When Juniper Burns by Michelle Matheson

She was sophisticated in a way we could only hope to mimic.  Cigarette smoke hanging languid around her.

We on the other hand, had to hide our cigarettes from our mother hen mum’s.

Her laughing duplicity made us feel alive.

She went to clubs where she drank gin as though she was born with a cocktail glass in hand.  We followed, sneaking out behind the backs of over protective parents.  Laughing, we drank illicit G&T’s.

We copied her every move.  Watching as she painted her lips ruby red, using her index finger to apply the colour.  We stood in front of our bedroom mirrors practicing her nonchalance.  Throwing our heads back to laugh gaily and smile knowingly.

We sighed huffily when called down for dinner.

We watched open mouthed when she danced.  Following her moves but never quite managing to let go of our inhibition.  Her dress emphasized the seductive curves of her body in a way ours never did.  And when she left the club with one of a long line of boys, we watched.  Half in awe, half relieved it wasn’t us.

And in the dark, we couldn’t know that she allowed those nameless boys to push her back against the seat.  To smooth their hands up her thighs beneath her fringed dress.  We couldn’t see that she always smiled and gripped their shoulders and let sighs she did not feel escape her lips.

We went home to someone watching the clock and sighing in relief as we closed the door.

She returned to a house that was never lit.  Where no one watched the clock or listened for her footfall. No one asked about her night as she removed her makeup. Alone she stared into the eyes of a girl she didn’t know and let the juniper burn her whole.


Michelle lives in Auckland NZ. She mostly writes flash and has been long listed in the Bath Flash Fiction competion, Reflex Flash Fiction and TSS Flash Fiction. Her work has appeared in Headland, The Cabinet of Heed, Flash-Frontiers.

Image: unsplash.com