He comes into the kitchen with blood on his hand, forearm, elbow. A deep cut, down to the bone, is snagged across his index, middle, third finger. Unclean. Serrated. Right where the inside of the knuckles bend.
He shuffles to the sink, boots smearing car grease on the tiles. The tap judders as he twists it, and he winces as the water rushes into his flesh.
‘Looks like there’s a storm brewing,’ she says, from her spot at the dining table. She cannot see him, kitchen cupboards and a bead curtain covering a clear view of her stocky, injured husband. ‘Might kill off this cold spell.’
Ripe clouds are threatening a deluge, a smack of thunder, a splice of lightening. They need the relief. It hasn’t rained in days.
‘I’m driving to A&E,’ he replies.
He does not repeat himself.
She boulders through the bead curtain and sands at his side as he leans deeper into the sink, spine curved like a protractor ruler. He opens the wounds with his left hand to show her the damage. Tattered insides. Gummy and smushed. She balks at the sight.
‘Stop! I’ll drive,’ she says.
He squeezes, more blood pulses. ‘No. I’ll drive.’
‘You can’t drive.’
His fingers won’t arc. He has to push them into a claw position. Push them back to straighten. No doubt he’s sliced some tendons. Surgery might be required.
She strides away. Takes the stairs two at a time. From the wardrobe she grabs her raincoat coat and zips it up to her chin. Tugs on the woollen hat he bought her for her birthday. When she returns, he’s still lancing the blood with the water. Still poking his fingers to get them to co-operate. She can’t see the skin of his arms or neck – covered in blue overalls – but she knows he’ll be turning sallow. He drains away when he’s hurt.
‘I’ll drive,’ she says.
‘You haven’t passed.’
Her test is in two days. He’s taught her to drive stick shift, showing her how to feel for the gears, how the car will let her know when it’s the right time to change. It’ll become natal. Something the body remembers. Like breathing.
‘I’ll be fine,’ she counters.
A bout of anxiety had been triggered in him a year previous. He’d bought a new engine for his motorbike. A tidy purchase which had turned out to be stolen from a second-hand dealership and posted up online. He glances down every time the police pass. Cheeks flare red.
‘I’m driving,’ he states.
‘No, you’re not.’
His hand begins to seize and shake in strange syncopation.
‘I’ll walk then,’ he says.
‘You can’t do that either.’
The first drops of rain arrive. They slide down the windows in fat orbs. The hospital is at least a thirty-minute walk away.
He crouches onto his knees. Pitches forward and presses his forehead against the cupboard door. The wood groans with him. The room starts to tilt.
She lays a hand on his shoulder. He fights the feeling to jolt her. ‘You’re not driving,’ he says, between a hiss. ‘It’s final.’
‘A taxi then?’
She pulls her phone from her back pocket.
She wraps his hand in a tea towel. Precious cargo. Together they slide into the backseat of the taxi. She explains the situation. The driver says they’ll go as fast as they can.
By the time they’re on the dual carriage way, the rain is running from the sky. Pummelling the ground. His blood hasn’t ceased to spill. There are tears in the edges of his eyes.
‘What happened?’ she asks, having forgotten to enquire. It’ll be the angle grinder. She knows it.
Before he has chance to reply the taxi hydroplanes. Skates. Floats. Spins.
‘Don’t fucking slam the – ’ he tries to tell the driver. But the brake is slapped to the floor.
As the central reservation veers into sight, she thinks not of impending death but of the birthmark between his eyebrows. The way it nudges from his face, proud and perfectly his. If only there were more time. She’d lean over and kiss it.
As the car collides with the long strip of metal, he thinks not of the afterlife but of the high-waisted jeans she wears. The way the stiff material slides over her hips, a calling from some kind of heaven. If only there were more time. If only he could feel his hand. He’d lean over and hold her.
Emily uses writing as an escape from reality and doesn’t drink enough water. She has had work published with Barren Magazine, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Storgy, The Molotov Cocktail and Retreat West to name a few. She can be found on Twitter at @emily__harrison