Skimmed Milk by Emily Harrison

She’s been crying since dawn. The girl Lennie’s man has knocked-up and discarded at Lennie’s front door.

If Lennie had a barb wire mouth, she might say it’s embarrassing. All the crying. Instead, she’s given the girl a box of tissues and told her to take a seat. 

Lennie is surprised about the situation in a way that disappoints her. Her man rubs himself over women like a fox in dog shit. She should have seen this coming. 

*

“How’s the lass?” Jean asks, through the whip of sea air. 

It’s four weeks later. The baby is due soon.

Lennie has called Jean every night, cord curled around her fingers to cut off blood supply. Jean is Lennie’s closet friend.

“Keeps saying she might run away.”

Below them the sea front is boys. Their baggy clothes make them look like bare-necked turkeys. They tramp along the promenade. 

“Can’t be easy,” Jean replies. 

Lennie has let the girl stay. She’s just seventeen.

If Lennie had a tar heart, she might have told the girl to ‘sling her hook.’ But Lennie had a daughter of her own. 

“Called her dad again.” Lennie stubs out her cigarette. Heel twist. Tarmac crunch. “He said she can only come home if she gets rid of the baby.”

Lennie doesn’t mention that the lass threatened to take her life. That she told her dad (and Lennie, since she was eavesdropping) she would jump from the heavens of the cliffs. 

It’s too close to home. 

“Forcing her to have an abortion this late on.” Jean sniffs. “Could you even?”

With boots too big for him, one of the boys on the promenade swings his leg up goose-step high and kicks a pigeon along the path.

“I know,” Lennie says. A cheer rings out. Lennie can see a severed head. Guts on the concrete. “Horrible bastard.” 

*

“You won’t do it?” Lennie asks. 

The girl is fused to the sofa, sad as skimmed milk.

“Do it?”

“What you told your dad the last time he called. Jump.”

She’s threatened it twice more since. 

The girl says she won’t. Not really. She thinks Lennie’s man will come back and this will all be solved.

If Lennie was a saint, she might hold back from saying that her man is long gone, and even if he isn’t, the girl won’t get anything from him. 

He is disappointment made flesh. 

“You don’t know that,” the girl says.

“I think I do.”

*

The girl goes into labour in the dark lull after midnight. Ambulance called. Delivery slow. 

If Lennie had dust for a spine, she might have crumbled under the cut of it all. The girl and the baby and her man gone missing. 

Instead, she pulls her daughter’s clothes from the loft – the miniature knitted boots, the little blue leggings – and brings them to the hospital. 

 

This story won first prize in the Amok themed quarterly flash fiction competition

About the author: Emily Harrison has spent the past two years studying for a Creative Writing MA and now she’s not sure she has any creativity left. She has had work published with X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Barren Magazine, STORGY Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, Litro, Tiny Molecules and Gone Lawn to name a few.