Bitter All The Way Down by Lauren Everdell

I’m preserving lemons when my phone lets me know you’ve texted but doesn’t tell me what you’ve said. I watch until the glow dies out of the screen again before turning back to them. And they spit as I work my knife through the sunshine rinds, so that soon I’m skin-full of the scent of lemon flesh. It’s in my hair and clinging to my lips. It’s in my lungs. And my fingertips are lemonade by the sea, sweet and salt-stung with the pressing of yellow fruit into white crystal sands. I know what you’ve likely said, can picture your quick-bitten thumbs selecting every letter. I read it anyway. When the jars are closed tight and my hands are clean. More bitter than the bite of lemon pith.

I hate you.

I’m potting rosemary cuttings when you call for the 12th time and I watch it ring out with my hands fisted in the rich compost. The phone jitters on the greenhouse bench. Silenced. But in it I can see your moving lips and the flick of your word-shaping tongue. There’s earth under my fingernails and in the grain of my fingerprints. It’s smudged on my clothes and across my cheeks, and everywhere there’s the meadow smell of rosemary. And the phone is too much of metal and plastic and pixels. So I bury it in a pot of black soil where I can’t see its light, and bare my teeth at daydreams of what might grow from the seed of it. I rub a sprig of rosemary between my palms and raise my hands to my face. When I open my eyes on the sky, I can see rain in my future.

I’ve walked away from the house and up one crest of the valley when I listen to the voicemail you left. The rain has done its best work; the world so clean it stinks again and the green drenching smell goes to my head. Waterlogged grass clings to my boots and shins, dragging at my steps as if to lend me roots. Pausing at the valley rim, trees at my back and open fields for my eyes, the only sound is of growing things. Sucking down the drink and growing while they can. The path oozes underfoot, resenting the press of me. Like you did sometimes. But your words, when I hear them, are dark and smooth and round with beer and every bad thing I’ve been to you. And behind them is your breathing, slow and even.

“I still love you.” 

Lauren Everdell lives in Gloucestershire, UK. Her work has been published online by Reflex Press and The Crime Writer’s Association, she also has work in several anthologies. When she’s not writing she can usually be found reading with her numb feet trapped under her sleeping Chocolate Lab, Fable.