I dream about the house party again. Outside a tree falls and it’s black as space. The power goes. We are two satellites colliding in the sky. Pieces set ablaze rain down on Earth.
We talk into the night – the last to leave. Stalling to avoid reality. Then, outside, holding hands until your taxi comes. Clasping fingers in the dark. The cold swell of your wedding ring.
I watch the taxi carry you away. Sometimes I run. Sometimes the taxi stops and you appear. There are no streetlights overhead, no stars. Nothing exists in space but you and me.
Then other times the tree withstands, the lights remain. Our orbits never wander off their course. We never even learn each other’s names.
And everything is easier that way.
* * *
George Nevgodovskyy was born in Kiev, Ukraine, but has lived in Vancouver, Canada for most of his life. He has previously been published in East of the Web, Rejection Letters, Literally Stories, Fairlight Books, and others. He does his best writing after everyone else has gone to sleep. Check out his work at georgenev.blogspot.com.
As he caresses the guitar, making music as only he can, her jealousy ignites. The way he cradles the old instrument, strokes its taught strings, harmonizes with its chords, sears. She wishes he still embraced her with such passion, such adoration, but with her, he is all dissonance and discord.
* * *
Wendy K. Mages, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is a storyteller, educator, and researcher who earned a doctorate in Human Development and Psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a master’s in Theatre at Northwestern University. As a Professor at Mercy College, she researches the effect of the arts on learning and development. To complement her research, she performs original stories at storytelling events and festivals in the US and abroad. Please visit https://www.mercy.edu/directory/wendy-mages to learn more about her and her work and to find links to her published stories and poetry.
All Lena wanted was to be left alone for a little while. Don’t get her wrong, she loved people. Lena was a wonderful daughter who took great care of her parents. She loved her husband and her very own beautiful daughters. She was an inspiring teacher who loved her fourth-grade class.
But her life was busy as could be, and recently, Lena was feeling greatly worn down. She found her smile had drifted and dwindled along with her energy. Her days began to grow dreary, unending. She simply needed some damn peace. All Lena wanted was to be alone.
So how did it occur then, that Lena ended up all alone? Here in this very room?
Why is it now that Lena no longer wants peace? Why could it be that she no longer wishes to be alone? Why could it be that all Lena wants is… anyone?
* * *
Baylee Marion writes things she shouldn’t in her favorite city, accompanied by her partner in crime. After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Industries from Toronto Metropolitan University, she published non-fiction articles in Ottawa Life Magazine, photographs in PhotoVogue, and is now enveloped in fiction writing.
As the screams drew nearer, Clara halted washing dishes, dried her trembling hands on her apron, then stood to face the door of her living quarters with a deep inhale. A minute later, Mrs. Probst burst into the room with her two-year-old daughter, Rosie, flung over her shoulder, kicking and squawking up a storm.
“Take her! Now! Evil, vile little creature! Useless, insolent burden–” Mrs. Probst screeched as she plucked the child from her body and thrust her into Clara’s ready, outstretched arms.
With Clara’s comforting sway and lullaby hum, the child relaxed, her screams dissipating into sniffles as she burrowed her face into the crook of Clara’s neck. Mrs. Probst left without a backwards glance, muttering insults and complaints as she returned upstairs to compose herself for another social visit.
Clara had been hired as a maid by the Probsts back in their homeland, but that all changed once Mr. Probst lost most of his fortune at the betting table. In a rush, they’d packed and left for the New World, looking for opportunity. A fresh start.
Clara was given a choice, along with the other servants, whether she wanted to take the journey. The rest decided to stay, afraid of moving so far away from home. But Clara never had a home. Not really. Her parents died when she was very young and so she’d made her home in the homes of others, but never felt as if she belonged. She thought a new land would change that.
Only a few months after arriving, Mr. Probst fell ill and passed within days, leaving Clara and a pregnant Mrs. Probst to fend for themselves. They survived well enough on the money which remained, but it wasn’t enough for Mrs. Probst. She was used to opulence and comfort, and widowhood, and motherhood she’d discovered, wasn’t for her. Especially with a child who wouldn’t–or couldn’t–speak. Mrs. Probst hadn’t time for understanding, patience, and love. Those were placed upon Clara’s shoulders, along with all the household duties.
Clara didn’t mind, though.
She loved the child as her own, and the little girl loved her. They shared a kinship of the heart, ever since she first held the babe in her arms.
That made all the strife worth it.
And that’s why she remained.
One day, with Rosie napping in a cot downstairs, Clara went upstairs to dust. She stopped in her tracks, however, when she heard a woman in the next room speaking of children and changelings. Clara resisted eavesdropping, but she couldn’t help it once Rosie’s name was mentioned.
“Midsummer Eve,” the woman declared, “is the day to do it. Worked for the Averys. Just one night in the forest and by morning he’d changed back. Poof! Fixed! Nary a fit thrown again. It’s the fae, I tell you.”
To Clara’s horror, Mrs. Probst agreed wholeheartedly.
She wanted to object, but knew Mrs. Probst would not listen to reason. Worse, she might dismiss her employment and then the child would surely be doomed.
Clara could only wait and see if common sense prevailed.
Common sense did not prevail.
With the bonfires lit and the townsfolk gathering for Midsummer festivities, Clara discovered Rosie gone from her cot. She knew where the child would be, and so with a lantern in hand and a knapsack packed on her back, into the forest she went.
She searched for what seemed like an eternity; the shadows chasing her.
As the last rays of sunlight trickled from the sky, Clara finally found the tot nestled asleep against the twisted trunk of a juniper tree. She flew to her side and noticed a thick rope tied the girl’s hands around the tree’s trunk. Luckily, she’d expected this. Using a paring knife, she cut the girl free and lifted her into her arms. A note fell to the ground, but Clara didn’t notice as they fled the encroaching darkness.
Safely away from the woods, they stayed along the open, moonlit road path that led out of town to a city.
Screams and laughter taunted from the surrounding trees as they passed.
From city to city, town to town, they made temporary homes, with Clara taking odd jobs to sustain them. They never had much, but had each other, and that was all that mattered. They never stayed in one place long, afraid of being discovered. Rosie was never allowed outside alone and kept away from the woods at all times.
At seven years old, Rosie still couldn’t speak, but they didn’t need words to understand each other. Clara knew the child was growing unhappy with their constant moving and confinement. She needed friends and freedom. So, while Rosie stared longingly out a window, Clara thought of a way out.
Jungle wasn’t a forest, she concluded, and the fae probably couldn’t cross oceans. Perhaps they could be outsmarted.
And so they voyaged to a whole new land.
A tropical paradise would be their new home.
Forever, Clara hoped.
She thought she’d triumphed, watching Rosie play amongst the jungle’s flora, chasing butterflies. A year had passed, and all seemed well. Clara thought their new home could be permanent.
She was wrong.
On another fateful Midsummer Eve, a day which slipped Clara’s mind, Rosie vanished right in front of her eyes. One second, she was skipping ahead – the next she was gone.
“You were very difficult to find,” said a voice full of whispers, screams, singing, and laughter all together, all at once. It gave Clara chills, despite the tropical summer heat. She whipped around and saw an otherworldly creature standing there – a faerie, both beautiful and terrible – eyes glowing, long hair billowing around like fire, with shimmering, horned wings extending from its back.
“Where is she?” Clara demanded. “She’s no changeling! She isn’t yours! You can’t have her!”
“Oh, but I can. She was given to us as a trade, by blood. Not a changeling, true. But her mother’s note said if she isn’t, we may have her in exchange for a successful boy. She received her wish. Died in childbirth, but the boy will be successful,” the faerie said, narrowing her eyes. “You took something that doesn’t belong to you.”
“Rosie is my daughter, blood be damned. Take me in her place, if you must. She’s only a child!”
“A deal is a deal. No harm will come to her, if that is your worry,” the faerie said. “We never harm innocents.”
“But she must be terrified! Please, return her to me! I’ll give anything, all I have!” Clara fell to her knees in tears. “I’ll do anything! Does love count for nothing? Have you no heart?”
The faerie sighed.
“If you find the girl by sundown, and she agrees to return, you both may leave as you were. Human again. If you don’t, you’ll both remain the same. Deal?”
“And how would I find her? She’s disappeared!”
“Oh, she’s still here. Somewhere. In the jungle. Just… changed. You’ll see – or perhaps not.”
“Do you agree to the deal, or no?”
Clara had no choice but to accept, so she nodded. As soon as she agreed, she felt… different. She realized, looking up at the grinning faerie, that she couldn’t stand. Looking down, she saw two thick, scaly legs, then felt two more behind – and a tail.
On her back was a shell, Clara discovered, as she accidentally retreated inside it from fear.
When she popped her head out again, the faerie had gone.
Wasting no time, Clara began searching, slow as it was, with no voice to call out.
Hours passed, and then she heard it – a familiar melody coming from above. The same lullaby she’d sung to Rosie since she was a babe. The same song her mother had once sung to her.
Clara found Rosie just as Rosie recognized her. Sometimes the heart just knows.
“Mama!” A beautiful, vibrant macaw with plumage like a rainbow landed in front of her. If tortoises could shed tears, Clara would have. Instead, she could only nod, stretching the corners of her tortoise beak into a smile, seeing her darling girl so happy and carefree – and not only speaking, but singing too!
“I love flying! Already made a few friends here!” Rosie squawked, doing a few loop-de-loops. “Can we stay here forever, Mama? Do we have to go back?”
Clara didn’t have time to reply. Seeing the shadows descending upon the jungle, she quickly retreated into her shell, indicating for Rosie to hide.
When the faerie returned, Clara stayed concealed inside her new home, and the faerie took her silence as an answer. If Clara giving up her voice was necessary to give Rosie her own, that was how it would be.
And so it was.
As the faerie had stipulated, they remained as they were, for the rest of their long lives together – forever a tortoise and a macaw.
And they were free.
They were home.
And they were happy.
* * *
Heather Cline is a Social Science graduate ofSoutheast Missouri University, is a caregiver by day, and resides in Missouri, USA. She has written since childhood, but has only now worked up the courage to submit to the publishing world. As of now, she has one accepted work which will be published by Five Minutes Lit in November, 2023.
My oncologist went through the details of the procedure, as he does every time.He calls me lucky that it was caught early.The cancer remained localized and I held up well to treatments to external beam radiation therapy.
The doc was correct.I was indeed lucky.
I had the support of my pertinacity in the medical library to become an expert on prostate cancer, the consequences of treatment, and survival rates.Of the last, for my prostate cancer, I am particularly lucky.I could have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.95% beats 11% any day of the week.Twice on Sunday.
I am now fifty pounds lighter.My skin hangs loose on my chest and across my abdomen.I once sported straight brown hair.Today, I no longer require the use of a comb or shampoo.
My blue eyes, previously rivaling Paul Newman, now have a gray tint, mirroring a Siberian husky sporting a 1000 yard stare.
I get polite compliments about my eyes.Pity looks about everything else.
My oncologist suggested I should speak to someone.Someone who “helps” cancer survivors find a new purpose in their new life.I hear what he says, but I am not listening today.Today, I am interested in the details of my last treatment.I heard his lecture half a dozen times before.I signed the release form for the 7th time, just as he predicted when I began treatment in the spring.
I should be excited, possibly giddy, but I am not.As serious as the good doctor is, is as serious as I remain.Perhaps I am superstitious.I have made it this far without incident.This is my life.
The procedure takes just under an hour.I rest in an outpatient waiting room for another.With my second hand Goodwill cane, I am adamant about leaving under my own power.My doctor has a policy of mandatory wheelchair use.I am adamant about retaining the last vestiges of my ego.It is a brief contest of wills between us.Ten minutes of obstinate stares pass before he blinks.Then smiles.As I walk away, the receptionist says her final farewell.
I have a new lease on life.Tomorrow, I will turn 42.I am going to reset the clock to 40.The sun looks rather bright today.
Maybe it will be again tomorrow.
* * *
Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 40 years, lives in 1974, and has been married for 30 years.His works are found everywhere a search engine operates.
It was a Saturday afternoon; the day she said goodbye to the latest. His name was James. It was their second time together; they met on a dating app. Their first time together was coffee and conversation, two weeks before, at a Starbucks near Columbus Circle. As they sat down, a song from her imagination had played in her head: Let’s See If We Can Stand Each Other. She didn’t write music; a random melody just popped into her brain, sort of girl group, sort of punk. From now on it would be her first date theme song. She figured to hear it a lot.
So they drank coffee and talked. It was okay. He was kind of funny. Not joke telling kind of funny; more like random comments about how messed up the world was kind of funny. Observations. Nothing too deep; nothing too dumb. It wasn’t annoying. He was also kind of good looking. He had crazy hair, tousled and teased. He kept running his hands through it. She liked his hair, almost as much as he seemed to. Or maybe he was just nervous. His body was wearing black jeans, cowboy boots and a leather jacket. That made him more like a Jimmy than a James. She had no preference. Her outfit was the usual: exactly the opposite of what her first instinct told her to wear, except for the beret of course. There was always a beret.
For their second date he suggested a movie, but she had a better idea: The Met. He seemed a little surprised, and reluctant. An art museum? But she had been wanting to go back there for a long time. Her last visit did not end well. That was on a date with someone else, the last date, as it turned out, and now she wanted to start over, to somehow make it a happy place again. But why now? Why today, at the beginning with a new guy? Maybe it was a bad idea, but it was too late now, the wheels were in motion, and they were now on their way to grab a bite before they hit the museum. And she knew just where she wanted to take him: the Lexington Candy Shop, the ancient little corner luncheonette at East 83rd. It was one of her favorite places.
When they got there he was surprised again. You want to eat here? In this hole in the wall? And not only that, but he couldn’t believe there was actually a line waiting to get into “this beat-up old retro diner,” as he put it. She felt the need to set him straight: Retro is cheesy. Retro is new places that try to copy places like this. This is an original. It’s ninety-five years old. She loved old New York places. Apparently he didn’t. Just what did he want? All she wanted was a smile and an egg cream.
They stood there silently for a few minutes, on the line, and she thought of that someone else again, the one on that last date, and how he loved old New York places, and egg creams, just like her. She wondered where he might be.
Then it started to rain, and he became restless. He sighed and pulled out his cell phone. As she watched him tapping away, she suddenly had an idea: they should take a walk in Central Park. There was a little section of the park near the museum, just south of The Reservoir, which was full of pine trees, most of them packed together in a circle; the circle itself was a path, and she remembered walking on the path, around those pine trees, and smelling that wonderful smell. She remembered lunch on a picnic table just outside the circle, and even swinging on the swings that were in the playground nearby, with him, that someone else, laughing like little kids as they swung higher and higher.
But James was not the guy on that swing. What about lunch? She assured him that a food cart would be just fine. He paused, obviously not warming up to the idea of a soggy hot dog in the rain. You really want to take a walk in the park in this weather?
Yes, she did—it was only a light drizzle—but the whole thing was starting to fall apart. The park idea was out, and it was obvious that he didn’t want to wait in line for an egg cream. He suggested they go straight to The Met and get something to eat there, or afterward. She didn’t argue. He pulled out an umbrella, opened it, and held it over their heads as they walked toward the museum, and she suddenly felt resentful, feeling like she was somehow trapped with him under that umbrella, forced to be dry, and unhappy, against her will.
They made it into The Met and walked around the exhibits, each in their own worlds, barely talking. She was miserable and he was already somewhere else. Then it hit her—as she suddenly realized the real reason she was there.
She was there to see Vincent.
Of course! Because that’s how it all began with that someone else from long ago, before the egg creams and the pine trees and the swings and the rain. It had started here when they were both looking at Vincent Van Gogh. That’s how they met. And so after a few minutes, as James drifted into the Arms and Armor section, she made her move, slipping into Medieval Art and then finding her way to a stairwell and up to the second floor to 19th and Early 20th Century European Paintings and Sculpture. And there he was—Vincent—one of the many Vincents who had been painted by Vincent—wearing a straw hat and looking her straight in the eye.
When she first saw Vincent, she did some research and was fascinated by the fact that he had painted himself thirty-six times, and she had wondered why, before quickly realizing—why not? Everybody does it now, only with cameras. She was taking selfies all the time, but for what reason? What was she trying to see? What was Vincent trying to see? She read somewhere that his self-portraits were “the study of himself and his own anguish.” That struck a nerve—she took a lot of “sad selfies,” as she called them. She also read that he never really found true love, that his passion was often unrequited, and that his life was filled with setbacks, rejections, and heartache. Check, check, and check.
So what to do next? There was only one thing to do. She pulled out her phone, walked over to the painting, positioned herself next to it, took a deep breath, and took a selfie of the two of them. Her date with James was over. Today, she was Vincent’s girl.
* * *
Mark William Butler lives in New York City, also writes plays and musicals, many which have been produced and selected for festivals. His short story, “Waiting for another Train,” appeared in Bright Flash in February 2022. Another short piece, “Cool and Clean and Crisp,” was selected for Best American Erotica 1994, an anthology edited by Susie Bright.
“Do those floaters bother you much?” my ophthalmologist asks, during my routine visit.
Dr. Peck’s annual interrogation, “Which looks clearer, this one . . . or this one?” always conjures the test anxiety I experienced in college. But this is new. I search my mind for some context that will allow me to respond intelligently.
“Floaters,” he repeats. “Those spots and squiggles drifting through your field of vision. As we age, they become more prevalent and more noticeable.” He is more aware of what’s going on in my head than I am. And he’s placing me in his own age bracket. I’ve always considered my eye doctor ancient, but perhaps we are contemporaries. I am both indignant and anxious.
“I’ve never really noticed them,” I admit, aware that henceforth I will be seeing armies of phantom beasties in full attack mode.
He doesn’t acknowledge my confession. “One of my patients—a quite reasonable man—is insisting that I surgically remove them. He has acute arachnophobia,” Dr. Peck wiggles the fingers of his left hand toward my face. “When he sees floaters, he thinks they’re spiders.”
Why I am just learning about this? Did I miss a memo? What about AARP—aren’t they supposed to keep me informed? And what’s with this “reasonable” guy who finds them so troubling?
“Isn’t surgery a bit extreme?” I ask Dr. P, cringing at the thought of him—or anyone—approaching my personal eyeballs with a sharp instrument.
“It’s a simple procedure,” he explains, “requiring only a small incision to the eye. But it doesn’t prevent the return of these apparitions.” He smiles.
I shiver. His exam room isn’t cold.
“Laser surgery is also an option,” he continues, pointing two fingers toward me with a zapping motion. “But it’s subject to complications.”
He seems to be enjoying this conversation. More than I am. I squirm in the big, padded chair, aware of all the medical implements glittering ominously around me. Why haven’t I noticed them before? In the thirty years Dr. P has been my eye doctor, this is the most animated I’ve seen him, and the closest we’ve come to a personal conversation. He likes to explain medical procedures in excruciating detail and I always nod knowingly, pretending to understand. This time, though, I am fixed on his patient with the deathly fear of spiders. What a wuss!
I leave Dr. Peck’s office armed with the usual eye-drop samples and a brand-new neurosis.
That evening, I climb into bed, reach for my book, and burrow into the comfort of my nightly ritual. Suddenly, a beetle drops onto the blanket. I spring up and swat it away. Did I sweep it off the bed, or was it a mirage? I peer closely at the carpet. Nothing scuttles across it.
Resettled, I get through a page-and-a-half of V. I. Warshawski’s latest plight before a writhing worm descends onto my arm, and a centipede alights on the page in front of me. Leaping out of bed, I fling the book across the room. It bashes several knick-knacks off the dresser, including a delicately carved wooden angel given to me by a friend with assurances that it would watch over me.
“Thanks for nothing,” I mutter, replacing the dusty carcass on the bureau. I have an unsettling awareness that I may never be alone again.
“I thought you were in bed,” says my husband from the doorway. “Have we experienced a poltergeist?”
“It’s Dr. Peck’s fault. He told me I have floaters—little spots and squiggles that appear suddenly in my eyes. They look like bugs.”
“Oh, those, I’ve been seeing them for years. Ignore ‘em. They’re harmless. Just another gift of the aging process.”
So why has he never mentioned them?
Bill is a few years older than I, a fact I’ve always found comforting. He will reach old age before I do. I expected to learn from watching him navigate these waters.
“How can I ignore something that keeps jumping at me? They’re invading my space, disrupting my life. Dr. Peck told me he has patients who demand surgery to remove them.”
Bill rolls his eyes. “You’ll get used to them.”
“I don’t know.” As I survey the destruction I’ve wrought, I swat at a mosquito hovering just above my left eyebrow. Did I get it? I look at my hand. No bug parts, but my fingers tingle.
Again, the spousal eye roll. “Have you always been this susceptible to suggestion?”
I shoot him one of my looks. He takes no notice. How can he be so blasé about these intruders? In one short day, they’ve dropped in without invitation and taken up permanent residence. Next, I’ll be naming them.
“This is serious. How can I relax when I’m reading or having a conversation, knowing that any minute a spider or praying mantis might descend on me?”
He sighs wearily. “Welcome to my world.”
Book forgotten, I curl back into bed. My knee crackles. My hip twinges.
Bill bends to kiss me goodnight. He pulls the quilt up to my shoulders and smooths it with an unfamiliar swiping motion. “Here we go,” he whispers.
He turns out the light and I hear the soft click of the door closing. Then, behind my eyelids, I see them. Drifting. Twisting.
* * *
Donna Cameron’s career has been spent working with not-for-profit organizations and causes. She is the author of Nautilus award-winning book A Year of Living Kindly. Cameron’s articles and essays have been featured in The Washington Post, Seattle Times, Writer’s Digest, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, and many other publications.
I’m just like you, going to bed with a mouthful of toothpaste. Thinking that’s enough to keep cavities off. The lazy girl’s brush—but I’d spend hours pin-curling my hair, spiraled like little French snails. Two bobby pins, crossed swords. Hours I’ll never get back—but neither will you. Taking pictures of yourself, what you eat. What you wear. Taking pictures of your dog, holding up a treat to make him pose. The dog doesn’t want to pose. The dog doesn’t care what he looks like. Doesn’t care what you look like. The dog wants you to throw the stick. Why don’t you ever just throw the stick?
P.S. All of the above also applies to MEN.
* * *
Kathryn Kulpa is a New England-based writer with stories in Ghost Parachute, Milk Candy Review, Monkeybicycle, Pithead Chapel, Smokelong Quarterly, and Wigleaf. Her chapbook Cooking Tips for the Demon-Haunted was a winner of the New Rivers Press Chapbook Contest, and her work has been chosen for Best Microfiction and the Wigleaf longlist. She is senior flash editor at Cleaver magazine.
We are small people, Joe and me. Smaller than the white men. We go along this country the way small people do it. Wooden steps, buried gazes. Slow, languid blinks, because if we don’t, we miss an ocean, a baptism, rosy mouths drowned in prayer. Because a voyage takes more than across, and I sometimes wander into phantom villages for Lola’s arroz caldo. When Joe sleeps, Ifind dust-blue ranch houses, skeletons of colonies, and wonder if it will be us next, filling the sinews of that story. Joe warbles my name. The next time he cries, I clutch his soft, infant body until he grows into this home.
Cathleen Balid is a writer from Queens, New York. Her work appears in theRoanoke Review,KalopsiaLiteraryJournal,andSurgingTideMagazine.Findherat https://cathleenbalid.carrd.co.
We met in the elevator for the first time. He fidgeted first with the zipper of his coat, trying to close it before his long, delicate fingers came to rest in his pockets. Quickly, though, he occupied himself with snapping and unsnapping the metal buttons over and over. His hair was unkempt, as though he was coming in from a storm, but he was just going out into one.
He shifted back and forth on his feet until the elevator had stuttered to a halt far more suddenly than usual, and he fell into me, almost pushing me to the ground. He dusted invisible dirt off of my arms in rapid gestures, apologizing over and over, and it was then that I first saw his light blue eyes behind his too-big glasses. They were calm, in sharp contrast with his jerking, agitated movements, and I knew he would be another of the great accidents in my life.
I assured him I was fine and joked that I knew where he lived if I had been seriously injured.
But it wasn’t really a joke. The next day I planned my trip in the elevator on my way to work again, and he was there, picking at the skin of his hands, and he smiled faintly when he saw me.
After that, it was only a matter of time until I introduced myself and learned his name, Adrian. And eventually, he found me on Instagram and asked me for a date. Seeing as he lived in the same building, we quickly became inseparable. I felt he was finally someone I could spend the rest of my life with. He was my world.
But one day, he just walked out the door and told me he “needed to go.” And I never saw him again.
The security guards at my building told me he had moved. It was as though he simply disappeared in a puff of one of his cigarettes. I spent hours turning his equivocal last words over in my mind. Had something happened that had taken him away from me? A family emergency? An accident? Surely, if something had been wrong with us, he would have told me, and we would have talked about it. We could have solved it. He would still be here with me.
Instead, I found myself walking inconsistently from one room to the next in my small apartment, remembering how he had stood in that spot and how the light had fallen on his hair. He had given me that book on the bookshelf. We had gone together to the museum where we bought the print hanging on that wall, and I could still feel his arm around me and the tickle of his beard on my cheek.
Now I was biting my fingernails and hoping impatiently from one foot to the next while waiting for the elevator. I no longer fully brushed my hair before leaving in the morning, and I hid beneath large coats and scarves no matter the weather.
I thought I would go on like that forever until one day, I was rushing into the elevator and collided with a tall, dark-haired stranger who helped me to my feet and looked deep into my eyes. And I knew then that it was only a matter of time before this chance meeting became something more.
* * *
Calla Smith grew up in a rural community on the Western Slop of Colorado, where she quickly discovered her love of reading, writing, and language. After completing a foreign exchange program in Argentina in high school, she went on several trips throughout South America before settling in Buenos Aires in 2009. There she worked as an ESL teacher while studying translation. She now enjoys city life in her adopted country and continues to explore her passion of writing.