I counted the chimes. They reverberated down the hall, through the door, across the room, into my skull. At thirteen I stopped, but the clock continued to gong.
She sprinkled my pillowcases with lavender water. It grew outside the back door – a twilight hedge, cascading to the gravel path. She dried it in bunches near the stove and then steeped the buds. Strained, puce water diluted with vodka, funnelled into a bottle. ‘To chase away bad dreams,’ she said. Later, the scent made me gag.
After sunny summers, we harvested apples. Deformed specimens separated from the unblemished, peeled, and chopped into a pot. I stirred, watched the pieces meld into a beige mass. ‘Nothing as sweet as sauce made from them fresh picked,’ he said. In each spoonful I tasted her bitterness.
When she came into my room, I kept my eyes closed like bedroom doors and breathed like a Lotus-eater. Then, only then, she would smooth my hair and stroke my cheek. Her fingers the spring rain that fed my desert. She leaned close to one ear. ‘Stay safe, my angel. Untouched fruit doesn’t spoil.’
The morning after, he offered a solace bouquet of wildflowers and garden herbs. A cluster of pink and purple, echoing my skin beneath skirt layers. I ran to the river, dropped them stem-by-stem into the churning flow, and watched them disappear.
MARIE GETHINS’ work has featured in The Irish Times, 2014/15/16 National Flash Fiction Day Anthologies, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, NANO, Litro, The Lonely Crowd, Wales Arts Review, The Incubator, Firewords Quarterly, and others. She won or placed in the British Screenwriters’ Awards, The Short Story, Tethered by Letters, Flash500, Domineer, Kanturk Arts, The New Writer, Prick of the Spindle and 99fiction.net. A Frank O’Connor Mentorship recipient under Zsuzsi Gartner, Marie also is a Pushcart and Best of the Short Fictions Nominee. She lives in Cork, Ireland and is completing her Master of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.