by Anne Howkins
He smashes the bottle when she tells him. Ignores her leave it, you’ll cut yourself. Doesn’t see the shard, guillotine-angled in the sand. His screech sounds like seagulls keening for chips. A fountain of sweet iron gushes onto her sea salty arms.
Her scarf a hurried tourniquet round his arm, she shoulders the weeping heft of him to the car. Leaves the picnic and shattered glass for the gulls and the sea.
Cerulean blue the bottle was – the colour of her eyes, he tells the nurse. Souvenir from their first date.
She leaves early the next morning, before he can shackle her with his bloody arm.
He goes to church. To stark whiteness, high on a cliff, glowing like a lighthouse for the damned. Not here for god, songs of praise or confession. His scumbled secrets are tight wrapped. The priest tries, offers a shoulder, an uncritical ear. There are days when he spills self-pity and regret without repentance. Other days when his lips are mussel-shell tight.
But the light.
Glorious, splitting the light into waves warming his flesh. A flock of weightless birds of paradise lifting him away from his misery. He is heavy, opaque until the light waltzes him through the cool damp air, until the taste of her, cool salt, is on his lips.
She has a dinner invitation. The man is kind, easy company, tells her she deserves fine things. Takes her to a subdued, expensive restaurant atop a glass building she can’t look at without shivering. They sit on the terrace overlooking the city, a glittering ocean punctuated with sharp edges. He says her eyes shine like sapphires when they clink champagne flutes.
While they eat, she fingers lead crystal, wonders why the cuts set the glass alight. Allows her nails to glide into perfectly symmetrical crevices. His eyes widen as she licks a drop of ferrous Shiraz from her lips- he resists the lusty kick in his gut, knows he must take his time.
Alone in her flat, she practices intricate diamond patterns on her arm with a biro, scrubs them off in the shower before she finds something sharper than a pen.
She thinks this man is too easy, too safe. A man who didn’t keep a souvenir from their first date.
He dreams of broken bottles and the sea.
He is tumbling, tumbling, tumbling.
Ground by rocks and rusted iron carcases of sunken ships, until the sharp edges are gone. Buffed to a milky sheen by the velvet bladderwrack. Washed ashore on sparkling white horses.He haunts the sand, forages in the high tide debris, sifting through the Atlantic’s offerings. Waits for azure pebbles to shine out from the sizzling spume.
Azure pebbles to thread on a bracelet lure, ready to snag her perfect blue-veined wrist.
This story was a runner-up in the GLASS Themed Flash Competition 2020.
About the author: Anne started writing flash fiction in 2019 and relishes the challenge of writing very short stories. Her stories have appeared in print and online, most recently at Retreat West, Flash 500, Reflex Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, National Flash Fiction Day, Lunate, Strands International and Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2020.