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)

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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)

Going Loco Down in Acapulco

It was supposed to be business trip like any other.

 

Maureen had arrived at 6am, tight lipped and with an even tighter bun, fresh off the red-eye from Gatwick to Acapulco. Of course, the company had offered her a midday flight- business class, you would do no less for your hottest new sales executive who was just about to close a lucrative deal with Rexio’s Rubber Ducks Inc.- but Maureen had refused. Economy class did her fine and besides she liked to sleep on the plane anyway. All she requested was that she get to her hotel as fast as possible, and she did so taking a brief shower and then changing from her black pinstripe suit in to her grey one. She did toy with the idea of wearing her dark grey suit but all her suits were either grey or black, and she wanted to make sure it was obvious to the few hotel staff that might have seen her that she had changed.

 

The hotel room was adequate, the air conditioning a welcome touch in the humid climate. Maureen opened her calendar which clearly allowed her an hour for lunch before returning to the hotel to prepare her pitch tomorrow and finally checking her emails before an early night. She took a sharpened pencil from her breast pocket and skimmed it over her itinerary wondering if she might be able to pencil in an hour for a swim tonight but she decided against it. This trip must run like clockwork– she thought to herself- no time for idle distractions.

 

Just then the Bakelite plastic phone in the corner of the room rang. Maureen answered it impatiently, this call would cut in to her lunch time. Expecting it to be her boss ensuring she had arrived on time Maureen was surprised to hear the shrill man from the front desk telling her that a black limousine had arrived outside the hotel and the driver was insisting she come down. Maureen refused but the receptionist quite impertinently impressed that the driver was more-so demanding than requesting. Already behind her schedule Maureen decide to simply confront the limousine driver about his obvious mistake on her way out the door to lunch.

 

When Maureen took the stairs- lifts in Mexico were dangerously unreliable, she had read that in a paper somewhere- and made the lobby in no time. To her chagrin was not met by the limousine driver but the flustered speckly receptionist who told her the driver had returned to his vehicle and was parked out front. Maureen strode furiously to the limo- already they had wasted 17 minutes of her lunch time- and opened the back door to speak to the driver (the windows at the front were all tinted and the door locked).

“Look there’s obviously been a mistake,” Maureen began.

“Can’t hear you love,” the driver murmured. Maureen fully stepped inside the limo to get right up to the partition but as she did the door automatically swung shut behind her and the wheels started turning.

Maureen was less terrified at the prospect of kidnapping than she was furious at the prospect of missing her pitch tomorrow. Ever safety conscious, Maureen sat down and buckled her seat belt and tried as firmly (but politely) as possible to convince the driver to let her out. Barely 5 minutes passed before the car pulled to a halt but before Maureen could make a bee-line for the handle the door was suddenly opened from the other side. In stepped a glistening Adonis his golden hair was moistened with sparkling droplets of fragrant sweat. His scent was musky and inviting. He wore a tight white shirt that was unbuttoned exposing his bare bronzed chest. Maureen gasped, suddenly she was meant with a sensation she had never felt before she clasped her hand tightly in her lap.

“Hello Maureen,” the charming man said breathily. His white teeth glittering behind his voluptuous red lips. “My name is Fabio Rexio.” Maureen felt a quivering in her thighs.

“Mm..mm..Mr Rexio.” She stammered. “I thought our meeting was not until tomorrow. My pitch is…”

“Oh Maureen,” he sighed, pressing a finger to her lips. “I am not here to talk business. I wanted to show you the sights of course.” Fabio leaned over and instructed the driver to move on before switching of the intercom and locking the partition.

He then began to sensuously remove his shirt, exposing his chiselled abs. Maureen was overcome with frenzied desire and frantically removed her seatbelt. Fabio leaned over and kissed her passionately, their tongues winding around each other like two grass snakes in tandem. He unfurled Maureen’s tight bun. With her long hair following about her shoulders Maureen was suddenly transformed from dowdy sales rep to sexy vixen. He eagerly groped at her breasts and leaned over to kiss her neck. The kisses were like the ferocious suction of a plunger you had accidentally gotten stuck to a wall. She felt his ample rod against her thigh and he whispered to her “Maureen, you are my forbidden desire.” Maureen was not even embarrassed she was having sex in the back of a limo the warmth of their sticky love made her body slide up and down the seat. She wasn’t even bothered that she was missing her schedule at the sound of Fabio’s loud exultation she was sure she had closed the deal for the rubber duck shipment.

The next morning Maureen woke in Fabio’s four poster bed which had black silk sheets. She was covered in glitter. Her hair was blonde now and she had her make up all done so that she looked like an alluring movie star. Fabio was swollen with lust at the sight of her and they fucked like rabbits again. Maureen had spent all night (when her and Fabio weren’t having hot sex) drinking and dancing on stage with strippers. She thought to herself- I have certainly gone loco in Acapulco.

 

 by H.R.

(14/02/17, loco, rebel, <photo: Fabio>)

Sweetheart

Most days, I love him.

We row, of course. Sometimes, I don’t have any idea what he wants from me. We scream at each other. Then we cry. Hug and make up.

Still, we don’t understand each other.

Some days are worse. I look at him, and I don’t know why I’m here. I think about going away. About getting on a plane, and not looking back. But I feel guilty even imagining it.

We curl up quietly together and watch TV.

I worry about the things I miss out on. Everyone else my age is single, going out every night and having fun. I don’t miss going out. But I miss not having any reason to stay at home.

I didn’t think being a mum would be like this.

 

By Molly Duffield

(“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.”  07/02/17)

Foul-weather Friend

Sooner or later, everyone got tired of her. It was a novelty for people to watch the first time; to lead her outside when she started to panic, to imagine they could soothe her with a calming word or two. But anxiety can be boring when you’re not the one who has it.

Jess never got bored.

No matter what the problem was, she made sure she was generally nearby. Even stuck in a hospital bed, she remote-controlled herself into a sitting position and listened as Jennifer stammered her way through her latest worry.

‘I- I just keep panicking that something’s going to happen-’

‘Something has happened, Jenny. I had a bloody brain operation.’

‘I mean something bad. I don’t sleep at night-’

‘Don’t worry, Jenny. I’m fine’, she bared her teeth, but it didn’t look much like a smile, ‘Living til eighty, remember? Having the cute ginger twins? None of this ringing a bell?’

‘I just worry about you so much.’

‘Right. Jesus’, Jessica bit her lip, fumbling at the charm at her neck- and then, among the bruises, her eyes lit up. She scrabbled at the clasp of the necklace, let it drop loose into her hand and held it out, ‘There you go. Insurance.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean you take this while I’m in here, and then I’ll come and get it back once I’m home’, she twined the chain around Jennifer’s fingers, tucked the charm into her hand, ‘Don’t lose it, though. That would ruin the gesture.’

‘But it’s your favourite-’

‘Well, you’re my favourite too. You better run along now, it’s almost dinner time, and I’m not at my most attractive getting fed with a spoon…’

Even ten years later, it was unbearable not to have Jess anymore- but it helped, sometimes, to hold the charm around her neck.

 

By Molly Duffield

(necklace, 06/02/17)

June Cruelty

Held to the brink, the mouth gapes its film of saliva. There is no more than the gossamer gorge of all those Skittles, crackling up between the teeth. We let go of his neck to see what would happen next. We watched as he scaled the red brick walls. Shouts from a football match. The air aglow with cut grass, laughter, nesting birds. The coming summer.

He got stuck and they watched him for hours from the safety of concrete. They came back after class had finished; no teacher noticed his absence. He was shaking now; it was visible even though he kept his hands stuffed in his pockets. People were crying, Chicken, Chicken, but maybe it wasn’t a game anymore. I told ‘Manda I was going for a walk and she shrugged. She wants in with Liam and won’t leave his side.

Scaling the circumference of a field, the image of that mouth wouldn’t get out my mind. All those teeth! Who knew wee Neil had all those teeth! Pecking like that at the sweets! The stickiness dripping down his chin and all the rainbow colours spilling out, coagulating on the playground. I thought he was going to choke.

The shouts got louder, even though I was now two fields away from the school. Stepped in fucking cow pat. Stopped at a burn to wash my shoes, the patent ones with the gold heart buckle, my favourites. The highness of the shouting modulates, like the tracks we had to listen to in Music Theory to understand what they called octaves and  pitch shifts. Maybe you could say it was a scream. I glanced in the water and saw among the rocks and silt the slow spread of a jellyish blood. A sheep’s? The breeze blew and I opened my mouth for a yawn the shape of a semibreve. There was silence then, a pause.

/ Maria Sledmere

(fff prompts: iridescence, inconceivable)