Skip to content →

Author: Deborah Riccio


She’s been here for so long, that when she moves her legs, her knees burn sore from having been pressed so hard into the eiderdown. Movement makes the mattress springs squeak and she pulls woollen sleeves over her hands. She rests her arms back on the sill, her forehead against the window, breath misting the pane. She blinks, her eyelids tight and dry from having stared so earnestly down into the dark of the street, from her pupils flicking up and diagonally across the navy sky at the drifting dance of snowfall.

The flakes obscure her vision; she needs to see to the end of the street. She has to. If she turns away for one moment—blinks for too long—then the spell will break and she’ll be alone forever in this stone-cold, snow-white world with fathers who don’t speak and brothers who don’t care.

People—families—don’t fall out at Christmas. There are presents under the silver angel-haired tree in their front room. The Salvation Army are playing on the corner near the phone box and usually she’s in Peter’s bedroom watching them with an excited, fluttery heart and a dream that Christmas might come every day.

She hadn’t meant to burn the toast. She’d been distracted. She was meant to be watching it while her mother saw to Peter, but lured by the sound of the tuba tuning up and the first flurry of flakes at the kitchen window, she’d abandoned her post. Her mother had flown into a fury; yelled, raged, yanked the tray from the grill and thrown it crashing to the floor, screaming.

She’d cried that she couldn’t take it anymore; that they would be the death of her; their father had no idea what she had to put up with when he wasn’t here. Then she’d stormed out of the house in her slippers.

Leaving Peter, she’d raced to her room where she watched her mother—still wearing her apron—stride up the street; the star of the show at each lamppost she passed. Now she sees every footprint she’s made disappearing into downy white as though it was never there.

Flash Fiction by Deborah Riccio
Picture: Burn! by Maik Meid under CC BY-SA 2.0


He came into her office without even knocking; just slapped his palm to the frame after barging his way past the other juniors returning from lunch. She sensed rage pulsing like heat from his rigid body on the other side of her desk.

She didn’t look up, noting that the digits on her screen clock said she had one minute remaining of her own. She held up a hand asking him to wait. Sixty seconds.

Of course, he hadn’t. Waited. He was one of those hotheads fresh from a disappointing 2:2 and he’d got to have his say. Right now. She’d wished she’d had more time to fully appraise both their positions, but, well—he was here now. And he was already launching his first missile: workers’ rights.

She had to get the last paragraph right on this e-mail; to get it out of the way; wanted to finish and click ‘Send’ but needed to word it differently. She couldn’t do it with him hovering above her. He was well into zero-hour contracts now. She clicked ‘Undo’, watching the lines fall like dropped stitches from her screen. She’d return to it after he’d left. She raised her head to face the onslaught.

But he’d gone. More than gone; there was no evidence of his ever having been there. Outside, the hum of the office was the same as before, and some of the workers were returning from their lunch hours. Again.

She checked her email on the screen. She’d got to the last paragraph, wanted to get it out of the way, but needed to word it slightly differently, when there was a thump of palm against doorframe and angry footsteps banging towards her desk. She hadn’t looked up.

He came into her office without even knocking.

Flash Fiction by Deborah Riccio
Leave a Comment

Different Days Ahead

Yesterday I’d woken up minus the usual head-fug I get when I’ve taken a tablet to help me sleep the night before. I hadn’t felt energetic but I didn’t feel sluggish; as though I could turn over and spend another hour—sometimes three more—in bed.

I didn’t shower either; looked in the mirror and decided I’d pile my hair up; just get on with it and spent the first two hours of my morning under the bed pulling out ten years of detritus. Three bags: bin, charity, wash. Half-eaten rodents the cat discarded went into the first.

The gold-sequinned, impossibly delicately-embroidered shoes I wore on our wedding day went in the second. As did the vanilla-coloured suspender belt and deep-lace bordered stockings; forced to the end of the bag as if they’d been stolen. I might have sworn.

Gifts we’d opened and never used; picture frames with the his ‘n’ hers embellished rings we’d mocked; ornaments of entwined couples left in their boxes; a programme for My Fair Lady; the receipt from our honeymoon.

Once it was all out and sorted, I hoovered blind; stuck the nozzle right under the bed and let it suck up whatever it came into contact with; wouldn’t have cared if it’d been fivers; tenners; fifties. Dispose of it; delete it. Leave no trace.

Once upon a time, I’d have felt productively exhausted; I’d have kept bending down and staring from one side of the bed to the other with the satisfaction of nothing obscuring the view. Instead, I’d stripped and showered. Got clean. Erased the dirt; the sights I’d seen, the things I’d touched.

These days he doesn’t call me baby. He uses my real name. I can’t get used to it. We share the same rooms but move fractionally further from each other’s personal space than other couples might. We don’t meet each other’s eyes. Yesterday he didn’t say I smelled shower-fresh; didn’t comment on the tasks I’d undertaken; didn’t even enquire after my day.

Today I feel different. Less able. More delicate; quick to tears and closer to pain.

Perhaps yesterday was as good a day as they’ll be for now.

Flash Fiction by Deborah Riccio
Picture: Bridal Couple by Jean L. under CC BY 2.0
Leave a Comment