The Lilac Time Herbaceous Borders Tour – by NICK BLACK

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I don’t care if these boots are in fashion, I think it’s criminal hiding an ankle as exquisitely boned as Mysteeq’s in what looks like a split-open, inverted sheep.  And yet, after half a minute’s airing, her arch is stretched, the toes spread wide, and her bare foot’s slipped back into that gaping froth of wool, for all that the day’s so hot, the rest of her outfit’s no larger than a cummerbund.

She looks up and catches my gaze, grazing her lower calf under the desk, and says, to me, but playing to the galleries, “Miss?  Do you like girls, Miss?”

“I like educating girls, Mysteeq,” I reply dryly, “Which is why I’d like you all to turn to page 46,  and complete the first three exercises.  In silence, if you would, Ms. Harpam at the back!  I can see and hear you, you know?”

As the class tuts and mutters at their Maths, I put my hand on my left thigh and gently tread with my fingers at the leg of my slacks so the bottom rides high enough for me to peruse my own ankle, exposed as it is in a flat-soled Birkenstock.  Said ankle, quite frankly, looks like a giant pale scone; and I release the linen so it’s out of view once more.

Even on a private teacher’s salary, I can’t afford to live near where I work, not if I want an actual house and tiny garden.  I’ve been driving on the motorway for at least fifteen minutes before I notice the girls’ present for me, pressed against the offside mirror glass – a bright scarlet kiss, almost perfectly formed.  Whoever delivered it must’ve really pasted the lipstick on first.  I can picture them, clustered around my Citroen to hide the kisser, nervously laughing at their daring, en masse, but jumping out of their skins and screaming at any flicker of movement, and I smile to myself.  Turning up the radio, I force my way into the fast lane and press down on the accelerator.

The sky, putty coloured all day, looks positively lilac as I step into my bathroom.  The setting sun bleeds across the fences to my right, but, sandals off to feel the cold tiles against my feet, I’ve only got eyes for next door’s garden where, as usual at this hour on a Thursday, my neighbour’s on all fours, head down, trowel in hand, moving between his herbaceous borders.  With his back, and backside, facing up at me, I imagine he’s Him Off That Sunday Night TV Programme (I know the actor’s name, of course, but prefer to objectify him as much as possible), glistening under his shirt in the dusk, plunging his hands into the soil while imagining it’s my body he’s ravishing.  The neighbour has hair of a vaguely similar length and colour, and, looking down, enjoying myself, that’s close enough.   The evening shadows lengthen around me, and my ankles cave a little.



***Nick Black’s stories been shortlisted for various competitions, including the 2015 Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Land Rover/GQ/Salon House Short Story Competition and the 2013 Spread the Word Prize, and published in the e-book anthologies “Edgeways” and “Inside These Tangles, Beauty Lies”. He has also been published online at Ad Hoc Fiction (2x winner), Litro Magazine, Cafe Aphra and Short Story Sunday. In 2014, Nick was invited to read at the first London Short Story Festival. 

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***Photography courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito (Thank you, Brian.)***


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