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Flash Fiction by Liz Wride


Maybe You Deserve This

You should have the flannelette. These bedsheets are cold, like the well-meaning words of acquaintances. Their condolences feel just like gossip that’s been re-arranged. They send you cards, because that’s what people do when things get really serious: put pen to paper. In lieu of the rosy-pink greetings filled with doodles of strollers, pacifiers, teddy bears - that should hang around the room like welcoming bunting – there are stark-white cards – lilies sketched in fine-lines.


Maybe you deserve this.


There is no special alphabet for remorse: no circumflex that will turn words into something winged and hopeful, to change the here and now.


You take these folded paper creations into your arms, like offerings to an unseen god and bundle them into the other room – the room where nobody likes to go. The décor was meant to be transcendental – the juxtaposition of the grey clouds and the lemon-yellow suns – to show the tiny occupant that there are good and bad days. Now, you are certain the wallpaper has turned permanently cumulonimbus.


You had wanted rainbows, very briefly, when you were ready to burst like an over-ripe fruit. You know now, you should have painted them from bright tester pots. They reminded you so much of a lifetime ago, when you had rainbows; very, very briefly.


These bands of colour came from the stationery cupboard: stationery with an ‘e’ – stationery like highlighters and sticky notes that brightened up the afternoon hours that seem to drag. Things were stationary with an ‘a’ – stationary like your job prospects - when he appeared in the stationery cupboard with an ‘e’.


It’s a panic room, you tell him, when he comes in, looking for an envelope or some other outdated method of communication.


A place where people come to panic?

He asks. His eyes laugh before his mouth does and this is why you ignore the weighted-gold on his left hand as he reaches passed you for more envelopes. They are essential stationery items in the modern age. People ignore emails. When you put pen to paper, that’s when things get serious.


You seem to speak your own language, you and him in the stationery cupboard. The alphabet you created was a sort of candy that rolled around your tongues, consonants that weaves around your shared interests. He’s the only one that really appreciates that obscure-but-popular-thing that you’re obsessed with, and you can’t believe you’ve finally found someone to share it with.


You recall, as he lifts you, that he referred to his wife as ‘heavy’. You feel yourself paper-light and desired, as the prism of sticky-notes, cascades on to you like rain.


*


You never expected it – the two blue lines on the pregnancy test. This is the sort of thing that happens to other people. You go to the stationery cupboard – as alone as the first day you ever set foot in the place – you go there, because you remember it’s a panic room. You wonder how long it will be before you are referred to as ‘heavy’.


*


There is a conversation.

You tell him you wish you were both teenagers. You tell him you wish you’d met years ago. You tell him you wish the lines forming on his face could have been because of you. You wish he’d invited you into his poster-covered teenage bedroom, with him week-old sheets and piled-high CD collection. You wished you could stay in there with the curtains shut; the real world blocked out. You tell him you wish you could stay there forever, with your invented language; your shared interests rolling back and forth in the space between you.


He tells you his son is running a temperature.


You tell him.

You tell him.

You tell him.


*


In work there are sideways glances and the sense of an ending.


At home, a figure occupies the doorway. It is sudden and looming – he is there – a deflated balloon of a man – the sad clown, with a broken suitcase. You want the man from the stationery cupboard back; the man who told you jokes in your own secret language – although you fear he is dead forever, stuffed inside that suitcase.


You wonder if it will come to the important stationery – if him coming here now, means he intends to put pen to paper. If things are serious.


*


The wheels turn in motion in your life, as you feel the baby wriggle inside you. Things begin to pick up. You paint the downstairs walls grey and yellow – decorate the alcoves in patterned paper. For a while, your life feels like a diy store commercial. You feel as though light pours into the windows even on rainy days. Like a commercial actress, you find yourself able to pull great reserves of joy from some secret sunshine pool within yourself. You remember that he lifted you up. You remember that you were paper-light.


The wheels are no longer in motion.

The pools of sunshine suddenly dried up.


Five Months.

She would have felt that.


You do what you need to, to heal. You're not sure where this advice comes from. As you lie in the cold bed, on the cotton sheets, you think with great regret of the flannelette you should have bought. It makes you think of Christmases that never happened – children in fleece-footed onesies, tottering around, as ice-cold milk is left out for Santa.


You feel acutely now, your separation from the flannelette. You’d be so warm if you had it with you – but it’s stored downtown somewhere, in a room that is dark, where no-one will ever go.


Maybe you deserve this.




Liz Wride is a writer from Wales. Her short fiction has appeared in Okay Donkey Magazine, Milk Candy Review, She&Her Magazine, Mental Papercuts and others. She is the founding editor of a literary magazine inspired by Alice in Wonderland called: Flamingo Literary. Find her on twitter: @lizwride.

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