As Delicate as Lace by Keely O’Shaughnessy

We want something that isn’t this sofa. I want to shift the haze of this past year. You want something more than the huff of the too small desk fan oscillating in our faces. The loose weave of the cushions imprinted into our bare backs is a map. As we imagine our travels, I track the pinkest trail etched in your skin like a lifeline.


The streets of Paris crisscrossing above catacombs. The Montparnasse Tower at dusk. A bus delivers us to the outskirts for a private wine tour. Armfuls of plump, purple grapes—the gamay variety—promise aromas of violet and cherries as rich as their skins. After a day of playing at work: pressing, steeping, tasting, our plum-stained fingertips interlink. I squeeze and wait for your replying rhythm.

From France, we drift to Croatia and then Montenegro. We sail around Kotor and scale the heights of the medieval walled city. You clasp my wrist as we slip on the cobblestones polished smooth from the hordes of feet before ours. A Turkish gullet ship offers up a sun-baked teak deck, the kind of heat we can get behind. I dare you to jump from the top deck, and then the captain’s cab, your weight bowing the plastic canopy before you dive. On dry land, you follow the curve of the Adriatic coast and point to the cluster of poured concrete buildings. Their greyness inescapably ex-eastern-bloc, now boutique hotels buzzing with rich tourists.

“What does this say about freedom?” you ask.

In Spain, we frequent the cantinas of Andalusian towns, stone huts carved into the mountainside. We queue for dishes of berenjenas and patatas bravas. We’d guzzle and fill ourselves. Topped up with San Miguel, you slice strips of Jamón from the bone, starting with the caña—just as we learned at our online Charcuterie classes—and feed me pieces, the marbled fat as delicate as lace.

Time wears on and we return to our whitewashed villa or walk in the fragrant mango groves. Moving amongst the trees, I remark on the distance between us, and you gather windfallen fruit in the makeshift basket of your T-shirt. You eat your mangoes by the pool, letting the juice trail your arm before leaching orange into the chlorine water. And I lie on the sun-terrace hardening in the heat. Eyes closed against the light, I retreat into the soft glow of my lids and I know, when I open them again, you’ll be gone in search of something new.


Back in our living room, I come to the end of a tributary, and begin to retrace its path when you shrug free from my touch. Sweat gathers at your nape. You peel yourself from the sofa. We say nothing. You part the blind and peer into our back garden letting sunlight pool on the carpet. The funnel of brightness extends over the heaped takeaway cartons on the coffee table and stops just before my toes. I reach for you hand, but you are already beside the window. You study the limbs of the orange tree bought on a whim weeks ago, needing to count the pale blossoms that we both know will come to nothing, but stunted, sour fruits. Sinking back into the sofa, I listen to the white noise hum of the desk fan as it continues to pulse.

Keely O’Shaughnessy is a writer with Cerebral Palsy. She has an MA from the University of Gloucestershire. She is Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. She has words in magazines and anthologies. She’s a Pushcart nominee. When not writing, she spends time discussing David Bowie with her cat. Find her on Twitter @KeelyO_writer