We by Heather Cripps

Fiction

When he arrives today he stares at the bed for a long time. I think it is because I have started actually making it in the morning, tucking the sheets in properly and putting all the pillows back on. We used to just leave it rumpled, to cool throughout the day.

We are dividing up our things when we find the seed packets. They are tucked under the bed, in a shoebox, near the back by the wall.

“I forgot we did this,” he says, scooping up packets of Lavender and Tulip seeds and then letting them fall back into the box.

“Me too,” I say.

I haven’t forgotten. We had been dating a year when we started collecting them. It began when we were on a road trip back from his parents’ house in the South and we pulled into a garden centre because it had a café and a bathroom. I had been thinking about his parents’ home by the beach and their Labrador and their garden with the huge pine tree at the end. Instead of his parents though I pictured him and me living there.

While he was in the bathroom I waited for him by the exit, where there was a plastic rack you could turn full of seed packets. I turned it and put my fingers on the plastic and looked at all the pictures of bright flowers. I pulled out one for Sweet Peas, felt the little pods under the paper, and bought it for a pound.

“What’s that for?” He said, when he came back from the bathroom, “We don’t have a garden. We don’t even have a window box.”

I haven’t moved since then, I still live in the same small damp flat above a Sainsburys on the high street, where the wallpaper is crusty, and the paint is peeling off the corners of the windowsills. I don’t know where he lives now.

“Let’s save it,” I said about the seeds, “For when we get a house with a proper garden.”

“Sure, that sounds nice,” he said, and he kissed me on the forehead. The way he said this was the same way he would have said it id I’d suggested pasta for dinner. “It’s my turn to drive,” he said.

After that time, whenever I passed a garden centre I would stop and buy one single packet of seeds. He said “we” before. “I forgot we did this”. I think he bought one packet out of about twenty, the parsnips, always practical.

“Let’s get this done quickly,” I say. He looks at me in the eyes and I say “I have to be up early for work in the morning”

We pack two boxes for him of things that are definitely his, and half of the things that we both own but that I don’t really care about giving up, and I hand them to him at the door.

“Okay,” he says, “Goodbye.”

“Bye,” I say. Then he comes forward two steps and kisses me, hard and on the lips. It tastes like mornings in bed, and laughter in the supermarket aisles buying chocolate, and like his fleece over my jumper at the fireworks in the winter, and his chin on my head while we watch TV.

“Let’s not do this,” I say and then he pulls away. Who’s the one being practical now? He leaves without saying goodbye again, the door slamming behind him.

We decided to split the seed packets up fifty fifty. I let him have the parsnips and to take some bright flowers because I couldn’t be bothered to argue even though I know they’re going to sit under the bed wherever he lives now and never be planted. The ones I am keeping lie on my perfectly made bed. I pick one up and feel the crackle when the seeds move under my fingertips. Then I take all the packets to the sink and one by one tear the top off and pour the tiny seeds down the plughole. When I have finished, the seed packets ripped and empty lying on the draining board, I run the tap down the sink.

I throw the packets away and then lie on my bed. I imagine waking up in the morning and flowers growing up through the plughole in reds, blues, purples and yellows. I imagine them pushing their way through the pipes and up through the floor until they are covering every inch of carpet, until they grow up to the ceiling, occupying space that doesn’t belong to them. Or taking it back. I imagine myself lying back and letting them grow around me until I can’t breathe. Then I imagine myself breaking through them to the kitchen, getting out the bread knife and hacking at all of the stems until they’re lying on the floor and dying. I’m not sure which fantasy I like the most.

 

Biography
Heather Cripps has recently graduated from the University of Kent with a Masters in Creative Writing. Her work has previously been published in Forge Literary Magazine, Wax Paper Prose and the Purple Breakfast Review.

Image: unsplash.com