1st Place in the spring 2019 TSS Flash Fiction 400 competition

 

Your moon face in the box is the realest unreal thing that I have ever seen. Cheeks stamped pink. Bones bolted back together. In a dress you could only ever be seen dead in. I lean over for a closer look, hold onto the oak-lined edges and let my insides make new shapes.

‘Let’s go,’ you said, before the start of the three-legged race. We ducked past the prefects and walked to the gallery that looks like a factory. You wanted to see the sculpture of the man-eating snake but it wasn’t there. We sat in a room full of paintings of skyscraper women all flecked with gold. You dared me to kiss the one with pink lips and orange hair. I shook my head. You smiled like a clown with a pickaxe, drew a red ring around your mouth. Then your lips were on her lips and my ears popped. A man in black screamed. A woman too. You dragged me out and over the wonky bridge and we ran until our cheeks burst vessels. You said the skyscraper woman tasted like wet leaves and chemistry. I pushed you against a wall and put my lips on yours. You tasted like big white flowers full of sun.

Pop.

Pop.

Pop.

I went away to learn things and when I came back you were gone. You didn’t like the noises phones made so we wrote letters. I fell in love with a fat electrician. He asked about you. What you were like. The colour of your hair. The colour of your eyes. As if those were the things that mattered. I said you were the hiss of an orange. The open-eyed sting of the white-tiled underwater blue. I said you were made of gold.

You stayed away. Low to the ground, moving quickly, turning across the world.

After they pulled the baby out of me you sent a card – ‘To my favourite maker of death’ – and I split my stitches. Pop, pop, pop.

My phone rang in the dark. Too early. Too late.
‘Committed,’ they said. Died by, I thought.
‘Jumped,’ they said. Dove, I thought.
Burst vessels.

Moon face, cold against my cheek. You taste like wet leaves and chemistry. Skyscraper woman, broken apart against the rocks. The hiss and sting of you wedged forever in me. Your lips the reddest red that I have ever seen.

***

Emma Hutton is an Irish writer based in London. She was placed third in The Cambridge Short Story Prize 2018, received a special mention in the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2018/19, was highly commended in the London Short Story Prize 2018 and a runner-up in the 2018 The Seán Ó Faoláin International Short Story Competition. She is working on her first short story collection.

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