The bed yawns wide and white. Made stark by degrees, streetlights and the glow of their phones.
In time with the low hum of his earbuds, she traces words on the mattress, scratching out forgotten sentences. Long ago valentines that creep along the creases and strokes at the base of his spine.
Until he stiffens and inches further away.
She falls into dreams that stutter in silence; chains of jerking images, fading captions and piano notes. All broken celluloid, dusty velvet and frozen monochrome frames.
She wakes to a forest. A tangle of forced words and half truths, clinging tendrils and dying roots, wrapped around stunted sentences. Some barbed, some slippery. Too painful to hold, yet too fragile to leave.
At the mirror she watches her mouth, pushes her dry lips into a serious of round red circles and flat lines. Underscores, question marks and desperate high ‘O’ s.
She tries singing into the rush of the hairdryer; soft ballads that lift on the warm air. Hoping they will scatter like seeds, fill the cracks, and once more begin to grow.
As she cooks, she stands close to the radio; one hand cupping the speaker, trying to capture someone else’s words. To grab them by the throat and carve them into steaks, pound their lines and curves, into smooth warm dough.
She slices her spoon through soups and sauces, drawing letter after letter, inscribing note after note. Before serving them as silent offerings. Missives poured in into wide white, dishes, seasoned with desperation, the frayed edges of love. And virgin shoots of hate.
Then she leans on the counter. Fingers crossed, her heart beating a tattoo of hope.
She counts the mouthfuls and whispers the phrases.
Watches as he screws up his face and reaches for the salt.
Biography: Rachel Canwell is a writer and teacher living in Cumbria. Her debut flash collection ‘Oh I do like to be’ was published by Alien Buddha in July 2022. Her short fiction has been published in Sledgehammer Lit, Pigeon Review, Reflex Press, Selcouth Station and The Birdseed amongst others. She is currently working on her first novel. Website – bookbound.blog/writing/ Twitter – @bookbound2019