the kiss.

summer’s light pulls me from my sleep earlier than i had hoped, but still i wake to silence in the house and quietly i rise, feet bare; limbs stretched out  a languid nod to the sun on the green of my mat and later, somewhere between midnight and now, i make breakfast and countless cups of hot assam tea. 

and as the hours slowly walk their way towards home, i teach a small boy how to do addition — if you take one and add it to another, just like this, see how well they fit together, then you have two. and this is how we find each other in the most ordinary of places.

and later, after lunch, i stare for a long while in silence, at the swollen thunderclouds making slate-grey rain fall down on theold kilpatrick hills, and i envy them their freedom to let go, and somehow, somewhere between the soft shell of my earlobe and the horizontal exclamation of my clavicle, my bruised skin remembers your mouth. 

and i wonder how to hide this, but my body will not listen, it never does, and the radio is softly playing that song, do you remember it, and i peel potatoes for dinner, and run hot bubble baths, and all i can do is blush. 

 the kiss.

The Decision.

‘Did I ever tell you about the time I gave myself away to a broken man?’ She asked me one icy afternoon when the skies over Glasgow were mourning the loss of Summer.

The tea grew cold as I waited for her to return from where she had retreated to inside her head. I had known her all my life—our friendship, a tapestry of dark and light. When she finally looked up, her eyes were wet with tears. My heart broke for her.

‘I walked away from everything that I had. Everything that I felt was no longer enough. I sacrificed it all and I gave myself to him in pieces. One heartbeat at a time. I thought that I could save him. That I could rearrange all his fractured pieces into something new. Heal him. You know?’

She stared out of my kitchen window at the rain falling in grey sheets over the Old Kilpatrick hills.

‘I realised too late that he would cost me something that I could never get back. I almost lost my life bleeding from trying to put the splinters of his life back together in the shape of a man. It’s an impossible thing to do. A broken man who doesn’t want to heal, will cut you until you die.’

I reached for her hand across the scrubbed pine table. Our eyes met and I nodded.

‘I know’, I said, ‘I’ve known for a long time. But you can walk away from this. You have to leave him there. Leave him where he walked away from you. He didn’t deserve you. Still doesn’t. You are worth so much more. You have lost so much of yourself because of him. Don’t let him steal the rest. You have your husband back. You have to choose where to plant your love. Here, with a man who adores you; who would give up his life for you, or in the past with a shadow who never had any intention of loving you. The choice is yours.’

She smiled her beautiful smile at me and for a moment I saw myself in her eyes. A tapestry of dark and light. A friendship of pain and joy and all the other moments that made up our relationship. Yes. She had a choice to make.

A shaft of afternoon sunlight broke free from the grey clouds. The rain had stopped. Briefly. It would fall again. But for now, the light was breaking through. And it was good.

—The Decision.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Daja.

I haven’t written a flash fiction piece in a while. I hope that you enjoy this.

liezel

A boy, remembered.

She had come for a blood pressure check.

Would I mind and did I have a moment inbetween patients and she really didn’t want to waste my time?

Her eyes avoiding mine until the tears that silently found their way down her cheeks, revealed that the real pressure was not in her arteries, but in her heart.

And please, please—she was so ashamed of what she had done, but she had had no choice. And she hoped that I would understand.

Not judge.

She needed a safe space to cry—to share the memory of the son she had birthed 9 years ago to the day, but whom she had given away.

Knowing herself unable to mother, her heart (still) mourned. Like a pulsating umbilical cord she bled pain—every single day.

Afraid to share.

Because…what kind of mother gives her own child away?

And so we sat.

Nurse and patient.

Woman to woman.

Mother to mother.

And we remembered the day she gave birth and fought that fierce loss that tore the fabric of her being in two. Watching the life that had grown under her heart for 40 weeks, wrapped in sterile green—vernix from her body covering his—leave her life.

How was it possible to mourn a child for the rest of your life and not splinter with grief?

Not fold in on yourself from shame?

Was it possible?

And together, we remembered the other woman—who, with empty womb, became a mother that day.

Years of heartache evaporating in the face of this gift.

And we remembered the boy.

…we remembered him.

And so we sat, until she could stand up under the weight once more, and breathe.

The Therapist.

At home, Gabriel only ate the red M&M’s.

The other colours all terrified him.

His exasperated mum wrote it off as ‘just another of his autistic quirks.’

He couldn’t tell her that the angry lady with the piercing eyes, always ate the red ones during his ABA sessions; ‘rewarding’ him with the other colours when his fear finally forced him to follow her barked commands.

The other colours were the currency of her grudging satisfaction, and only when she slid them across the table at him, one by one, did he not have to look into her eyes.

To Gabriel, red, was the colour of freedom.

The Interview.

“Right,” He said, eyes roving over her with interest, “What can you bring to the marriage?”

She looked at him as if he were the only man in the room; to her, he was the very oxygen she needed in order to survive, “I will love you with every fibre of my being. Until I die, everything that I am will be yours.”

He nodded slowly, “Right… erm, but can you iron a straight pleat in formal trousers? It’s really an essential skill in a woman, you know?”