizons to scan, new distances to stare into. She finds that she doesn’t want to gaze upon you any more. Your face, although still handsome, still appealing, has lost its charm.
She started by needing a stranger. She always needs a stranger. The being unknown to another person, the being a stranger herself, the lack of commitment. She feels like she can be anyone with a stranger, because they won’t know any different.
Lately you have become a commitment. In terms of time spent waiting. In terms of effort put into being something that she’s not.
Niceties, you see. She doesn’t spare them. They’re wasted words. It’s better to cut and run.
She has a bloody effigy on her wall. Something to contemplate. She’s tired of your routine, your clumsy advances, your mind-numbing, heartwarming gestures. She’s tired of waiting for something interesting to happen. It’s not your fault.
She isn’t nice, I know. She never has been, though. Don’t delude yourself any more. Don’t expect her to be different. She isn’t nice and she doesn’t do niceties.
In response to the Cowboy Junkies’ song See You Around.
She watches the pigeon struggle with a crust of bread almost half its size. It’s more than a crust. Torn from the heel of a loaf, it’s chunky and solid. The beat of the pigeon’s wings isn’t enough to lift it. One of the bird’s feet is a deformed curl of claws, a club that gives no traction. One wing droops lower than the other, and she wonders whether it is broken or whether that entire half of the bird’s body doesn’t work properly.
The colours in the wings of the pigeon surprise her. Grey marl on the outside, tips varying from dark to light with a pattern like a Scandinavian jumper, and an underside of soft paleness edged in soot. She watches their motion as the bird tries to lift the bread. Sweeping and rotating, scooping the air to create a draught that the bird then fails to climb onto.
She looks at her own winter plumage, a pale grey cotton and wool cladding with its subtle flashes of colour. She is muted and unremarkable. Anonymous. She moves through the world like a ghost.
From the other side of the window, the pigeon gives her a pink-eyed sideways look.
I’ve made some changes on here. Some of my stories are absent. You may or may not have noticed. I don’t know how much attention you pay. Why would I?
I made some changes because things were being misunderstood. A project I had in mind needed to be put somewhere else. Shelved, if you like. Creativity tends to suffocate under observation.
I’ve noticed that someone searches for one of the missing stories. They like a particular phrase from it: a sad drifting along the edges of finality. It’s a story called Play, and it’s mainly based on a conversation I had with someone whose marriage was ending, although there’s also a line from the Past Postcards Twitter feed in there.
The conversation and the postcard line made me think of how I have ended past relationships. And then, you know, fiction happened. As it sometimes does in response to external influences.
If it’s you who is searching for the phrase that keeps popping up in my stats, you can stop. The story has moved on. It isn’t here.
There are other stories here, but it’s a place of lesser creativity, now I’m aware I’m being observed.
To absent stories, then.
Your old house is up for sale again. I walked past it yesterday.
I wondered about the people who were selling up. About what had happened in their lives. Were they happily moving on, trading up, finding a better view? It isn’t hard to find a better view than the one your old house has. A short shrubby garden out front. At the rear, tram lines beyond a back garden full of secrets, overgrown with a mossy lawn. I remember it. I remember summers when it was neat. I remember you, sitting on your back doorstep, watching the flying ants. I remember dripping condensation from a glass onto the back of your neck.
The house is empty now. The owners have already gone. No curtains at the windows. No furniture in the rooms. Different wallpaper to when you were there. Different carpet.
I walked past and I stopped to look at this house where you once lived. I looked, and felt regret.
Regrets fade, just like bruises. The words we spoke are echoes in a distant past. Even memories fade and alter. Did I ever really lift the hair from your neck and kiss you? Were we ever really there?
In response to a Past Postcards tweet.