Red-raw by Gina Headden

So, you’ll go to the Benefits Office this afternoon? I ask and he says Yeah. I’ve said I’ll go, haven’t I? After I’ve been to the surgery. You know I need cream for my eczema, right? And I say Sure, but you could go sign on first? You know I would, honey, he says, but the surgery can get real busy Fridays and what with being kicked out my job, well…He holds out his arms towards me, shows me the broken skin where he’s scratched himself red-raw. Ouch, I say. Yeah, yeah, you need that cream but, hon, if you signed on it might help with the eczema. Putting it off, well… It’s been three weeks, no, three-and-a-half and…. You’re counting? he says. You think I don’t know? His voice is loud, way louder than normal and there’s a wild animal behind his eyes. Sorry, I say and he hangs his head, scratches his arm some more, bloodying his fingertips. I know it’s not the smartest thing to do given I want him to sign on today but I say Coffee? He doesn’t answer so I make him one anyway, a heaped teaspoonful of granules and two sugars, just the way he likes it. I open the fridge. No milk – and little else. So surgery first, I say, setting the coffee to one side. He might just manage both, I think, peeking at my watch. Fuck’s sake, I’ll go, he says. I’ll go! Not like that, I say. Not like that. I walk over, stand in front of him, take his hands in mine and wrap them round my waist. He holds me close. I feel his warmth, the bristles of his beard scratching the top of my head, the way they did when we were courting. It’ll be okay, I say. You’ll see. It’ll be okay. His heartbeat quickens and his muscles tremble. A teardrop falls onto my cheek, but I’m not crying. He pulls away, grabs his denim jacket from the kitchen chair, won’t look in my direction. Surgery first, he says, in the voice he uses when he’s being all Bruce Willis. Plenty time, he says, though we both know there’s not. He leaves, banging the door behind him. I climb the stairs to the bathroom; watch him from the window, as he walks away, head down, hands in the pockets of his jeans, his trainers kicking imaginary stones along the street. It’s when I turn to go downstairs that I see the tube of cream poking out from the pocket of his dressing gown on the back of the bathroom door. I snatch it up, my heart thumping. Bastard I say. Bloody bastard! I’ll fucking have it out with him! I ram the eczema cream into my trouser pocket and head for the stairs but I manage just two steps before I sink onto the carpet, hold my head in my hands and weep.


Gina’s writing has been published on audio platforms and in fiction and non-fiction magazines, including, amongst others, Longleaf Review, Sunday Herald Magazine, The Casket of Fictional Delights, Funny Pearls and National Flash Fiction Day’s Flash Flood (2018 and 2019)Gina lives in Scotland and can be found on Twitter @gmdfreelance.