Hate

He wanted to hate her.

He wanted to hate her when they had their first fight, and she blew everything out of proportion until they were screaming at each other over who cooked dinner more often. Instead, he knocked on her locked door with spaghetti carbonara at midnight. She let him in, and they ate in bed.

He wanted to hate her when she told him she didn’t care anymore. That she didn’t want to be with him, that if he couldn’t make an effort then she’d go home to her parents’ house and he wouldn’t ever hear from her again.

Instead, he bought her an engagement ring.

He wanted to hate her after they were married. When she’d sit in silence, staring at the television, ignoring their daughter tugging at her skirt. Instead, he took the baby and taught her the word “Mummy”.

He wanted to hate her when she left.

But he only ever loved her instead.

 

by Molly Duffield

(prompts: 11/02, thorn, ‘The roses are not less lovely…’)

Coward

She’d always known it would be easier to leave.

Easier than hiding in the bathroom for hours after she’d burned dinner. Easier than not being able to sleep without drinking. Easier than making excuses to their children.

But it would be hard, too.

Hard to bother feeding herself when she was only cooking for one. Hard to fall asleep alone. Hard to explain to the kids that she’d lied, that she didn’t fall down the stairs or bump her cheek on the doorframe…

So she stayed. For now.

A coward.

 

by Molly Duffield

(prompts: 12/02, easier, ‘I Want To Break Free’)

Exposed

I wish I’d thought ahead.

It was just so easy, at the time, to be reckless. I thought I had the power; had him under a spell, but it was all just a game.

I didn’t realise I was giving him a hold over me.

It seemed romantic, that he could undress me with his eyes. I never thought there would be a time when I’d wish he couldn’t. When we’d be arguing, and instead of looking me in the eye, I could tell he was exploring my skin instead.

I never thought there would be a time when his gaze would hurt.

When it would burn.

 

by Molly Duffield

(prompts: 13/02, foresight, exposure)

You’re Tearing Me Apart

The red jacket’s hanging where it always is.

On the back of the chair, next to the bed. The pockets are bulky with change, old receipts, cigarette packets. If I looked inside, who knows what I’d find? Maybe his car keys. Maybe a wallet.

Maybe his phone, with her number.

‘Can I borrow this?’ I shrug the jacket on without waiting for him to answer, and it’s warm, smells like him, ‘I’m going for a smoke.’

I do flick a lighter outside, but not for a cigarette. The jacket’s on the ground, and I want to drop the lighter on it. I want to watch it curl into nothing, for the phone with their texts to melt inside a pocket, I want to kick the ashes and tell him he never looked like a movie star anyway-

The lighter goes out.

I don’t burn the jacket. I leave it lying there on the ground.

It’s cold, walking home. My eyes sting.

 

by Molly Duffield

(prompts: 14/02, rebel)

0.005%

Everything is dark. I wonder if my eyes are closed. I don’t think it would matter. I’m in a steel box, and I can feel the cold metal against my bare shoulders, my bare arms. If I stretch my toes, I can feel the base of the box, but I don’t. I try not to think about the small size of the box, try not to think about how much it feels like a coffin.

And I try not to think about what I overheard, the doctors in their lab coats and me on the bed. They’d not even been trying to whisper. They thought I was asleep.

How many have died? the woman had asked, offhand. There had been a rustle of paper, as if the other doctor was checking.

Seventy, he’d said, and he’d sounded pleased. Only seventy.

What’s the percentage?  the woman asked, and there was more rustling.

0.005% failure.

Wow, the woman had said, and she had sounded impressed. That’s almost negligible.

And now I’m trying not to think about it. Hoping that I’ll be okay. Hoping that I won’t become a failed statistic, an error. Hoping I won’t be negligible. Hoping I’ll survive.

-Maura Kenny

[27/02/17: Negligible]

A Job

“Did you get it?” Her voice was low and greedy, as she leaned over the table, hair perilously close to the flickering candle that was all that illuminated this dark corner in the dingy bar.

“Yes,” I said, smirking. “Of course. Have I ever failed before?”

She raised an eyebrow. “There was that time in the castle, where you-”

“Alright, alright,” I said quickly, hoping that she wouldn’t see my blush in the dim room. “In my defence, that wasn’t entirely my fault…”

She scoffed. “Wasn’t that the time you fucked the prince and his girlfriend?”

“You don’t have to be so crude about it,” I said, but I couldn’t help my grin. I might have screwed up the mission but it had certainly been a great night.

“Enough of this,” she said, losing patience, “show me it!”

I laughed. “So possessive, honestly,” I chided, but I was already delving into my bag, pulling out the parcel, wrapped in coarse brown fabric, tied with string. She reached for it, hands grabby and urgent, and I pulled it back out of her reach.

“Can I have my payment first, please?” I said mildly, and she glared at me.

“Don’t you trust me?” she snapped, looking hurt, and I smiled at her.

“I’d trust you with my life,” I said, “but I don’t trust you to not just run away without paying me.”

She sighed and then nodded. “Fair,” she muttered grudgingly, and produced a small cloth bag- I didn’t see where from. It jingled when I picked it up, and I pulled at the drawstring, glancing inside. The silver coins glinted, and I nodded, satisfied, and slipped the pouch into my pocket. I didn’t bother counting it- I knew that the exact amount would be there.

I pushed the cloth-wrapped package across the sticky table and she snatched it up, cradling it in her hands. She carefully unwrapped a corner, peeking in. She knew better than to take it out in a place like this. The jewels caught the light, sparkling brightly, and she covered them up again, and slid the package into her bag.

“Thank you,” she said, and I smiled.

“It’s my job,” I said, and she laughed, nodding.

“Yeah, but you do it better than anyone else,” she said, and I ducked my head, unable to conceal how much the small praise meant to me.

She cleared her throat, and I looked at her. She was slouching back in her seat, looking more relaxed now that the ‘official’ part was done. “Speaking of jobs,” she said, “I have one to offer you.”

I perked up, vageuly interested. “Do tell,” I urged, and she chuckled.

“And you say I have no patience,” she said, and I stuck my tongue out at her. “Anyway, this job, it’s a long one, it’ll need a long period of infiltration. We’re hoping to use two women, it’ll be easier to get them into the place, and I was wondering if you wanted to do it with me?”

“Huh,” I said, surprised. I’d never worked personally with her before- I hadn’t known that she even did the hands-on work herself. But I couldn’t deny that the idea held its appeal. “I’m in,” I said, and it was her turn to look surprised.

“Without any more info?”

“Yep,” I said, standing up and slinging my bag over my shoulder. “If you’re involved, I know it will be fun.”

She beamed. It lit up her face. “I’ll get the details to you,” she said, lifting her drink in farewell.

“I look forward to it.” And as I walked away, I realised that I genuinely was. This could turn out to be an interesting job.

-Maura Kenny

[25/02/17: Candle]

Perhaps…

Fluttering damask curtains embrace the midnight breeze; dancing in the glow of palest moonlight and glinting stars. Mediterranean heat floods through open windows – and yet, it is not possible to stand in this room and not shiver. Perhaps it is the knowledge of what transpired. Perhaps it is the blood I am having to scrub off the floor. The floor, at least, can be cleaned; the sheets on the bed are beyond saving, perhaps they still would be even if they were not mottled with red. Perhaps if I imagine it is just a pattern – just red strawberries spotted on white cotton.

(27/2/17: Damask)

Heather Caldwell

Fresh

Salty air ruffles the strands of hair that hand free – too short to be collected in the hastily tied knot at the back of my head. The Caribbean sun beats down, battling with the fresh breeze off the sea.

From a lower part of the deck, someone shouts and tosses something up at me. My arm swoops down, catching the small orange ball with ease. It’s a rare treat and I peel back the rind with gentle fingers. The sharp juice bites into the scrapes which adorn my boat-worn hands but I don’t care. I was never allowed such delicacies back home. I wasn’t allowed much of anything back home. Probably one of the reasons I bolted the first chance I got.

From my perch on the prow, I gaze across the deck and up and down the rigging at the elsewhere unseen variety of people decorating the vessel. As I bite down on a segment of the orange – its sunbeam flavour bursting on my tongue – I think life has never been more wonderful.

(26/2/17: Oranges)

Heather Caldwell

Nineties Night

Lights and sound thrummed through the shoe-box of a club. Violent neon beams flashed out across the smoky air. Apparently, those in the prime of life at the turn of the 20th century had the idea that lasers were ‘cool’ and ‘rad’, and not highly dangerous weapons.

“Come on, Viv, come dance!”

The shout came from a figure attired in a hideous clash of neon and plaid.

“I don’t know what that is,” I shouted back, “but it is not dancing.”

“It’s called twerking,” said the boy in neon/plaid, who was called Tobi, “and it was a supped popular dance move in the 90s.”

“Twerking is from the 2010s, moron.” Adele offered.

“What makes you the expert, anyway?”

“My grandma told me about it.”

“Come on, Addy, your grandma’s crazy. She still thinks public nudity is weird.”

“She’s not crazy, she’s just a little old fashioned.”

I had had enough. I left my half-drunk Smirnoff Ice on the sticky bar-top and wandered through the clammy crowd on dancers – metallic clothing and the tiny gems on velour garments occasionally catching the light. I needed to get out of that madhouse.

I take the hover-square up to ground level. As I walked down the shiny street walled with advertisement screens, I tried to shake the club from my head. How did people ever think those were desirable? Or that alcopops were palatable? To what pronoun was the listener supposed to ‘get jiggy wit’?

 

(25/2/17: ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit it’)

Heather Caldwell

Shall we not revenge?

The very air is thick with the scent and taste of vengeance. It is more intoxicating than wine; more succulent than roasted meat; sweeter than fruit stolen from an orchard. This is it, I think, as I charge down the spiraling steps. This is the moment that I have spent my life hunting –  waiting for, praying for. And as I launch myself after the bastard who consumes my every waking moment – I imagine saying those words, seeing the terror in his eyes, pushing my sword through his ribs and into his heart. I have pictured this moment a hundred thousand times. But never once have I imagined a dagger flying through the air and striking in my gut. As the steel sinks into my flesh, one word catches in my mind:

Inconceivable.

(24/2/17: Inconceivable)

Heather Caldwell