He’s left an ear on the kitchen table again – not funny the first time, not funny now. Eleanor tries to ignore it, clears plates, wishing this was a Greek restaurant, clenches her fists, imagining a muscled opponent, breathes deeply and exhales long, then drops her shoulders. She reaches for the ear, knowing it will simply vanish at her touch.
On the school run he’s on her case, second guessing every road, every turn, every manoeuvre. She grips the steering wheel, a stretched smile greeting each inanity from the children she wishes she could still lull with love.
He’s at home when she gets back, stretched out on the couch he insisted they buy, although they couldn’t afford it, although it was white and impractical, although she can’t get the stains out after what he did. He’s barefoot, his high-polished shoes dropped to the floor, his socks balled next to them. Neat. She should take the couch to the dump, but there’s something about it that gives her comfort.
He’s smiling. Always smiling. His hair is so much longer, and it suits him. She hates that it suits him. But those clothes. Why did she choose that outfit? He only ever wore it once, to his father’s wedding – a wedding he didn’t want to attend, but she insisted it was the right thing to do because his father couldn’t help loving again. His mother’s departure, though he was the one who found her hanging there, shouldn’t dictate his father’s happiness.
Eleanor was all about appearances in those days. Always has been, if she’s honest. She wonders if anyone would care if she found love again? Would he?
She seldom speaks to him, hates to give him the satisfaction, but sometimes she needs peace. “Could you not? Please? Not today. Just give me one day.”
He nods, gets up, puts on his socks and shoes, pushes his hair back from his face and blows her a kiss as he disappears.
She lies down, craving warmth from where his body lay, but all he’s left behind is that chill of grey that more than matters. And a heart, balanced on the arm rest, still beating.
Karen Jones is a flash and short story writer from Glasgow, Scotland. She is a perennial long/short-lister – Commonwealth Short Story Competition, Bath Flash Fiction, Bath Short Story, To Hull and Back, TSS 400, HISSAC etc. – and has won prizes with Mslexia, Flash 500, Words With Jam, Ink Tears, Ad Hoc Fiction and Retreat West. Her work is published in numerous ezines, magazines and anthologies. Her story Small Mercies was nominated for, Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, a Pushcart Prize, and is included in Best Small Fictions 2019 and the BIFFY50 2019. Her novella-in-flash When It’s Not Called Making Love is published by Ad Hoc Fiction. She is Special Features Editor at New Flash Fiction Review
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