Have Fun

People are sitting next to me in this train.

Matt blinked at the text, and then typed out a tentative reply.

i mean
that’s usually how it goes on trains

The quickness of Sarah’s reply suggested she wasn’t reading, wasn’t writing, wasn’t doing her normal train activities.

Yes.
But there’s lots of them.
They’re so noisy.
And there is an odious smell.

Mark chuckled.

odious?
you’re such a fucking pretentious writer

Sarah’s reply was a middle finger emoji, and Mark grinned.

it’s not a long journey tho, you’ll be fine

WILL I????

stop overreacting

I am NOT overreacting.

Alright fine maybe I am.
But they’re drinking beer and being loud.
I’m going to deafen myself with how high my music is turned up, honestly.

you’ll be fine
anyway
i’m going into my meeting now
thanks for entertaining me

No don’t leave me!

have fun!

Mark turned off his phone with a smile, feeling much better about his shitty meeting. At least he wasn’t on a train.

-Maura Kenny

[20/02/17: Odious]

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Paint Me

‘Baby, come on. Let me paint you.’

‘I’m busy.’

‘Come on, Eleanor…’

She dipped her finger in the paint, drew a red line down Eleanor’s forearm. Eleanor stopped what she was doing to wipe it off, but it only smeared.

Stained.

‘Stop it’, she pulled her arm away, and Nia pinched her wrist in purple, ‘Nia, leave me alone-’

She stepped backwards, and her foot slipped on the jagged edge of a broken glass. Nia barely looked up as she hissed in pain, smearing her hand in blue paint this time and dipping her fingers onto the duvet. Docile.

‘Blue looks better. We should get blue sheets…’

Cross-legged on the bed, easel in her lap, she stroked the marks on the bedding. Eleanor snatched an old towel from the end of the bed and wound it around her foot, gathering the shards of broken glass into her hand. Standing in the midst of a mess, she couldn’t see a path to the bin that wouldn’t cause her more injury.

Still, Nia sat in a nest of cushions, oblivious to the remnants of her latest outburst.

‘Nia? Could you help me?’

‘Later’, Nia rolled over onto her back, ignoring the broken glasses, the upturned furniture, ‘I’m painting first.’

 

by Molly Duffield

(prompts: 08/02, merry muses, jagged)

Mummy’s Girl

‘Look, darling, I’ve got you a nice new dress. Want to try it on?’

Mutely, Jenny shook her head. She concentrated on moving the stiff limbs of her new teddy bear, stroking its bristly fur, but she still didn’t look up.

‘Sweetheart, that one’s dirty. This one’s almost the same, it’s nice and bright, I can wash that one and give it right back to you-’

‘No.’

It was the only word she’d said since she came. No to changing her dress, no to taking her hair out of the matching yellow ribbons. A gift from her mother, the dress had once been the colour of pineapples, of lemons. Maybe it had smelled like her.

Now the yellow was grey, and it smelled stale. Still, she refused to take it off.

They used to hope her mother would visit again, and bring her something else to wear- but, as the weeks went on, that seemed increasingly unlikely.

by Molly Duffield

(prompts: 09/02, pineapple)

Don’t Say You Love Me

Eventually, they ban the word “love”.

It’s harmful, they claim. Causes too much hurt. But people find other ways to say “I love you”. They say “Let me know when you’re home, I don’t want you to go, are you cold, how was your day?” Everyone gets used to it, and then comes the same hurt. The same disappointment.

So they ban speech entirely.

They give up when they realise people can be left just as devastated when all that came before was a blown kiss, or a hand held over the heart.

When they realise people can hurt each other no matter what.

 

by Molly Duffield

(prompts: 10/02, censored)

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]