Anatomy of Womanhood – by SERA FLYNN


Anatomy of Womanhood


  1. On feet: “Your feet must be small and soft,” they say. “You must move quietly, like the slightest breath, and stay on the marked path.”


Kiki doesn’t move quietly. She runs. And she is swift, swifter than the boys in her neighbourhood who drop from her peripheral vision one by one until all she sees is sky blurring by and all she feels is the pistoning of her legs, the earth traveling upwards through her veins and bursting behind her eyes.


The mothers soon stop that. They cluck over her, muttering that her legs are too muscular, like a boy’s, that she must walk, like a lady. They bind her feet in small patent leather shoes. The kind of shoes that reflect nothing but pitch – the color of the darkest night without stars.


Except the men on the corner, they see something in the reflection of those shoes they like. They sit and sneer as she passes. As quiet as a mouse, she fears their sharp gazes on her, their phlegmy snickering. She says nothing when they flick at her dress straps with their fingers or pinch the hem of her skirt. She stays still, feeling the bottoms of her feet itch.


But on the night when Mr. Azikiwe corners her in the alleyway, hands insistent, pressing her down, she moves like lightning. Her brother once told her lightning does not come down from the sky. “From the earth, Kiki,” he said, sighing at her fourth-grade ignorance. “It comes up from the earth to meet the sky.” And so that is what she is; neither quiet nor small nor soft – she is a lightning storm blinding him as she darts away from Mr. Azikiwe’s grasp and out into the street where she screams until the police come running.


That night, after questioning, in the darkness of her room, she takes off her shoes and looks at the long bones of her feet. The lightning there sparks and gutters. Still there, for the next time she needs it.


  1. On cunt: “Your cunt must be pure,” they say. “You must be clean and well-groomed – bare and sweet like a peach. But not too sweet, so boys know you are not to be picked.”


Magda has overheard the boys talk in class, sitting with shoulders hunched, elbows on knees, voices low and laughing.


They list off names of girls they’ve kissed up against the brick wall behind the cafeteria, exchange information about which eighth grader won’t complain if a hand slides up her skirt an inch too far, or which teacher will turn his eyes away if he stumbles across them while smoking his daily cigarette on the football field. These are the important things, things she hears over and over. She could practically recite them in her sleep.


Sometimes, she relays these secrets to Lily as they lounge on the window sills in the bathroom, passing a lollipop back and forth. “Skanks,” Lily scoffs. “Don’t they know you’re suppose to make them work for it?” Magda feels as though she should protest, speak up for these girls she’s known since kindergarten – Mary, Lakeisha, Jasmine. Her cheeks bloom with such hot joy at the sharpness of Lily’s language, at the sight of her cherry-colored lips on the lollipop, that she says nothing.


It’s when the boys in her class talk about how a girl smells, how it all depends on her hygiene, how the briny, fishy smell sticks to them, stays on their hands, that’s when Magda feels sick to her stomach.


She’s always liked the way she smells, a private, secret pride. Sometimes, in bed at night, she slides her hand across the warm, giving skin of her stomach, down between her thighs, twisting her fingers in the curls there. Carrying that hand to her nose, she falls asleep, comforted by the smell. She dreams of salt-skimmed ice and flying fish that break from beneath, soaring up against the moon.


On the night Lily wakes her with a pebble against her window. They stride through the darkened streets towards the playground, laughing in murmurs with hands held between them. Magda almost tells Lily what she’s heard, how she feels. She imagines a night when, at a sleepover, she might tell, her head bent against Lily’s own brilliant red hair. She would hear in that space before sleep Lily’s soft agreement as she slides her hand down between Lily’s thighs into the warm, bristly heat.


At the playground, someone waits beneath the glare of the street lamp. Magda cannot see them clearly, but the boy-shapes are big and dark. Lily ignores Magda’s question, allowing one boy to reach out and pull her against him as they approach. “Don’t,” she murmurs, but the word dissolves into a giggle.


Magda perches on a roundabout, trying to ignore the soft sounds coming from the end of the slide where Lily is smothered beneath a boy-shaped shadow. “Hey, wanna make out?” the other boy asks, scuffing his foot across the grass. “Sure,” she responds because – why not? His mouth is too pliant, his tongue hard and insistent and she’s about to protest when he worms his hand into her pants, then jerks it back. “Yuck, girl! Don’t you shave?” he exclaims and, from the slide, a responding snigger. Encouraged, he continues, “Just like a bramble down there.”


Magda has time to say nothing because it is a bramble – a briar of thick vines woven from hair. Those vines slither up around her, forming a labyrinth from which deep, blood-red roses bloom. Roses that smell of the ocean. The last thing she sees before the vines enclose her is Lily’s face, wide-eyed and staring, and the last thing she hears is a boy hissing from between his teeth “Whoa…”


They come to see Magda, the boys from her class. The girls, too. Sometimes, on a dare, they attempt to penetrate the briars but only scratch and scar themselves on the thorns. The vibrations reach Magda deep within where she lies nestled amongst roses. She could tell them: no sword or stone shall reach her.


It will take a princess with fiery red hair.


  1. On breasts: “Your breasts must be pert,” they say. “Round, like a lemon, but not as big as a melon – that’s too ungraceful. You must uncover them only for one who has paid for their beauty. They will offer milk to your marriage, calm the squalls of your children.”


Dia’s breasts get in the way, and so she binds them.

“Amazons, yo, that’s what we are,” laughs Cortez, pinching out her cigarette. “Can’t no breasts ruin our aim, eh?”  Dia sometimes wants to say: our aim is shit, sister, but this would earn her a smack across the mouth, so she keeps quiet.

Quiet like a fox – that’s what Cortez says, on account of when Las Zorras jumped Dia in she didn’t make a sound, even though they left bruises that bloomed for weeks. “Knew you was one of us, Di,” she throws away the words with a sideways sneer, but Dia gathers them up and carries them inside her heart. “The boys, they respect a girl who keeps her mouth shut.”

Dia wants to point out no one is louder than Cortez when Los Lobos are around, loping down the sidewalk, a pack circling the girls, sniffing at them. Cortez slys her eyes, lets her fingers linger a little here, laughs a little too loudly there and when Jester slides his hand beneath the hem of her shirt, she does not brush him off. “They status, Dia,” she says, later. “You gotta let them catch you now and then. The streets aren’t scared of us, y’know? We just girls. But the boys – they got real hardware.”

Dia wouldn’t know. When the boys are around, she doesn’t say a word, just tries to fold in on herself, pull her tail in, bind her breasts tighter, make sure there’s nothing they can hold onto. She is proud of being in Las Zorras, but Los Lobos are a different breed – she’s heard stories of what they do when they’re disrespected. Their hands on Las Zorras are temperamental – one minute petting, one minute sharp as blades to skin you alive.

Like Lulu.

“Hey, puta got what she deserved,” Cortez declares and the other Zorras nod. “She knows the price, man. You run with Los Lobos, you playin’ with the big dogs.”

Rumors on the street is, Lulu’s barely alive, collateral in the hazing of the gang’s newest member. When she returns, a month or so later, she’s sullen, until Cortez confronts her – “Sister, you knew what you was getting yourself into. That’s why you learn to shoot.” – as she pats the 9mm tucked in her waistband. “They get too fresh, you go all Amazon on their ass,” and she throws back her head to laugh. Dia does not point out the Amazons were a myth. She does not say ‘my heart is not mythical and magical. It’s soft and breaks easily.’

She keeps her mouth shut.

The night Los Lobos come for Dia, she tries to slither, boneless from their grasp. She has mostly gone unnoticed in their rituals, but she knows she cannot escape their hazing forever, even using her binding as armor. In the shifting shadows of the streetlamps, they’re a route of shadows that grunt and murmur as they tug at her shirt, at her pants, pull her from herself. The concrete is rough against her ass, someone fumbles with the bandages around her breasts, uncoiling them and then kneels between her legs.  The night air, cold on her skin, makes her gasp. Her voice is unleashed. She yaps and hollers, biting when someone places a hand – salty and stinking of metal – against her mouth.

“Yo, someone’s gonna hear. Bitch ain’t worth it man,” she hears amidst her noise.

Then, the gunshot. She explodes into darkness.

They give her the bullet, later, at the hospital, flattened out like a penny on the A-train track. “Oddest thing,” the doctor tells her. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Your breast bone and your ribcage – for lack of a better explanation – are impenetrable. Like steel. The bullet bruised you. There might be internal damage.”

Dia smiles. She knows the truth of that.


  1. On mouth: “Words must fall from your mouth like petals,” they say. “You must practice a pleasant and rich tone so that you will not sound shrill. A woman’s purpose is not to scold. You must be measured, not harsh or too emotional – emotion is a woman’s weakness.”


“Speak to her,” they tell Jo. “She can hear you.”

But Jo doesn’t know what to say. Her mother is ensnared in a tangle of wires and beeping monitors, perhaps no longer there at all. After all, even though Jo hears the shrill tone of her mother’s heartbeat, when she places her hand on her mother’s chest, she feels nothing.

Jo was not present when her mother fell, lecture at the local University interrupted mid-word. She only knows what happened because she heard the nurses whispering, saw some of the students milling about in the waiting room.

“Excuse me,” one of them say, as Jo passes on her way to the vending machines. It’s past midnight. “Can I just say that Professor Hoffman is an inspiration to me. She always has been. I’m just so devastated about what happened.”

A young girl. No more than twenty-one, bright-eyed and fresh out of the package. Jo doesn’t bother to say she lost her mother years ago, before she wrote The Wyldwood. Before she became an entry in Time magazine as one of the Decade’s Most Influential People. Before she was awarded an honorary doctorate and began teaching. Back when her words were whisky-soaked and wild.

“She always told the best stories, in class,” the girl continues. “It must have been amazing growing up with a mother with such a vivid imagination.”

Vivid. Jo’s can’t pinpoint exactly when she realized her mother was different. She does remember her mother’s first attempt to commit suicide, one weekend in the cottage by the lake, remembers finding her slumped in a patio chair, murmuring to herself with a bottle of JD in her hand, an empty bottle of pills on the table next to her. Her words spilled out, half-formed, dark, seeping like ink. Terrified, Jo ran from them where they pooled on her mother’s chest, shifting like a cancerous growth. She ran into the trees, stumbling over roots. That’s where the ambulance driver found her.

She was seven.

It was then Jo stopped talking, overwhelmed by nightmares that her words, like her mother’s, might writhe out of her mouth, alive and insidious. For years, she remained silent. And then, fifteen, tired of her mother’s blackouts, she learned words could be weapons. She could use them to cut and maim. “I hate you!” she screamed, in that last argument. Her mother’s outstretched hands, bleeding at the palm. “I hope you fucking die.”

The last words she spoke to her mother.

Until now.

“I’ve missed you, ” Jo speaks softly. The hospital is asleep and dreaming, lights low, hallway mostly empty. She wonders how many people in this hospital will wake again. “They say you can hear me.”

She hesitates, uncertain. Searching for strength, she curls a hand against her stomach.

“I remember, Mama. I remember the stories you told me when I was young. Before…” The stories that later became the property of the world, but which, at first, were hers and hers alone. “There’s a lot of other things I remember, too. I’m still mad at you about that.” Tears spill onto Jo’s cheeks, burning hot. She swallows the fire, feels it pool, molten, inside.

“Mama, I remember Wyldwood?” The word itself – Wyldwood – exhales in a glittering curlicue of gold.  Fireflies. They cast light on her mother’s face, across the forest of wires that surround them. “You need to come back, Come back to me. I love you.”

At that word – love –  the fireflies burst into a shower of tiny, gilt petals that, spiraling through the air, catch against her mother’s lips, her cheeks and settle on their hands, entwined on the bed.

And with that, Jo settles in to tell the story that was, once upon a time, the way her mother found a path in the dark, tangled forest of their life.

Once upon a time, there was a girl…



  1. On hair: “Your hair is your crowning glory,” they say. “It must be long and lustrous, perfumed so that you may bathe your lover in its beauty. But it must be covered, for it will tempt the men around you – ‘it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7).”



“Not too short,” the barber scolds when Stella asks for a trim. He weighs the length of her brown hair in his palm. She watches it slide through his calloused fingers with the odd feeling of witnessing a private joy. “Too much like a boy,” he barks and his colleague, who sweeps hair from the floor into spiky little piles, laughs too.


Stella thinks of her bureau covered in expensive bottles of dry hair shampoo, waxes, balms, mousses and the hour and a half it takes her to get ready every morning. She thinks of Heath, how he stands in the bedroom doorway each evening, silhouetted against the hallway light, as she brushes her hair in the mirror. How, when he leans down to kiss her neck, he carries the scent of someone else.


“All of it,” Stella says, the sudden decision a flame catching in her chest.  “I want all of it gone,” and the barber mutters and moans as he shaves it down, taking the money she hands him afterwards with begrudging grace. Before leaving the shop, she winds her head up in a grey scarf, carefully.


Heath has recently engaged in an affair with one of the girls from his troupe, a young supporting actress with impeccable dramatic timing and extraordinarily long blond hair. Stella constantly finds these golden hairs around the house – caught in the drain, in the underwear drawer, between her socks, in the soup she prepares for supper.


“You’re so busy,” Heath said, when she confronted him about it, hissing in whispers off stage left. “Your work keeps you away from me, Stel. You’re not who you used to be.” and he turned away from her, towards the group of actors huddling, awaiting his direction. As though that was the end of it.


And perhaps it is. That night, after her hair is cut, watching him from furtively from beneath her eyelashes over the dinner table, her head still covered, she wonders if this is all her fault: the long hours at the office, the grey in her hair, the way their conversations slowly became only about the house or the fertility treatments. Even their love-making has become rare and mechanical, a means to an end. She remembers those first few months of marriage spent lazy and love-swollen in their bed. They only left to eat. She cooked him meals wearing nothing but her combat boots.“My star girl,” he called her, unfurling the words into her ear. “My spitfire. You burn me,” and sure enough, he carried the marks of her on his body. She let him claim her, make her fire cool to his touch.


“I’ve changed my hair,” she says, now, unraveling the scarf. He pauses in his meal, blinking.


“What the fuck, Stel?” He spits. “Don’t you think you’re a little old to be a hipster? You look like a dyke.”


Anger flares in her, but she quells it. Stands, throws her dishes into the sink and retreats to the bedroom. There, she sits at her dresser, staring at the dark space of her face in the mirror. After a moment, she sees a spark. Just one. A quick glint that blinks out. Startled, she raises a hand to her scalp but finds only the satisfying bristle against her fingertips.


The next day, avoiding the sideways glances of her colleagues, she leaves the office at lunchtime, wandering through the side streets of the neighbourhood. She still feels odd about the hair – constantly catching herself reaching up to feel it, and so she avoids the windows. It doesn’t take her too long to find a tattoo parlor.


“Lady,” the tattoo artist, a thin young man with snakes curling up his arms, whistles as she perches on his chair, “I love the hair. Bold.” She thanks him, pointing out the star she’d like inked onto the nape of her neck. It takes only minutes, the needle’s lick scalding her skin. “There ya go, sister,” the artist concludes. “With that hair, and your tattoo, seems like you might need to get yourself some new threads.”


It’s opening night, and she’s ahead on her paperwork, so Stella calls into the office to tell them she won’t be returning. Instead of frequenting her usual store, a place that sells high-end collections that always seem to be in muted, work-appropriate shades of grey, she meanders into a small thrift shop just around the corner. The place has always caught her eye, with brightly-colored displays, but she’s never had the nerve to enter. There, she picks out a second hand dress the color of soot, studded with shimmering golden paillettes. “A night sky,” the woman behind the counter coos. “With your hair, you are a constellation. With stars on your skin.” And sure enough, when Stella reaches to touch her tattoo, it simmers beneath her hand.


It is late – she’s lost track of the time – and so Stella refuses a bag, instead keeps the dress on. As she’s paying, a pair of threadbare combat boots catches her eye. She buys them too. She walks the several blocks to the theatre, with each stomp feeling the anger in her at Heath’s betrayal unfurl and loosen in her chest. People who pass turn to stare at the anger and then fierce joy rising from her, a trail of embers that spiral on the breeze.


At the theatre’s front doors, reaching for a door handle, Stella catches sight of her reflection. Her hair has ignited, a nest of flame that lights her whole face. Shocked, she reaches up and finds stars hidden in the bright strands. Stars that gutter in the palm of her hand.


Ignoring the people that stare out through the glass at her, she throws her head back and releases her laughter up against the moon. Then, turning, she keeps walking – through the streets into the luminous dark, hand cupped against her stomach.


She will call her Esther, this white-hot star inside her. Together, they will be a galaxy.



Sera Flynn lives at the edge of the world with her husband and two beasties. She tames high school students for a living and in her spare time likes to collect folklore and swim with sea monsters. 


Her Life in Cups – by ELIZABETH ARCHER


Her Life in Cups

by Elizabeth Archer




Training bra, white cotton, size too big.

“You need to wear this now. Every day. Her mother handed her two plain white training bras, ordered from the catalog.

Her mother wore horrible things made out of spandex that encompassed all of her—breasts, waist, hips, thighs—things that looked like clingy white armor. She’d seen her mother struggling into these in the July heat, getting dressed for church.

She was thankful all she had to wear was this little strip of white fabric. It meant, though, that she was no longer a little girl. The week after she got the bra, she boxed up all her dolls except a few fashion dolls.

Women wear bras. She was a woman, albeit a woman in training.

Bra: White lace, B cup, 32.



One day she woke up with breasts. She knew they’d been growing, stealthily, for a while. But that was not her memory. Her memory was that she looked down and saw them, little hills on the horizon of her olive skin. They were a challenge, a strange terrain that changed everything.

They were inescapable, like fate.

The boys across the street took notice of her changing topography. Teenage boys always notice breasts. Everyone’s breasts. Grandmas. Pregnant ladies. Any breast garners their attention. They can’t help it.

Her evolution from A to full B heading for C attracted them. They checked for the rustle of paper, brushed up against her, eager to prove the contents of the bra were genuine.

36 C, black lace, with matching thong.

She could hear his breath hitch, see the light in his eyes. The swells of breast lapped over the cups in erotic froth of pale skin. In the mirror, she could see the tableaux-man, woman, bed. She-almost naked. He-fully clothed still in his evening clothes.

As much as she loved her black gown, this outfit would linger forever in her memory. The iconic moment.


36 DDD White Nursing bra


Being pregnant changed everything. Her responsibilities. Her breasts.

They grew in mathematically improbable ways. Like pumpkins in a prize patch, every night they swelled and curved a little more. The front of her invaded the space before her, and things parted to let her pass. But nothing prepared her for the day after childbirth.

She awoke to find changes over night, like something from a fairy tale. They pinned her to the bed. Her husband thought some sort of gift had come to him, but she didn’t feel the same way.

They were ginormous by any standards except siliconed porn stars.

She had to go bra shopping in unknown territory. Where did one shop for cup sizes beyond DD?

It turned out they lurked in catalogs, just like training bras of her childhood.

She resorted to tent like dresses from late pregnancy, and clutched the baby to her chest to distract prying eyes.

“Wow,” her husband, “Do you think they’ll stay like that?”

“God, I hope not,” she responded.

For the first time, she realized just how objectified a woman with enormous breasts becomes. She was giant boobs with legs. Male eyes settled on her breasts. And stayed there.

“Maybe if you quit nursing they’ll go back,” coworkers advised.


“I wanted to nurse him for six months,” she said.

He was growing rapidly.

“That’s going to be a tall one,” said the pediatrician. “He’s off the charts for growth.”

Nursing over, the breasts began to deflate like unhappy balloons, leaving stretch marks silvering the skin.

“Do you think they’ll come back with the next baby?” her husband asked.

“What next baby?” she said.


38 D with underwire and wide straps, six hooks in the back. Off white.

Somewhere after baby number three, bras ceased to be from the boutique with red lace and satin flourishes.

They became torture devices, with metal that threatened to spring out, that bit into her back from crooked hooks. The breasts took the shape of the bra, not vice versa. Freed from their tormentors, her breasts slid happily down her chest, heading for her navel, blissfully unaware of their disappointing contours.

“You could get implants,” her husband suggests, casting that sideways glance he makes when he’s avoiding confrontation. “If it made you happy.”


He watches as she buttons her blouse over the bra. She knows what he means. He’d like them reinflated, re-energized. Filled with bags of goop to make them perky and proud.

“I’ll think about it,” she says. But she doesn’t think about it.

There are bills to pay, and what is under the hood of the car is more important than what is under her t-shirts.


Masectomy bra, with inserts. Black. 36 B

He is the one who finds the tiny lump. She remembers the sound in his voice. “I think there’s something here. Something you need to have checked.” He sounds terrified, the way he sounded when his Dad had his heart attack.

She knows before the doctor calls that it is malignant. She remembers when her mother’s lump was biopsied. It all comes rushing back, like a hurricane wiping out the same coastline it has hit before.

Her body, this time. Not someone else’s. The soothing language, the hopeful words, fade to the background thump of her heart beat.

“Take them both. Take them away,” she tells the surgeon, given options. Checking and rechecking seem an impossible burden, compared to an empty beach, and clean new surface. She wants the fear swept away, as if it could be erased with the tissue.


“You look beautiful,” he tells her, forcing her to show him what she wants to hide. “More beautiful than ever.”

She wears the mastectomy bra, with the inserts that fill the voids were flesh once lived. Maybe someday, she thinks, she’ll have them reconstructed. Someday when she feels stronger, when the memory of her mother’s final agonizing days has fled. But not today.

Today, the cups aren’t half-empty. They are full of life and hope.


ElizabethArcher (2)

Elizabeth Archer writes flash fiction, poetry and short stories. She lives in the Texas Hill Country.

*Photo courtesy of regular contributor and writer for SLM, C.C. O’Hanlon.*

Wild Thing – by E.N. LOIZIS

Wild Thing


She was beauty

in the way she ran

through a poppy field


red bleeding around,

hair ablaze with the kiss

of the midday sun

framing her face

in liquid gold


She was beauty

in the way she laughed

from the belly

from the shoulders

from the heart,

lips soft

teeth sharp

eyes alight

with a furious hunger


She was beauty

in the way she dove

head first

into the sea

into the moment

into life

hands stretched

grasping in eager want

wanting in every way


She was beauty

in the way she spoke

words shooting

from a feral tongue

to the beat

of her swelling heart

forever growing  with wonder

a universe expanding within


She was beauty

She belonged to the stars

to their time-defying light

to the firmament above…

so vast

so painfully

not mine

not yours

not ours


like all Beauty

she was no man’s

and every man’s

at once


E.N. Loizis

E.N. Loizis is a Greek writer, married to a Spaniard, living in Germany, writing in English. She writes flash fliction, short stories and poems, while pretending to work on her first novel. She enjoys breathing, sleeping and eating. You can find her at and

*Photo courtesy of Brian Michael Barbetio*

The Date – by BIBI HAMBLIN

The  Date


I am far too busy to go on dates. My work is my life, my lover, my BFF. My work suits me. My work defines me. Here amongst the test tubes and microscopes I remain safe from those whose faults I have no patience for.

But no matter how many times I’ve explained this to my mother, she refuses to understand.

“Go out, have fun, that’s what people of your age do,” she says. “Live a little, Samantha.”

“I’m perfectly happy, Mother,” I reply, “And it’s Sam,” I say… yet again.”

I suppose the name reminds her too much of Dad.

She’s still not managed to build a new life for herself.

My father seemed so indestructible, a rock we could cling to. He was, is, still my hero. I am grateful for the hours we spent working together in the lab. He saw the spark deep within me, and gently nurtured it. He allowed me to dream, to fly, imparting me with his great scientific knowledge.

And now that he’s gone?

I am left to fill the crushing emptiness, the gaping wound, in the only way I can, by continuing his legacy.


Tonight’s the night. The moment the experiment goes live, where I take the risk of exposing 001.A to the big wide world.

I’ve dressed him in a casual jacket with a blue trim. His shoes are red and black. The blue woollen hat I knitted adds the final touch. Myself, I’ve opted for pure red shoes, a blue scarf and a black jacket. I don’t want to over do the ‘couples’ double act, but I am certain these attention to the details will help us blend into the crowd.

I reach for my phone and click on the app Dad and I designed, our last project together before his death. I type in the code and press the key. I stare at the lifeless figure sitting in the corner. The details are exquisite, even if I say so myself. The perfect human companion. I even gave this one the ability to argue and converse. It hasn’t the capacity for free thought, only God is capable of such a wonder. But as God’s apprentice I haven’t done a bad job.

His long dark eyelashes flutter. He opens his eyes. Adam smiles.

“Come on Sam, we’d better get a move on or we’ll miss the start.” He reaches for my hand. I suddenly feel coy. Is this right? His brown eyes scrutinise mine. I accept.

“I’ll get the tickets, you get the popcorn.”

I watch him as he negotiates his first contact with a stranger. I half smile. Adam is in perfect working order.

“Here we are Sam,” he says, showing me a large carton. “We can share.” He winks.

I glance around, but no one is staring at us. We look normal. My sense of pride increases.


“Turn him off Sam, that’s an order.”

“You’re out of your mind Adrian. Jealousy is an ugly colour to wear.”

The older man glares at me. “What would your father say?”

“He would be very proud of his daughter. He’d think at least she’s got the balls to do it. Not like his devoted followers. You can’t stand the fact that I’m in charge.”

Adrian laughs. “Oh Sam, you are very mistaken. Don’t you think it is you who are jealous. Ever since he found out about your blueprints for Eve, Adam has lost interest in you. He can’t stand to be near you, for an A.I. he flinches almost as good as a human.” He smiles. “Sam, don’t play the fool. You’ve listened to his demands until you’re sick of them, just like the rest of us.”

I turn and walk away.

“Shut him down, Sam. He’s dangerous.”

I walk along to Adam’s bedroom. He’s pacing the floor, agitated as always. A sea of  papers lie scattered on the ground.

“Sam, you’ve got to help me.” His brown eyes plead. “Please don’t listen to Adrian. You know Eve and I are meant to be together. Look, I’ve already done some calculations, it’ll be easy.” He picks up a wad of paper and shakes them at me. He steps closer to the glass wall that divides us and reaches out a hand.“Promise you’ll create her for me, Sam. Eve and I are destined for one another.”

There it is again, even 001.A has his faults. I smile.

“Adam, you know I wish I could but Adrian is right.”

I take out my phone, and a scrap of paper flutters to the floor. I gaze at it. ‘The Revenant.’ The cinema ticket of our first and only date. I look at my phone, the next one will be perfect, I think, as my finger presses uninstall.


Head shot sepia small

Bibi Hamblin is a certified workshop leader in the Amherst Writers and Artists Method. A Londoner, she can be found adding and subtracting words to create short stories, flash fiction and her first novel for children. Her work appears in the Blue Harvest Circle anthology, A Winter’s Romance and with Zeroflash and Visual Verse.

If You Need Me, I Will Be Over Here Wishing I Had Better Aim – by AMY ROSSI

If You Need Me, I Will Be Over Here

Wishing I Had Better Aim



Here’s what I did: 1) deleted the text message thread from my phone so I couldn’t analyze how “I was just thinking about you” turned into paragraph-long excuses for being busy and then the truth; 2) worked out, a lot, including real push-ups because who doesn’t like the metaphor of getting off one’s knees; 3) ate chocolate-based pastries during breakfast hours, negating the above except for defined biceps and a hint of a line where abdominal muscles might one day show through if I could just commit to grilled chicken and mixed greens and almond milk smoothies; 4) said oh, fuck you to my daily horoscope, meaning both the prediction and myself; and 5) hoped it was him every time my phone buzzed.


When I was younger, I heard the phrase Jedi mind trick and I thought it was a real thing that meant to concentrate on what you wanted a person to do and that if you focused hard enough, it would happen. I would stare at the phone and chant in my head call me call me call me, probably because my parents were not ones for movies, let alone ones that involved galaxies far far away.


I am much too old to do this now.


It takes a few weeks, but eventually his name is in the alert bubble on my phone. The text of the message is sheepish, an acknowledgement that we are on his terms now. But sometimes you just need the sure thing and who am I to judge. I put on the dress I’d been saving for him and thought I wouldn’t get a chance to wear – something from the juniors section, which I am also much too old for. My roommate watches from the couch as I fluff my hair and check my purse; if she side-eyes me any harder, she will be pulling a Linda Blair.


What I have a problem with is that we’re told this is devaluing, to come and go when called. What exactly am I supposed to value here? Why does being available mean I value myself less than if I take a moral stance that denies me exactly what I want?


I am probably too old to not know the answer.


Here’s what I do have figured out: 1) I don’t want/have time for a girlfriend right now means I don’t want/have time for you as a girlfriend right now but will sleep with you till I find someone else; 2) someone else will always come along; 3) if I can just keep this straight, I will be okay; and 4) it is possible that I am dumber now than I was at twenty-two because at least then I had being twenty-two as an excuse.


And so I flash my roommate a smile that says I know what I am doing and totter down to the cabstand in my high floral wedges because I don’t believe one should wear her sex clothes on a city bus.


He answers the door and as I step inside, I can tell it’s going to be different than the other times, and not just because it’s his bed instead of mine. And so I will let him leave marks and will ask him to pin my wrists, and later I will turn around so I don’t have to see what we’ve turned into.


Here’s what I value: 1) being wanted; 2) the illusion of being wanted; and 3) the choice to ignore the difference.


Amy Rossi photo

Amy Rossi’s work appears online in places such as Hobart, Ninth Letter, WhiskeyPaper, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. You can find her blogging about 80s metal music videos at, tweeting at @mossyair, and in a room by quoting Road House. 

*Cover art provided by the very talented artist, Toby Penney*

The Sea – by KATE JONES

The Sea

The winding lane stretches down toward the strip of beach.  There are no holidaymakers left now; just fading footprints in the wet sand.  A fish and chip wrapper blows up in the growing wind.  The hem of my thin skirt blows out imitating the flapping seagulls.

The sea is inching its way inland; ten more minutes and the small stretch of remaining beach will be washed away.  

Moving along the shoreline a little, I dip a reluctant toe into the foamy ripples.  The water is shockingly cold.  I move to lean on a rock – it feels slightly damp.  Two children’s lolly sticks point out of the crack between the rocks.  

The wind is really picking up now, and the tide is almost in.  Each time it reaches its foamy claw toward my rock, it just misses and flows back to become part of the mass of ink.  Like watching a child trying to reach a toy and getting thwarted again and again.

There’s a sound of scratching on the stone steps above me, and I turn to see a dog.  I sit perfectly still, hoping it will walk off.  But the dog, reaching the bottom of the steps, pads towards me.  It sniffs at my legs and rubs its soft ears against my reluctant hand, forcing me to stroke it.  It looks like a young red setter.  ‘Hello there, are you out all alone?’ I say.  The dog wags its tail erratically and pants, dropping its bottom onto the sand.

I look all around the wet beach and up towards the headland.  But I can’t see an owner for the dog.  ‘You need to go,’ I say, but it just wags its tail again, lolling its tongue out of the side of its mouth.  It looks like it’s smiling.  

I check for a name-tag, but it doesn’t have one.  It doesn’t look like a stray – it’s too well fed.  I look around me for a stick or even a stone to throw.  But everywhere is covered with sea-water now.  I reach into my cardigan pockets, which are filled to the top with rocks.  I pluck out a flat, grey pebble amongst them and fling it across the sand as far as possible, in the direction of the slipway.  The dog just stares after it.  Then it stares back at me.

I sigh.  This is all I need.  I try not to feel responsible for the animal.  It’s just an animal, I tell myself, over and over.  This is what’s got me into problems in the past -taking responsibility for others, putting their needs over my own, I think.  

I take a last look at the wide, vast sea in front of me.  There is no beach left now and the water is pooling around my ankles, reaching upwards, as though inviting me in.  The dog climbs up onto a rock to escape getting wet.

I walk forwards, foam and splashes kicking off my bare feet.  I don’t look back, just keep my eyes focused on the horizon.  I don’t want to see the dog watching me; I don’t want to see the houses of the town stretching off towards fields and sheep and people’s lives beyond the cliffs.  

I don’t want to think about the people left behind.  

This is about me.  It is just me and the sea, I think.

I hear a bark and a man’s voice carry on the wind as I get further in, as the water whirls around my shoulders.  I can no longer walk, but am pulled in like a donkey on a rope.  Not reluctantly, but needing to be coerced.  The water is freezing and my summer skirt has wound itself around my legs, clinging like arms, pulling at me.  The rocks in my pockets drag me and as I stumble, I am pulled beneath the waves and my long hair fans out around my head like a halo.

As my breath leaves my body, I feel a pair of hands pulling me backwards.  I’m not sure if I’m floating across the sea on my back or if I’m floating into the next place.  

I hear a man’s voice swear as the power of the waves pull against his strength.  I hear the dog barking, worried for its owner.

I feel hardness behind my back and shoulders as I’m roughly dropped onto a dry rock.  A man’s lips are over mine, the taste of salt and of his breath, hot and smoky.  Large hands painfully pound my chest.

I cough, my head raises and sea-water spews out of my mouth over the side of the rock.  The dog sits beside me vigilantly.  

‘Thank God – I thought you were a gonner’, the man says, pushing back onto his knees.  

I don’t answer.  I shiver, and he takes off his jacket and places it around my shoulders.

‘Are you okay?  What were you thinking?  If Rory hadn’t found you and I hadn’t found him…well.  I guess I saved you,’ he says.  He can’t help saying it without the edge of manly pride to his voice.

I look at him.  He’s just like every man I ever met.  Rushing in to save me, thinking he knew what I needed.  

I want to scream at him – I didn’t want fucking saving.  

But I don’t answer.  I don’t say anything.  

I don’t want to hurt his feelings.  

I just stare out at the wide sea, with its blurred horizon, and I know it is leaving without me.  



***Kate is a freelance writer based in the UK who writes articles, including regular contributions to online women’s magazine Skirt Collective, as well as publishing life writing and poetry both in print and online.  She has a passion for flash fiction and short stories, and is usually found lurking around coffee shops, writing and listening to other people’s conversations. Jones has also become a regular contributor to Sick Lit Magazine, and is a 2016 nominee for the Pushcart Prize through Sick Lit Magazine.***

She blogs at

Find Kate on Twitter at:



The pool drowned your heart along with your daughter. At least that’s what you tell your counselor on Monday morning. She must think you are crazier than you actually are. Mondays are horrible for everyone, especially for a routine therapy appointment that you have to attend at 8am before work. Sure, you need it, but you really don’t. None of your friends knew what to say when your daughter died that day in early September, but they all pointed you in the direction of the psychological counseling center, disguised as a little blue house with baskets of daisies hanging in front of the windows down on bridge road. So you go weekly, skipping sometimes so you can fill your body with oatmeal instead of reminders that your little girl, your little Emma, will never come back. Therapy doesn’t calm you down, but the knowledge that you go is enough to calm your friends so they finally treat you normally and finally begin looking at you in the eye with an expression that doesn’t exude pity.

The strangest part of it all, besides having to fill a child-sized casket with baby toys, blankets, and rosary beads, wasn’t having all of your friends swarm you with gifts and pre made dinners within seconds after receiving the phone call. The strangest part was the day the men came in to drain the water and fill your pool with dirt and cover it with grass. I’m sure they didn’t know why they were filling it. They probably assumed you and your husband just wanted more land to spread tents and tables over to throw little parties for the neighbors. Everyone on the street had a pool, and now you were the only ones without one. Nobody would want to come visit now. Many who didn’t know what happened would surely guess that the recession hit you and your husband a little too hard.

The men who showed up came dressed in big brown coats and blue baggy jeans. It was clear they loved the earth, bathed themselves in the dirt, smiled at the opportunity to kneel down and dig their hands into it. Their jeans all had small holes and grass stains along the front. They spoke in quiet voices, but deep ones, syllables droning on and into the wind. When they crouched down to press in the fresh grass with their glove-covered hands, you swore you saw one of them close his eyes and kiss the ground. They were so alive. And so was the grass, fresh, green, and out of place. The new patch of bright green grass looked so odd next to the old grass that had just begun to brown with the dropping temperatures. The brightness was too much like Emma, and on some days looking at it there was too much for you to handle. But you should have been outside that day. You should have been outside.

Still, you miss that pool, and you miss all the summer days spent swimming laps just to cool off while your husband prepared dinner. Sometimes you think about how silly that is, taking time to consciously miss the pool instead of your daughter. How long will she be missed for? When will the pain go away? You don’t know. You can’t know. And when you ask your counselor that question she just shakes her head and purses her lips. The sound that comes from between her mouth when she lets air out sounds like a funeral march, and you are reminded that every step you take feels like either a step towards or away from Emma’s grave, both equally as healing and painful.

You settle on the fact that the pain will never go away. But you still try everything. You drink tea with your husband at night and practice yoga with your girlfriends on Saturday afternoons. You remember that someone once suggested that once summer came around again you take a swimming lesson. How silly. You vowed to never enter the water again, not unless you had your baby back and her safety was guaranteed. You should have been watching her. You should have been outside.

Your girlfriends invited you over to a few parties in the weeks after her deaths, and you went to a few. Every time you walked into a room it would quiet down, loud voices turned to whispers and nervous glances over at you, trying so hard to avoid eye contact.  Conversing with them wasn’t the same again. You would stand, single drink in hand, as they would approach you one by one. “How are you?” “You look so good, have you been working out?” “I brought some cookies over, it’s a new recipe I found, here, you should try one.” Their words were awkward, yes, but at least they came. All you could do still stand, head nodding like a bobble head, completely controlled by your surroundings. Slowly, the pretty pastel invitations to pool parties and springtime teas stopped showing up. And so you sit in the chair you used to cradle Emma in and look out the back window out to the thick matting of dirt where your pool used to be.

Oh, God, the regret. It’s unbearable. It keeps you up at night and has only increased your reliance on coffee. Now, you need three cups just to undress and wash your hair. It’s longer now, much longer. Seven months without a trip to the salon has unveiled your dark and left your eyebrows bushy. Your mother says you look much older now with wrinkles coming in too early, that you need to brush up your appearance. She sends you new clothes and shoes at the turn of every season, and even gifted you with a new flashy necklace for your birthday. “If you’re not going to fake happiness,” she says to you when she visits, “you should at least present your body as if you are.” But every time you look in the mirror, no matter how you dress yourself, you see Emma. She had your nose, your high cheekbones, and your extra plump upper lip. She was beautiful, and now, you want to strip yourself of that beauty, you want to strip yourself of the memory. You should have been watching her.

Your mother cares. She spent a few says staying at your house after Emma drowned and cooked your meals, cleaned your kitchen, did your laundry. She was solemn, too, but healed quicker. You wanted her to leave earlier, but she wouldn’t, and her presence became both the devil and angel sitting on your shoulders. She constantly asked what you needed to feel better, but was also quick bring you to her lightened level of grief. “Sweetie, come on now, have some friends over. You would be surprised how far having a full social schedule goes. It will help distract you.” When she saw you cry would reprimand you for not being over it yet. “Emma was lovely, but she is in the past now. Smile, move on, and focus on the future.” They were words you sensed everyone wanted to speak to you, but because she is your mother you had no choice but to listen, even if you did resent her for it.

For the first few weeks after Emma’s death, you told yourself over and over not to blame yourself until it became a song in your head. But like all songs, the tune of it slowly faded from your memory and was replaced with the heavy realization that even though there were other people over that day, and even though you were a responsible parent in every other way, Emma is dead because of you. You weren’t outside. You weren’t watching her and her small feet, so new to balance and movement, that they must have stumbled over themselves and collapsed her whole body into the water. Her whole body. Your whole life. Your whole existence. When will the pain go away? Never. You are still settling on never.

At least you have stopped crying yourself to sleep. They say pain comes in stages. The first is shock, the second is pain, and the third is grieving. You are never sure what point you are at. It sometimes feels like all three at once. Other times you feel none of them, just a black pit of nothingness that drags you into bed and swallows you. Often, you lie there, pillows absorbing your head, letting your eyes glaze over in tears, thoughts coming either too fast or too slow. Sometimes, on the worst of nights, you lie and think of that horrid Fourth of July until you laugh as loud as the fireworks that came later that night. You feel guilty for that, too, but sobbing is too exhausting and laughing seems like something a pretentious TED Talk would suggest.

You can’t seem to bear anything anymore, let alone the crying. Your husband is frustrated with you constantly. But doesn’t he understand? Isn’t he in pain too? Emma was his as well. She was both of yours. She was you. You. And him. You both miss her, but he doesn’t show it anymore. Instead, he watches you prepare dinner in the kitchen, head in his unwashed hair, itching at his dark hair. You are too distracted to make a proper meal. You burned the water while trying to boil it to make pasta just the other week. Before that you didn’t know that was possible. Then again, you didn’t know so many things were possible. Everything you read about in books and watched on the television had come true for you. You wonder how you could watch such tragedy unfold on the screen moments before bedtime and fall asleep in peace. Your chest tightens. Guilt stabs you again. You should have been outside, watching her. You should have. Why weren’t you?

Maybe she would still be alive if you hadn’t been entertaining that day. If you hadn’t gone inside for those few minutes to check on the food cooking in the oven nothing would have happen. Besides, what’s a burnt chicken to a dead child? Dead. Dead. If there weren’t so much chatter amongst the guests you would have heard the infantile splash in the water. If you had just checked to see where Emma was instead of assuming someone else was watching her. If someone was outside. If you were outside. You should have outside.

Your therapist says that the guilt and repeating of thoughts is natural. She asks you if the nightmares have stayed. You say no. The first time you said yes, she had you describe your dream in full detail so she could analyze it. “Do you think the bird flying in the sky was brown because that color symbolizes an abundance in nature? Were you especially appreciative of nature that day.” You think it’s ridiculous, that and the meditations she tried to coax you into at the start of every session. The things in your dreams were only there because they were the reality, and as far as you were concerned, there was nothing else to explore.

You wonder if Emma even recognized that she was in danger when she hit the water. You wonder if she struggled to swim. You picture her delicate arms and legs flailing about, droplets of water flying off her skin and into the air. You close your eyes but your mind won’t turn off. You should have been watching her.

Maybe if she was still alive you would be spending your mornings on the driveway, coloring it’s surface with chalk as you waited for her bus to come. Maybe your husband wouldn’t be so tense inside the house. Maybe you would still have parties and use the pool. Maybe if she was still alive you wouldn’t want to die.


You remember how Emma’s chest was cold, her toes were cold, all of her skin, every inch of it and its once warm and delicate softness was cold. And hard. It looked as if she was frozen except for her hair that fanned out from her beautiful head, floating at the surface of the pool. Her lips were blue. Her cheeks were blue. Her eyelids were blue.

Your chest tightens at the memory of pulling her out. You think of the hot pavement, the guests of the back porch, the screaming, the screaming, the screaming. Your mind whirls. When will the pain go away? Never. It is too much.

The memory of her smile and the squint of her bright eyes in the sun flashes through your mind. You hear the sound of her laughter, her sleeping sounds, and her squeal when you tossed her into the air. It is beautiful, but it is painful, too painful.

You tie yourself up against the bed frame with a scarf and hang.

Your lips will be blue. Your cheeks will be blue. Your eyelids will be blue. You will be cold and frozen looking. Like Emma, you will be gone.


rebecca has a face

Rebecca Dutsar is a wistful 20-year-old from Newtown, CT, and is currently a junior at Ithaca College where she studies writing.  She enjoys snacks and iPhone games that involve stray cats. Her favorite color is red. Rebecca wants nothing more than to share her passion for poetry with the world. Her work has appeared in Harpoon ReviewSouvenir LitAfter the PauseUnbroken Journal, 30 North, and several other publications. Find her on twitter @beccsdutsar.