A mid-morning light splinters through the blinds, illuminating the now familiar wrinkles on the backs of your hands. You caress your short, unpainted nails and remember long pinks and reds. A cut-glass vase of tulips shed yellow petals at your feet. You move them in slow circles with the tip of your toe like constellations.
“Seven letter word. Trace or remnant.”
Simon reclines in his well-worn leather chair, staring at the crossword.
“Vestige,” you reply, never lifting your eyes from your month old copy of Women’s Health.
Simon emits a self-satisfied grunt before clicking his pen, filling empty spaces. When you were young you made love on the kitchen floor, on the backseat of his car, in stolen, private moments. His hand would find you in the darkness and you’d surrender. You hadn’t yet learned to fear the silence.
Like dark, subterranean roots, they penetrate and compromise the foundations. Small fissures that spread and eventually take the whole building down. Dinner parties where you barely speak. The television as a surrogate for conversation. Cold sheets where he used to lie.
“Nocturnal mammal. Six letters.”
As your eyes close you’re flooded with sharp flashes of the night before. Her supple tongue teasing your flesh, the wayward curl of her thick pubic hair, the delicate arch of her back as she moans. Your pulse races as you revel in the warm reminiscence of her touch, the visceral response of your bodies entwined. A hungry tangle of lips and hair and desire. She whispers in your ear; says the words you never had the courage to. You wonder how she makes it sound so simple.
You try to remember the last time he touched you.
You want to put your hand on his. You wonder if the tips of his fingers are still as soft. You picture the soft bend of his elbow, the roundness of his shoulders, the strip of black wires that extend suggestively below his navel. You gaze over at him, but he’s already vanished. A phantom limb. You close your eyes as tendrils of steam rise from your coffee cup, escaping.
Charles Prelle is a writer and playwright based in London, UK. His plays include A Close Personal Advisor To…, The Rabbit Hole, The Whisper Network and All That’s Left which have been staged at the Bread & Roses Theatre, the Old Red Lion and the Chapel Playhouse. Charles is also a writer of short fiction, with work upcoming in Storgy and published in The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine and Reflex Press. He’s been longlisted in Flash 500 and Reflex Fiction.