And when I shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night [...]
—Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
If they hadn’t met, she said, and got together so young, they wouldn’t be in this situation. Coffee shop, clanking of crockery, rippling voices. Saturday morning. And she was saying that it wasn’t that she didn’t love him, but that she wished she could go back and live those years.
That I took from you, he said.
She looked up at the ceiling as though he’d upset her, but he knew.
A waiter arrived and was held in orbit by their silence, pen poised. She kept her eyes to the ceiling so he waved the waiter away. He wanted something to do, so he tore a sugar sachet and sprinkled the pieces into his coffee dregs.
He thought, now that I have split you, what do I call you? You aren’t a sugar sachet anymore. Do you all have new names? No. The best I can do is define you by what you were.
He’s brought back by the tinkle of spoon on cup. She’s stirring her tea, staring into it. As if she hoped to divine some future from within it.
That day, despite it all, they spent almost all of their time together. When they sat in the park, he even took her hand — warm at the palm, cold at the fingertips — and she let him, for a while.
And that night she got into bed with him. He did not have to lie alone and listen to the thud and creak of her struggling with the pull-out in the living room. She said, Well, goodnight, but there was something colouring her words, rendering them fresh in new dimensions.
And as she slept, he imagined. If he could give her all of the lives she wanted, he would. Of course he would. This is what love is and what love does to thing. How he would take her — gently, oh so gently — and he would cut her out into all these little lives. And all those little lives would float away like spiderlings on the breeze, but one would remain with him. All the other lives would float out to the crisp night, to where? Anywhere. He would keep only a small fragment of her for himself.
He watched her sleep, her body ticking nature’s rhythms. Rise, fall. Every breath a moment. He’d let all of her float away, keening on the breeze.
If he could just keep a little for himself.
I'm currently challenging myself to write a piece of flash fiction a day, using prompts from John Gillard's The Very Short Story.
This piece was inspired by the following prompt: