Blood splattered everywhere like someone had suddenly trod on a tomato sauce bottle.
Ketchup, as you’d say, in your elongated American drawl. You were born in Kent, but I suppose geography doesn’t really have much of a hold on what we say, or what we do.
You punched him in the face just for looking at me.
‘He was looking at you funny,’ you said, breathing heavy, his blood blotched across your aching knuckles like fresh paint.
You did a painting once, in school. I remember. A portrait of your cat, sat sleeping, eyes closed, on a battered brown recliner that sat in your living room. You didn’t use red in it, but I felt red when I looked at you for the first time, on your first day. Felt like I’d jumped into a swimming pool of it, the thick neon pigment filling my lungs, matching my heart, as it burst open for you on sight. I told you the painting was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. You told me it was awful, and you only took this class because you were bored.
‘I don’t care about anything or anyone.’ You told me after we had sex in the faded brown recliner that sat in your living room. Your parents were out somewhere, I don’t remember. You said we just did it because you were bored, but you were the one who suggested it in the first place.
I asked you to paint me, once. ‘And use red,’ I said, as we lay under the scratchy cotton duvet of your single bed, tired and cosy.
‘Come on, Alicia, please.’ I teased, kissing your cheek, again and again, making you laugh.
‘Fine, Jen,’ you said, tucking your hair behind your ear that way you did that first time in class, years ago.
Your cat is long dead, we buried him in your garden, and you kept the painting and gave it to me. I hide it behind my dresser like I have to hide you still, not from shame, but because sometimes you need secrets. Just for a while. Until you feel comfortable enough in a space, in a place, to reveal them to the world, in all their messy glory. ‘But I don’t know what you see in me.’
‘Are you kidding? I love you. I knew even then.’ I said, looking you in your eyes, to let you know I was being serious.
I thought you were going to say it back for a second. I saw the words rise in your throat. ‘I meant as an artist.’ You said, your voice scratchy from swallowing them down.
Sometimes we say things, sometimes we don’t. But our feelings remain alive deep down inside, whether obvious or hidden away. Like our secrets.
I tell you that I love you, and you nearly broke your hand punching him in the face – just for looking at me funny.
Chloe Smith is a disabled writer and poet from the UK. She is a Foyle Young Poet of the Year 2015 and also has a piece of flash fiction forthcoming in Three Drops From a Cauldron. For more about her writing visit her website: chloesmithwrites.