One: Your morning breath that she used to laugh through to press her lips to yours now makes her nose scrunch like the paper bag she suggests you breathe into when your fear of abandonment surfaces and you ask to be held. Her hands, which used to frame your face each morning, a softly burnished mahogany against the dove-grey pillowcases you chose together, now flap you away and you find it less upsetting each time.
Two: Her Netflix show is not paused when you arrive home from work and kick off your heels with a groan. Instead the volume is increased a few notches. It is a careful measurement of decibels to find the sweet spot where you cannot create a fuss about the noise, but you are left with no doubt that any sounds announcing your arrival are not welcome, and the canned laughter made tinny and thin by the crappy laptop speakers isn’t even mocking, it’s just distasteful. You talk over the noise for a few seconds and she grunts a response but ultimately the communication is as thin as the plot of her show and you retreat upstairs, your sweaty tights leaving delicate footprints on the hardwood.
Three: You do separate loads of laundry because your bras knotting together with her bras is no longer cute. Her tongue clucks against her teeth each time she drags out the problematic jumble of cotton and silk, claiming that your larger bras somehow manage to stretch hers and you apologise although you’re not convinced that this is an actual thing that happens. She ignores your passive-aggression and asks you with a contemptuous tilt of her chin why you never remember to hook the damn things together? She answers for you and explains it is because you probably enjoy your giant slingshots ruining her fragile lace, just to be a bitch. This, you realise, has become partly true.
Four: She packs a tacky Union Jack print suitcase from your university days full of your things and leaves it by the front door. You ignore it for a week and then, in a fit of pique over the last slice of quiche being incorrectly appropriated, you empty it out on the bed. You become incensed that she didn’t pack your favourite skirt and shove some of her clothes into the suitcase in retaliation. Even though you know it is an empty gesture, you heft it back to the front door and leave her knock-off Birkenstocks from some marketplace in Marrakesh on top. She ignores the suitcase for an hour. Beside her elbow, the crust of quiche in its foil tray hardens on the arm of the sofa. The suitcase is still there when she gets back from the shop. The crunchy remains of the pastry is gone, you ate it and you don’t care that she knows and that she thinks you’re gross. She looks between you and the case. Words are uttered that make your belly tighten and your lower back sweat. You, in turn, say something that makes her nostrils flare.
Then you both race up and downstairs with the case, your steps rattling photo frames against dusky exposed brickwork. She is shrieking, you are panting. Both of you are sweaty, trembling and holding fistfuls of each other’s underwear as it is hurled in and out of the suitcase, and the whole thing is a twisted parody of how you spent your early time together.
Eventually, exhausted and with biceps quivering from exertion, you order a pizza and she goes to her friend’s house, and you don’t think she’ll come back tonight but she does. So you talk, and she talks and you both try really hard to listen but in the end she leaves with salty eyelashes and bitten lips, and you finish the last curling crust of your last shared take-away, your feet propped in the centre of the hollow Union Jack, wondering why she always leaves the best bits behind.
Hannah Clark is an MA student at Manchester Metropolitan University, studying Creative Writing. She is currently working on her first novel and is a freelance writer for The Skinny magazine. Her fictional work has appeared on Litro, Reflex Fiction, and been shortlisted for The Short Story Flash 400 Autumn 2018 competition. @Han_Clark_.