Agape by Fiona J. Mackintosh

Agape

Fiona J. Mackintosh

 

As we set off for Piraeus, the handsome cab driver folds his yellow cardigan neatly over the back of the passenger seat and taps his wedding ring to show us he’s doing it to please his wife. I nod and smile and glance at you, but you’re turned away, looking up at the shabby concrete

buildings, bristling with television aerials and dipping lines of laundry.

We have to stop just beyond the Plaka for a funeral procession. People carry wreaths on the end of long poles, dropping petals on the asphalt, and the driver catches my eye in the mirror. ‘Minister of Finance. Big guy.’ Through the open window, the sky’s a bedsheet of white scored
with ancient columns, and I breathe in petrol fumes and ancient dust and watch the police hold hands to keep the crowd at bay.

There’s a long delay at Piraeus. As the sun slowly sinks over the tangle of the city and the scrubby hills beyond, we follow other passengers onto another ferry, only to see the first one leave before ours, and I hear a woman laugh, ‘I guess we’re on Greek time now.’ For five hours
at sea on the windy deck, we sit apart in silence, wrapped in all the clothes we have. It’s too dark to read so I watch the moon trail on the ship’s wake and strain above the engine’s noise to hear the creak and splash of oars as the triremes of Athens keep pace beside us.

At midnight the ferry groans into Parikia, and the hotels flare into life like streetwalkers on the watch for sailors. They fire up again in the early hours to greet another ship, flooding our room with sudden light, and I see your back’s turned against me in the narrow bed, the sheets
thrashed around your legs.

Morning unfurls into sunshine, a dazzle of whitewash and Cyclades blue. Breakfast in the hotel café is hot chocolate dipped with almond bread, the tang of honeysuckle so strong it seeps in through the closed windows. Outside, the meltemi is sharp despite the sun, and I’m glad of my sweater. We walk through the crooked streets, past paint pots bursting with white geraniums, and, by a church with a red slate roof and a lemon tree hung with bells, we pause to watch the feral cats slumbering on the hot stones and you reach out at last and take my hand.

 

About the author: Fiona J. Mackintosh is a British-American writer living near Washington D.C. She won the 2018 Fish Flash Fiction Prize and the 2018 UK National Flash Fiction Day Micro Competition, and her flashes have twice been nominated for The Best Small Fictions. Her short stories have been listed for the Bristol, Galley Beggar, and Exeter Short Story Prizes, and she was honored to receive a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist’s Award in 2016.

 

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Friday in the Firelight by Sally Zigmond

Friday in the Firelight

Sally Zigmond

 

Friday nights began with the sting of Vosene, tears in my eyes and Mum yelling at me as she dragged the comb through my wet tangles. Dad would shout over his newspaper. “Calm down. I’ll do it later when you’re off with Tony Twist.”

“Mr Twiss, as you well know, is teaching me proper ballroom dancing. You refused to come with me.”

“I prefer the Jitterbug myself,” laughed Dad. “None of this foxtrot fandango,” and put Twisting the Night Away on the Dansette. She’d flounce off slamming the door behind her. Dad and I twisted until we both fell over in a tangled heap of giggles. Then it was fish and chips in front of the fire and his funny war stories at which Mum always rolled her eyes, but I loved. As the firelight dwindled to a warm glow, Dad gently combed my hair into molten gold.

Mum waltzed off with Mr Twiss six months later. Dad and I stayed together until his mind tripped the light fandango. I wash his hair now with “No More Tears” shampoo. We laugh until we cry.

 

About the author: Sally Zigmond rediscovered her love of writing fiction in her 40s. She lives in North Yorkshire where she writes flash fictions while she’s redrafting her current novel.

She Called It ‘Mauve’ by Jeanette Everson

She Called It ‘Mauve’

Jeanette Everson

 

My grandmother wore old age as shades of purple. The flowers I put on her grave shrivel and die, yet with every plum I shine on my sleeve, the Merlot that swills in my glass, the amethyst flash of my mother’s rings, I see my grandmother’s layered purple skirts. In the bruise of my shin from the horsefly bites and the iridescent varnish on my fingernails as I scratch at the pain, I feel her touch. In my garden, lavender fragrance mingles with chive pompoms to conjure her ghost. Remember me, she says, in the folds of my daughter’s curtains and the stripes of my favourite shirt; remember me.

I wait behind an elderly woman in the supermarket queue, the basket heavy in her hands. Meals for one. Soft food, easy to chew. Budget purchases, weighed against the price of a pension, laid softly into her wheeled bag after the coins from her purse are carefully counted by her violet-veined hands. The cashier fidgets while the woman who is not my grandmother fumbles with the fastenings. I abandon my basket without apology, to hurry after that mauve scarf, those faltering footsteps, to help her to her car; I remember.

 

About the author: Jeanette was first published in Horse and Pony magazine at the age of ten. She’s striving to achieve equal accolade now she’s (allegedly) a grown up, and has a couple of flash fiction contest wins lying around somewhere. Jeanette runs her ceramics business from her home in rural Ireland, which she shares with her husband, her children, a steady stream of visitors from overseas, and far too many animals. She quite likes to shut the door on them all and write.

The Dare by Helen Chambers

The Dare

Helen Chambers

 

‘I dare you,’ he said.

She peeled off her clothes, folded them neatly. Water flowed in widening circles as she stepped into the pool from the flat rocks, flexed away in one fluid movement, her body green-flecked beneath the unsettled surface. Tendrils of damp hair frizzed and curled like pondweed.

‘Now you,’ she said.

Breathing hard, he yanked down his shorts, floundering, splashing and gasping as the cold scorched his skin. He lurched to her, grabbed her wrists and tried to kiss her.

She flicked away. ‘Don’t. You’re hurting,’ she snapped.

‘I can’t help myself.’

‘Let go, or I’ll bite!’ she spat.

He laughed.

She frowned. Muscles clenching, contracting into themselves, her limbs flattened and shrank. Her skin thickened like armour. Power flowed through her, and her scaly tail flicked. His laugh faltered as she widened her jaw, incisors gleaming. He jumped, but she was upon him, sinking teeth into his arm.

While his blood muddied the water, she submerged, holding him fast, rolling around his flapping body in a lugubrious twist. Finally, she released his floppy torso and crawled out, basking in the pine-scented air until she felt herself again. She dressed and left the forest without looking back.

 

About the author: Helen Chambers enjoys writing flash and short fiction, walking, and taking part in Open Air Shakespeare productions. She won the Fish Short Story Competition 2018, the Felixstowe Short Story Prize in 2016, and the Hysteria Flash Fiction Prize in 2014, as well as reaching other short and long lists for her work. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Essex and blogs at wivenhoewritersblogspot.com

It Starts Here by Dave Murray

It Starts Here

Dave Murray

He believed the world would stop spinning when she walked away. She wanted to press her hand to the globe until the friction set her fingers on fire. He watched the earth burn in fiery sunsets and raging dawns. She sang to the icy rain until it doused the fire within.

He picked up a knife, spread his fingers wide in a fan and stabbed each gap, willing himself to draw blood but scared of the piercing pain. She dragged her fingers along narrow alleys feeling the reassuring heat of the friction, grimacing every time her skin punctured open, tiny traces of coagulated blood scarring the surface like breadcrumbs to mark her path.

She knew she would never return this way.

They sat on opposite mountain tops where the air is thin, setting fire to love letters until the flames burnt their fingers, watching the smoke ripple and rise in the air. ‘Look what you’ve made me do,’ they sang to each other. ‘Look what you’ve made me do.’

 

About the author: Dave Murray writes flash fiction, poetry and plays based on the world he hears on the streets of the city, the trains he regularly takes, and the social, environmental and scientific issues he hears in the media. He has had short plays performed in Manchester and London, braved open mic in Manchester, Macclesfield and Reading, and has several pieces of poetry and flash fiction published.

 

Unforgettable by David Wiseman

Unforgettable

David Wiseman

She is not black. She is chocolate that slides from Bournville to Dairy Milk and back again according to the light and the heat and the particular swell of skin she shows you. She is pink, sumptuous pink, with a tongue that teases and licks from behind pearl-white teeth she’s stolen from the poster at my dentist. She is blue, luminescent blue, shimmering in her hair as it cascades round her shoulders, down her back, across my face.

She is not asleep, although she may dream behind closed eyes. Her arm grows heavy across my chest and the urge to move cannot be resisted for long. We are of the moment, without past and with future uncertain. Tomorrow is agreed, tomorrow is our horizon, until there is no tomorrow. Then we’ll slip into each other’s pasts, vivid at first, for one of us vivid and raw too. For the other the colour will fade faster, a faint after-image on the retina, quickly overwritten by the brightness of a new day, the thrills of the new lover.

She will not be forgotten in a year. She will be a painful reminder of what might have been or she’ll bring a smile and a pause to recall a blissful affair. She will still be Rosemary, silky smooth, bright eyed, with a mane of black hair.

She will not be forgotten at thirty when I walk past the house and remember which bedroom we shared and the salt taste of her sweat. The thought will shock me and I’ll wince when I realise I have the wrong house, they all look the same and really it was the next road along. She’ll still be Rosie, the beautiful girl who imagined strange worlds, and I’ll wonder if she did drugs and I hadn’t realised.

She will not be forgotten when I’m forty or fifty and have children of my own. I’ll look at them slyly and see how they stand, see how they smile and wonder what they’d be like if Rosie had born them.

She’ll not be forgotten when I’m sixty and seventy. I’ll talk to a friend I haven’t met yet and we’ll share past glories with an amber swirl in our cut-glass tumblers. It’ll take a moment to remember, were we lovers? Of course we were lovers, and what lovers we were, but the taste of her skin will elude me. Was she Roxie or Roz? I’ll settle for Roxie, more exotic to fit into a story, and by then who’ll care if it’s right or wrong?

She’ll be almost forgotten when I dream my last dreams. I’ll call her to me one last time – if anyone should hear they’ll think it’s the drugs or a spasm of pain. I’ll long for the kiss, the touch of her hand, but I’ll struggle for a name, any name, to put to her face.

About the author: David Wiseman lived in the UK until 2011 but is now a resident of British Columbia, Canada. He writes long and short fiction, is an occasional blogger, and enjoys maps, photography, travel and reading.

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