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I met him exactly one month after I had an abortion, and in hindsight I think it was too soon.

“The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else!” My flatmates cackle like parrots when they give out life advice, but in this case the parrots were right, and it takes him less than a week to trap me and drown me in his glacier eyes.

All thoughts of unborn things and hospital needles disappear, and are replaced by a man with beautiful straight teeth and an expression I find difficult to read. I have never had a boyfriend, and it turns out they are quite intoxicating.

I spend three months drunk in my infatuation. He is sweet, he is popular, his charisma is all-consuming; I have no time to think of what happened before. There are days where he is suddenly not himself, but his smiles and kisses don’t take long to return and I push my doubts into a box I locked up a long time ago.

Those three months were sweet.

When I find out he’s been cheating on me, I am standing underneath a road sign which reads “LA BELLE PLACE”. There has never been a less beautiful road in a less French area. London is grey, London is ugly, London is the city where all the worst things in my life have happened to me. I try not to cry until I’m at home, but my lost baby and my lost love and my habit of driving people so far away from me and into the arms of a blonde slut catch me and I weep at Acton Town, two stops before mine.

We end up together, by the way. I know you’re disappointed in me. But let me tell you how I got there first, and then you may judge.

Unhappiness is a weed that grows and festers. If it is not cut from the root, it never disappears. While I am without him, I pick my depression apart, layer by layer as if it is part of my skin. I tear off him, I tear off the image of his face streaked with tears when I left him. I tear off the glow I feel when he smiles at me. The image of our first meeting, when I felt a ray of light in my stomach. The darkness that came before. The terror from a tiny positive sign and scheduled trips to the hospital. The uncertainty of a missed period. The one night stand with an old friend. The boredom I felt before it all, before anything happened to me, before I was a woman.

I tear until there is nothing left.

Two months later, when I return to LA BELLE PLACE, he is waiting for me there. He cries over coffee, and confesses his own demons. He is a blubbering mess, and howls like a wild animal. People stare. I am strong and silent. He buys me flowers, and cowers like a dog.

Satisfaction makes my belly feel full and LA BELLE PLACE looks wonderful in the summer. I allow myself to love him, and my world is green and gorgeous. I had no pride left anyway.

London is the most beautiful city on Earth.

— L.R.

(Flash Fiction Prompts: return, satisfaction, photograph of street sign ‘La Belle Place’)

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