May is International Short Story Month. Woo hoo!
Writer, dancer and, according to her Twitter profile, part-time panther, Frances Holland has been kind enough to share a new short story with us.
Let’s get started…
There was no grief. No desperate howling, or sobbing on the bathroom floor. No tears that needed wiping away, or cheeks that begged to be stroked by his familiar hands as he told me, “There now, silly girl. See what crying’s done to your pretty face? And all over me? Silly girl.”
I was silly, and he loved me in spite of, or for it, I never knew which. Whenever I panicked over a twinge, or a fluttering at my breast, or a new pain somewhere that had never hurt before, he’d roll his eyes and tell me it was nothing. He was nonchalant to the point of indolence. It irritated and dazzled me at the same time.
I can speak of him now in the past tense. It’s only been five days. Less than a week, and that means somehow that he’s not really gone. That circle isn’t closed yet.
Six days. The flowers begin to arrive. Porcelain-white lilies that stink of death already. They’re barely cut from the living plant and already they decay. I throw them on the compost heap.
Seven days. His funeral. I’m wearing a black dress I wore to his father’s funeral. It’s unlucky to buy something new for a funeral, someone once told me.
He was laid out in the sitting room so his friends could say goodbye. I’ve kept myself busy and looked in occasionally. My sister tells me I should rest. I’m too pale, my chest hurts with all this busyness.
But now they’re going to take him away from me. And I’ll never see him again, not ever. And I can’t live with the thought of that because it’ll kill me, but maybe then it’ll be alright, because I’ll be with him again, forever.
Even if there’s nothing after this life, even if there’s nothing but an abyss of darkness and silence in which we no longer even exist; even that would be better than living on without him. Every atom within me will fall apart if he’s not here.
All these things go through my head in a panic. I’ll never see him again. He’ll never call me a silly girl again. The thoughts flood my brain and threaten to drown me, and I have to force myself above them, push them away. My chest pulls again.
I ask everyone to leave me alone with him for one final goodbye. I close the door, walk over to where he lies in his coffin. I kiss his dear face one last time and a tear falls from my eye onto his cheek. I wipe it away with my thumb.
“Silly girl,” I whisper, trying to mimic his voice. I can’t. And the silence enfolds us both.
They come back in, and nail the coffin lid shut. The smell of the lilies insinuates its way back in with the breeze carried through the open door. I smile, feel the pain at my chest, and know I don’t have long to wait.