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I am not ready. I am not ready at all.

The director approaches, his face awash with jaded sympathy. He dips his head and utters a phrase that has been repeated a thousand times, like an Edison gramophone needle caught in a ball of dust. I concentrate on his mouth but the emitting sounds are a muted monotone, as are the words I say in response, the handshakes, the household chores, all of it. Grief has put me in a thick glass box, banished me from vibrant physics.

And yet my senses crackle, wanton and desperate. Seventeen years of familiar indulgences replaced with a loop of the shocking finale: scared eyes, a gargling fight for breath, remnants of warmth gently slipping. In our too-quiet home, nostrils tortured by the evaporating scent of her hair, which smelt, oddly, of cocoa powder, I foraged shamelessly for trinkets of life. I have become an addict, craving any small release from the throes of withdrawal.

Soon she will be reduced to cinereal ash and ground bone. An intricate collection of three trillion atoms poured into one pathetic fifteen centimetre container. The sticky taste of nausea rises in my mouth: why did I not absorb every tiny detail? Why did I not stretch each moment into individual eternities? Why did I not bottle her unique compassion, that adorable sing-song voice, the feel of her? Those things would sit far better on my mantelpiece.

I shuffle towards the furnace in my transparent cocoon. It lets nothing in, nothing out. There’s already too much in here. I should be holding a No Vacancies sign. Instead, I clasp a photo of my no more girl. It feels cold and flat.

My fingertips need her. A deep down itch: hot, red and impossible. I look at them. They convulse with missing.

Flash Fiction by Juliet Staveley
Picture: embers by goodmami under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Published in Spring 2017

One Comment

  1. Monique Boutot Monique Boutot

    If I had found the words to talk about my grief, they would have been these. Thank you to Juliet for finding them. For grabbing out of the air that collection of letters and words that make my own soul say “THIS is IT!”

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