The Ex by Billy Cowan

The purple tulips you bought have opened wide, like mouths shouting. The yellow stamens are angry tonsils.

You’re upstairs on the computer compiling a soundtrack for the party on Saturday night. Laura’s coming. I want to tell you that I don’t want Laura to come, but you’d say I was being childish.

I’m sick of hearing you play just the first few seconds of a song before you click onto another one.

I look out the window across to the other apartments. Lights are on, people are in. A topless guy is on his iMac, a skinny blonde wearing a black tracksuit walks back and forth on her mobile phone. If they looked over here they’d see me sitting in a chair beside a table on which sits a vase of purple tulips. They wouldn’t see you. Maybe they’d think I was single. Lonely. Maybe the guy on the iMac would wave, indicate for me to come out onto the balcony so that he could shout over and ask me out on a date. Already I’m imagining what our future together could be like. Our first date, our first kiss, our engagement party without Laura. I imagine how happy I’d be.

I turn back to the vase and take one of the tulips. I lift it to my nose. There’s no scent. What use is a flower with no scent? I crush the tulip and let it fall to the parqueted floor. Upstairs you start to play Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes and I stride onto the balcony before you can skip forward to select another track.


Billy Cowan is an award-winning playwright and senior lecturer in creative writing at Edge Hill University. His short fiction/non-fiction has appeared in The Irish Times, Flash, The Real Story, and Flash Non-fiction Funny. A new story has just been longlisted for the Spring 2019 Reflex Fiction competition. | @Billyfiction