Sissy rubs her fingers around the edge of the glass. It never gets old, the cheeky smile playing on her lips as she shouts to her father ‘I’m touching glass Daddy!’ and instead of telling her off he bites his lip and gives her a pretend serious look. ‘Just you be careful,’ he replies, ‘it could cut you.’ Her brother pokes his tongue out at her and rolls his eyes. Sissy doesn’t understand why he’s sharp and spiky. She presses her pillowy cheek against the cool stone.
She learned the word from a book; she knows so many words. Katia, who pretends to be her best friend, lifts her eyes over the elbow perimeter Sissy has set up around her exam paper. Katia knows Sissy will pass, will score an A. Sissy hasn’t noticed the slanting gap she’s left between her elbow and the hand that presses into her skull as she tips out its contents for her teacher’s approval. Both girls get an F, and detention for cheating. Sissy changes schools in the summer.
Sissy doesn’t fit with other teenagers. She doesn’t see any fragment of herself reflected in their brash, too-colourful exteriors; doesn’t find a correlation between her quirky sense of humour and the entertainment they derive from bullying, banter and practical jokes. She is a many-sided object jostling for position in a neat group of equilateral triangles, all straight edges and points. She refuses to paint herself for their approval, to accentuate her angles.
4) A Fragment of a Larger Whole
It began on the sand. Two hands reaching for the same treasure. Unearthing one another instead.
Ten years later Sissy would ask almost daily: ‘Shall we go down to the beach?’
Tom would not raise his head from his work, steady hands marking straight lines onto sprawling sheets of paper, uniform with gridlines. ‘Maybe tomorrow.’
All had ebbed away like the receding tide leaving nothing behind except mismatched memories of times that were once, maybe, good. Had they cracked along an unseen fault line, or were they hiking on different beaches all along?
Sissy accepts that what’s left of her is altered. Life has taken off her edges, worn them down, yet still, she does not fit. Other people smash up against her shores, clashing their turmoil and insistence into her soft acceptance. Content to tread the sand alone, she buys the house on the coast.
Sissy’s knees click and crack as she bends to pluck the lucent pebble from the beach. She holds it aloft, inspecting her weathered hands through the clouded centre of the glass. Another to add to the stash, which gathers height in her sea-view sitting room like a diaphanous mountain, nuggets of imperfection clustered in contented togetherness. Her toes sink in the sand and her heart calms. She belongs to the shore.
Katy Madgwick lives in the beautiful North-East of England with two small humans, one larger one, and an unruly spaniel named Skye. Katy is an aspiring author currently working on several novels. She has had success in short fiction with pieces accepted by Reflex, FlashFlood, Ellipsis Zine, and Wretched Creations, amongst others, and she has a longer piece due for publication with Fusion Fragment in May 2021.