Mum, I’m Sorry – by KATIE LEWINGTON

Physical and verbal abuse against parents by their own children is increasing. This is becoming a more recognised form of domestic abuse and has been the subject of TV documentaries and newspaper articles.  

It was one of those TV documentaries that inspired me to write this story.  I hadn’t realised how common this is and one that parents must feel much shame and guilt about. Many incidents go unreported and families become isolated as their children’s behaviour becomes more damaging,  which is why it is important to talk about it.


Mum, I’m Sorry

by

Katie Lewington

 

I had grown up with it being just my mum and me.

On the same day she met my stepdad, I met Saul. After a month of dating Saul, I knew I was in love. Telling him was nerve wracking; but thankfully he felt the same way and for five years our relationship continued to develop.

Then I discovered I was expecting.

Our first born was a boy and we named him Luke. Two years later we had a second son and we named him Jeremy. Our family felt complete. Jeremy and Luke were aged 6 and 7 when it began.

I was stooped, scooping the top of the bin bag in my fist and tugging it from the bin, hauling its full weight. My back twinged. I remained stooped as I turned to see who had entered the toilets to join me.

It was my colleague, Lisa, and she gasped, touching the bruise that had blackened my eye. ‘How did you get that this time?’ she asked, her brow bent.

‘I walked into a cupboard-‘ I stopped. She has heard this excuse; it was last week.

‘You have so many bruises lately. Has Saul started to hit you?’

‘Lisa…’ I drag the bag from inside the bin, holding them both between us. ‘He hasn’t, he wouldn’t-‘

Saul sat in his striped wee Willie shorts, his football scarf wound around his neck, when I arrive home at 9 o’clock. I watch him in the hall mirror, absorbing him, and as I prod myself to move I notice the lighting is dim. Glancing up I see Luke’s Fireman Sam pyjama’s in the lamp shade, my stomach drops and I quietly close the door. I shut the curtains in the living room. Luke is on the carpet. His legs, arms and body are bare. Saul is observing him closely and Luke had his back to him.

‘Luke…’ I say, hesitantly.

‘Fuck off, you bitch!’ He spits.

Oh, another night of this.

How to go on?

‘Luke, you need to put on your pyjamas and go to bed.’

‘He hasn’t cleaned his teeth yet,’ Saul said.

I look at him, tears already choking my voice. His eyes are bloodshot and I know immediately; Luke has threatened Saul and attempted to poke out his eyes with the toothbrush.

‘I don’t fucking want to, do I?’

‘I’m going to bed,’ Saul responds.

‘Don’t leave me!’ I shout, trying to catch his arm as he passes. He shrugs me off and I slump.

When I turn, Luke is standing and his face seems to be his entire strength. The hate in his eyes and the scowl of his mouth. He is so tiny in stature.

‘Want a burger.’ He kicks me in the ankle. Then head-butts me in the groin. I steady myself, gripping the sofa and holding my arm out, keeping him at a distance and his fingers take mine, bending them. They feel they will break.

Oh how I wish this was Saul, not Luke, hurting me. It would be so normal.

When Luke is 12, Saul has left by the time I arrive home from work and Luke is pounding holes in the wall. Blood is drying in their dent. I need to hug him, to hold him. That is what the therapist lady told me to do but I cannot get near enough. He will thump me.

I lock the doors, aware that someday he will leave and cause trouble outside of the house. I wish my mum was still alive to give me advice.

I keep my eyes on the ground as I pass Luke. I take with me a takeaway meal to my bedroom, which I heat over the stove. I lock my door as I wait for it to cool. As I eat I try to find some peace.

When Luke is 16, he is expelled from school for telling his therapist to fuck off, that he will rape her. He set alight a girl’s hair in the playground and continually disrupted lessons and influenced the other students.

He has scared off Saul and Jeremy;  went to live with him not long after.

Luke bit his brother repeatedly.

I break, sobbing. Luke is towering over me, with a knife in his hand. The block of knives is in his other hand. He is kicking me and bringing down the block on my head. Eventually I lose consciousness.

I wake, my own mum by my bedside and she is explaining that Luke has been arrested and will receive the help he needs. And I am glad.

***

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Katie Lewington likes to review the books she reads, listen to music, daydream, watch Cary Grant films, help The Pithead Chapel journal and Transcending Shadows review and Punks Write Poems Press sift through their submissions, sniff 50 year old poetry tomes and enjoy the atheistic display of many literary magazines (She has been published in some of these) Contact her through Twitter @idontwearahat and her blog https://katiecreativewriterblog.wordpress.com

*Photo courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

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Motherhood – Part I – by E.N. LOIZIS

Motherhood

 

No-one warns you of the fear

simmering underneath your skin

like a fever

burning you up

 

No one tells you of the nightmares

when wide-awake

when deep in sleep

 

So how could you know before…

 

 

…before you were a walking heart

pulsating in full display

all red and soft

all tender tissue

exposed flesh

pumping blood

 

No one says

you no longer belong to yourself

 

 

When you learn how to love

with such abundance

such disregard

for your ego

everything becomes a gift

 

And you heart

-that mushy muscle,

that engine of love-

is growing bigger

with her every breath

 

They never tell you

nothing will ever feel safe

you’ve seen too much of the world,

you know

 

They never say

bedtime stories fight your monsters

walking in the shadows

creeping in the sun

 

You weild the axe

that ends the Wolf

You tear into its flesh

 

You make it right

 

 

You make it right by her

like you should

like you would

 

In bedtime stories

The Wolf never stood a chance

***

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 www.enloizis.comand https://www.facebook.com/enloizis/

*Photography courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

Depraved / Truth / Gently Carefully / And Love Remains – by LEARA MORRIS-CLARK

Depraved

You steal my breath

and hold my life within your grasp.

I fear my heart should burst

with the lack of you.

My blood flows

at your touch,

exposing me for all that I am.

Your light shines upon my face

and uncovers my sin.

Darkness

no longer conceals

that which is despised –

within the shadows hidden.

My skin trembles

as your breath

reveals my humanity.

I long for you to discover –

unveil me before you.

With your departure,

you undo me.

My secret belongs to you.

To wither in the sunrise

is a deserving sacrifice

for the gift of

your ambiguity.

I choke on my confession

and you dare not hear it,

for I am destined to depravity.


 

Truth

desperation tears through the veil of reason

that so valiantly fights to disguise despair.

logic retreats and fear commands acknowledgement.

fatal weakness gives the darkness rule.

reigning over trembling lies,

disease destroys the false calm

and rage releases its fury

as truth plunges deep into the soul

like the mortal blow of a poison tipped sword.

the sharp blade cuts cleanly and precisely

through thin attempts to save a dying deception.

drops of reality flow with determination

from a gaping wound.


Gently Carefully

Open me gently.

Open me carefully.

I am laid bare before you.

Open me gently

with hands made strong by years

and soft by love.

Open me carefully –

as I bare my body, I bare my soul.

Open me gently

and feel my passion,

until now held at bay.

Open me gently.

Open me carefully

and behold me with weary eyes

made new by the adoration so clearly

displayed before you.

Open me gently and feel what you have begun.

Open me carefully –

you have captivated my heart.

I tremble, yet you come inside.

This fury that you created

threatens to consume us,

so open me gently

and carefully come inside.


 

And Love Remains

Those blue eyes raining tears of love and pain

watch over me

and find no fault,

though it is fault I see.

The sun shining amid the morning grey

brings revelation

to another day and here beneath its warmth

we find, though night has faded

and the morning light

exposes those dreams made true in the darkness,

my love is for certain

and though I may have fault,

I find none with you.

Through foggy morning thoughts

I see those blue eyes

emanating the love

that could not be hidden should you even try.

I rise to meet your kiss and

we linger somewhere in the middle

where fear disappears

and that love remains.


***

me_300x400

In her younger days, she happened upon Emily Dickinson and Amy Lowell. At the time, she felt she could not share her private self with most and so Emily and Amy coaxed her to open up. They showed her how to express her feelings and observations in a way that freed her and, she hoped, moved others. That is why she writes. 

*Featured image courtesy of the photography of C.C. O’Hanlon*

Before the Dust Can Settle – by DAN DIEHN

Before the Dust Can Settle

Dan Diehn

 

I open my eyes and the world is golden brown, waving slowly back and forth, kissing my neck with its warmth. High above–blue, all blue save for the shining orb at my back. My eyes lose their focus at the sight of the undulating grain. I shift my feet, kicking up dirt and rocks and worms. I breathe. And then I kneel, put my hands in the soil, and strain to feel the vibrations, hoping, maybe, the field will understand my plea and show me the way home.

 

I close my eyes and concentrate.  The tremors are too light to read, too faint to impart meaning.

 

Everything is in motion; everything has a pattern. Meaning in chaos.

 

I sense something in the sky–a cold, a darkening–something between the sun and the earth. Slowly I open my eyes, stand, and turn to face it.

 

Squinting, I can barely make it out, but there it is, lingering, meandering, no, traversing the open space between there and here–a black, sprawling cloud of dust.

 

We won’t have too much time now. Maybe the rest of the week, maybe more–too distant to say for sure–the only certainty is that it is arriving soon.

 

A noise and I turn my head to see the beast arc across the sky, wings slicing the air, a toxic plume flowing from it, outward and down. I close my eyes and run to its origin, arms out front, waving, guiding me through the stalks. Arm, arm, leg, face, arm, foot, the last impact sends me to the ground. Scrapes and bruises, scrapes and bruises. This is nothing. This is nothing.

 

Quick, while the point of direction is still clearly within your mind, quick.  I get to my feet and continue running until I no longer sense the presence of the field and I open my eyes and see the barn, the house, and my father.

 

Zeus. Odin. Jesus.

 

Equally kind as he is cruel and vengeful, depending on the whim of the weather and his choice of drink.

 

Bearded one-eyed son of a bitch.

 

The sun is setting–orange, red, golden–and the shadows cast across his face, obscuring both his eye and the patch. Faceless.

 

“Paul!”

 

I try not to wince.

 

“Hey Dad…Tim up dusting?”

 

“Told you a hundred times not to wander in that goddamn field.”

 

My face compresses further.

 

“I know. Sorry.”

 

“Look like shit.”

 

The pain suddenly sears through my limbs to my brain.

 

“I fell.”

 

“Well go clean up. There’s a guy here to see you. From the university.”

 

“But I–”

 

“Don’t you think I didn’t tell him! He’s in the living room. Your sister’s keeping an eye on him. Just go. Got to watch Tim in case he goes and kills himself.”

 

“Okay.”

 

I use the side door so I can slink into the bathroom undetected, doing my best to avoid the creaks in the floorboards and eavesdrop as I traverse the hallway. Muffled echoes. Static. Rising and falling without clarity.

 

I shut the door behind me and flick on the light. And then, standing before the sink, my hands clenched around its porcelain edges, I stare into the mirror and see myself as I am seen. My eyes are blue and I see them as pieces of a complex puzzle.  External. Round. Sparking.

 

The running water is cold and will take too long to warm up so I take the wet coldness and slap it across my face and wash the field from my skin. The water clings to it and the dirt then crawls downward until it reaches the precipice and plummets, free fall, to its end. My eyes are closed. The scent of earth fades. The world fades. I fade. I can hear my heart beat.

 

In this moment I can see the lights flicker in the back of my eyelids. The stars and the moon. My lips vibrate.

 

And then it all slips away as I open my eyes and see myself as myself. I dry my face and hands and walk out the door and into the living room where a man in a suit sits, briefcase on the coffee table, my sister standing and making a face.

 

“Hey Lisa can you give us a moment.”

 

She says nothing but a noise and leaves.

 

The man stands and extends his hand. I reciprocate and sit.

 

“So my father says–”

 

“Paul, I’m Lucius. Lucius Stern.”

 

“Why are you here? My dad said you were from the university, but you should know that I withdrew my application.”

 

“Yes. I am aware. If you would let me ask you a few questions, however, just a moment of your time, it would be greatly appreciated.”

 

Silence.

 

“Excellent. So, Paul, first things first. Why did you withdraw your application? Why did you withdraw your application and remain here?”

 

He gestures widely and the sunset engulfs his frame.

 

“As I stated in my letter of withdrawal…”

 

She opens her eyes and feels the weight of everything press in and overwhelm her system and she allows it to sit there until she thinks she will burst and exhales. He looks at her. She closes her eyes and forgets how to breathe. Rhythms failing. Patterns are now chaos. Everything breaks apart at the epicenter. Here, in this darkness, everything is nothing. Slowly the external world begins to form through symbols and abstractions. The idea of scent manifests first. Then sound. Then touch. Then taste. All of it out of reach, sense things of indeterminable origin. She opens her eyes to reach them, to make them whole, but this, too, is nothing but darkness and fear.

 

“…I, um…I’m having a difficult time forming the words.”

 

“Try.”

 

“Well, it’s because I’m not ready, don’t feel like I’d perform my best at this juncture.”

 

“Yes that’s essentially what you wrote.”

 

“But, yeah, no, it was because of my family. It was because of her.”

 

Particles break apart and reform. The wind carries her on its wings.

 

“Her…”

 

“Yes her.”

 

“But she’s gone now isn’t she?”

 

“Who are you again?”

 

“She coming back you know.”

 

“What?”

 

“You’ve seen her and she’s on her way here from there.”

 

“What?”

 

When she sees the world it is all a blur of colors and memories–mostly red and yellow and pain. Immobile. Unable to move of her own volition. Pushed or pulled, it does not matter. This is that and she feels more that the earth is moving beneath her than she feels she is hovering across its surface. Red. Dried rivers of red. Tributaries of I am run deep through the surface of her legs. The water is tepid at best. Weightless. Subtle revolution.

 

The man stands to leave and I am unsure what to do so I shake his hand and he thanks me for my time saying that he’d wish I would reconsider and I’d be a great fit for the university so I nod.

 

Later that night I lay on my back in bed staring at the stars out of my window as they blink on and off with every passing cloud. My legs spasm.  I cringe but do not move.

 

Earlier my father asked me about the man from the university and my sister shifted in her seat.

 

It’s never truly dark here. Pinholes in the sky. Even in cloud cover, the brightness of the moon is indefatigable, striking the moisture and spreading its great arms across the land in hazy glory.

 

Lisa hasn’t spoken for months now. The last word anyone heard her say was, “No.” Not loud, not shouting, barely a whisper…“no.”

 

Tim hasn’t been around much, flying whenever he can. Thinks he can make a real thing out of dusting.

 

Slowly I find myself here, half-awake, half-asleep and all I see are dark shapes in the corner of a dark canvas. Memories intermingle with dreamscapes, creating a reality that should be wholly separate but somehow nudges into the peripheral space at the back of my head. I hear voices, calling my name. I hear thoughts. I hear nothing. I hear the sound of rain and dust. It smells like metal.

 

I open my eyes and know it’s still night. I close them and see red orange and this overwhelming sense of fear starts at my forehead and quickly shivers its way down the rest of my body until my toes are twitching. My skin is drowning…on fire. I try to sit up but can’t. I try to move my arms but can’t. I try to roll off my back but can’t. I try to scream help but only my mouth opens–no noise leaving my throat. I open my eyes and see a shadow on my chest, crimson edges. I close my eyes and fall.

 

The moonlight illuminates the earth smoothing the edges of the shapes until they become more than formless things, lost on the constant curvature. She is reminded of long roads. A round surface viewed at a close enough proximity becomes a straight line. A to B. Origin to destination. Start to finish. No one really told her that she had a choice where her destination could lie. Not in the x, y scheme, be what you want to be…more peripheral, abstract. Time, but not time. A river flows to become a lake, a sea, an ocean. The water moves, swirls, evaporates, falls. Her river originated from a glacier, became a stream, and plummeted off the crag of a mountain into oblivion.

 

The morning is hazy. It rained overnight and the air smells of dirt.

 

Downstairs, in the kitchen, sits Tim.

 

“Hey.”

 

He glares up from his bowl of cereal and groans.

 

“I had a dream last night that the rain died. It rained and then we all understood that it wouldn’t rain anymore. We weren’t scared that the crops would dry up or that the trees would wither, we were concerned that the rivers would stop flowing, that eventually the ocean would recede and that all the evaporating water would ascend into the sky, off the planet and outward, forever traveling the expanse of space, so lonely.”

 

He drops his spoon, pushes his chair back, stands up, and walks out of the room without a look or a noise.

 

“Well I thought it was interesting.”

 

I grimace. I hate it when I talk to myself.

 

And then I turn and see Lisa sitting there, head down, staring at the table, feet crossed beneath the chair, hands folded in front of her.

 

“Lisa.”

 

She doesn’t move.

 

“Hey Lisa.”

 

She raises her head and meets my gaze.

 

“Have you seen the cloud?”  She cocks her head and I continue, “Of dust–the cloud of dust. Is it coming here?”  Tears well up in her eyes.  “I saw it. I think it’ll be here soon.”

 

She nods and lowers her head again.

 

There is a blanket of silence so strong even atoms seem to cease their vibrations.

 

“It’s her, isn’t it?”

 

For a moment I forget that she hasn’t spoken in six months; there is a moment when everything is back to normal, and then I realize the weight of both the act of her speaking and the words that have fallen from her mouth.

 

“Yeah…I think it is.”

 

“Why? Why won’t she just leave?”

 

“I don’t know. She can’t maybe.”

 

“But she wanted to so badly. I mean, she did, didn’t she? Otherwise–”

 

“Yeah, I don’t get it. I don’t understand. I tried. At least I think I tried. I just can’t.”

 

“I guess…I guess, we’ll see soon enough.”

 

“Yeah…let’s hope so.”

 

The light of the sun sharpens the edge of everything. With each push forward, I feel less formed. Pieces of me not keeping pace, falling from the whole and descending to meet the earth below. I wonder if these particles removed from myself are still myself, imparting my story to every encounter they have. Then I wonder if I am myself, here, above the planet, tracing my path back to its start.

 

I dream of metal and water and red that flows from my arms and legs. It smells like iron and soap. A breeze blows through, calling me. I see myself as myself, weightless, without hope. I don’t close my eyes. I want to see the devastation this hand will create. I want to see flesh open and separate, blood vessels exposed, crying for life as they are extinguished, left dried and wanting. Does skin tighten around a bloodless corpse? Does everything deflate once emptied? Blood, keeping us afloat amongst the barrage of matter and light and the overwhelming sense of absolute pointlessness.

 

I make a point. One drop. Then I trace a line and watch the shape unfold. I switch hands and do the same on the other, swirls of red clouds permeate the substance until equilibrium is reached. I don’t close my eyes. I don’t close my eyes. I don’t close my eyes but everything fades.

 

Outside the day breezes by with chores and wandering thoughts. The sun is half gone, disappearing over the horizon quicker than I expected. Great rays of red and orange shoot out from its center and radiate the nearby clouds. The bleeding sky.

 

Without school and without her, I’ve been left mostly to do what I wish. I help because they need me. He needs me. Despite the words, the looks, the silence, despite all of it, I have made my best attempt to not do as she did, to not take it all so damn personally, deeply. He is not my life. My surroundings are not my life. This is not my life. This air is air, this skin is skin, and this blood is blood. I see my self as I am seen. A vacuum at the center of space and light that bends and curves. It all shifts and recedes for me, from me, around me, because of me.

 

This dying blade of grass is like a knife and I hold it in my hands.

 

It wasn’t a lack of anything substantial, it wasn’t an expectation, it was a lack of origin. No 0, 0 to guide me whichever way my slope dictated. No reference point from the negative or the positive. Pain was just a feeling, words were just sounds, vibrations oscillating through the expanse.  And now everything is in motion and turned to dust and the smell of iron. Pennies on the beach caught in the tide of the ocean.

 

Looking up, I see it…her, and I just can’t.

 

The sun strikes the face of it all and I see my beginnings.

 

This is sooner than I had expected.

 

I see the barn and the field and I see the wind push it all.

 

I shout for Lisa over and over and over until she manifests from within the house.

 

I catch a glint of sunlight and watch the metal bird soar through the air.

 

She joins me by my side and her eyes trace mine until she sees what I see as it is.

 

Tim, searching the sky by killing the earth. Through destruction, yearning for life. My child of spite.

 

Lisa speaks, “Is she coming here? To us?”

 

I see him and half of my form falls away. Bearded, one-eyed son of a bitch, my husband, eternal spewer of blind emotion.

 

“Don’t look away.”

 

And then the earth turns and puts them in my view. My children born of care and love.

 

“Don’t close your eyes.”

 

I look at them and see them as they are.

 

“Don’t close your eyes.”

 

I see their faces. I see their eyes.

 

“Don’t close your eyes.”

 

I see them.

 

I look upward and watch as the dust hovers over us. For a moment I am weightless. Everything smells of dirt and rain and iron. I know that she is descending here to die. To finally fucking die and it takes all that I am to not do anything at all. I stand, my hand gripping my sister’s and I look up and I see it above us, heave, break apart, and then fall, but before the dust can settle, I close my eyes and dream of the wavering grain, the blue sky, the rivers, everything flowing, swirling, rising, falling.

***

 Dan Diehn Bio Photo

Dan Diehn lives in St. Paul, MN with his wife and two cats. He likes taking long walks on the beach, drinking mojitos, and having fun. Select short stories and his serial novella, Hashtag Barry: The Ugliest Kid Who Ever Lived, can be read at Culture Currency (http://www.cultcurrency.com/). Follow him @diedan (https://twitter.com/diedan).

*Featured photo courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

This – by PAUL TAYLOR

This

 

This is the captivating hook that propels you forward to the next sentence. This builds the tension while also revealing your character. This is what words on a blank page in a dark candle-lit room look like when you haven’t paid the electric bill because you blew the money on dope and beer again. This is inhaling as much smoke as you can and holding it in while you see how much you can drink before having to exhale, and doing it again, feeling the effects pull you toward opposite ends of a spectrum so that you feel almost sober except the usual pressures and worries are all numb and distant.

 

This is watching yourself answer the door when the delivery driver appears and hands you one dozen boneless spicy barbecue wings and you tip him because service industry guys have to stick together and he thanks you but the door is already closing. This is digging into those twelve meat nuggets smothered in acidic sauce while lining up your instant queue because those shows don’t watch themselves and besides you’re already behind on like three different ones and what will you talk about then? This is hoping your battery lasts.

 

This is the boredom creeping in that shows itself with your idle hand creeping under your sweatpants. This is another email validation for a dating website where you have created and deleted several accounts and flip through hundreds of pictures of women you are too scared to instant message, and instead merely ‘like’ them and hope they see you and instantly know by your picture how smart and charming and funny you really are. This is the real face of Sgt. Pepper reflected in the pale glare of the monitor.

 

This is the last beer in the fridge and it is harder to open than you remembered the previous ones were but that’s okay because you get it eventually. This is back to the Netflix instant queue and the pressures of multi-tasking. This is splitting your attention between Breaking Bad, while noticing Heisenberg was the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, and holding the beer in one hand and the phone in the other, and the hand with the phone opens Contacts and flips through and the eyes scan for past girlfriends or one-night stands and evaluates whether or not a bridge has been burnt there yet.

 

This is the inevitable masturbating when the loneliness hits you and your attempts for companionship have failed and your laptop battery has died. This is holding a body pillow and wanting to sob into it but refusing to because of some disillusioned view of masculinity so that you just sit there with your eyes open and stare at the blank wall and wait for the sleep to come and take you. This is the wavering fogginess as you pack another bowl because you can’t sleep and smoke it down in three quick deep hits.  This is the paralyzing paranoia that roots you in place until your mind is too tired to stay awake and simply drifts off and you wake up ten hours later with a hangover hiding behind a dense gray cloud and you don’t even remember sleeping.

 

This is a life without dreams.

***

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Paul Taylor lives somewhere in the Midwest where he spends his days writing, napping, and drinking too much coffee. He writes short stories now, but is seriously considering finishing that novel. 

Bloom – by PAUL ALEX GRAY

BLOOM

Paul Alex Gray

 

 

Emily folded his shirts carefully, tucking sleeves within and beneath leaving no crinkles in the cotton. White and blue and grey, the shirts were double cuffed and only a little frayed on the seams.

Rain fell gently outside the large window. A storm had passed by just after dawn. Thunder rumbled in farewell as the sky put on a show. Sunlight found its way through the clouds for brief moments making the raindrops sparkle and shine. They fell through the Jacaranda trees, casting fleeting purple petals to the street below.

He had said this kind of weather had reminded him of London. He had always laughed at forecast icons of a sun peeking from behind a raining cloud. Sun and Cloud, every day.

Emily packed the last shirt away in a draw that would remain shut. She sipped on lukewarm tea as she walked through the dull hall, trailing thoughts behind her.

The morning was vivid and bright, the clouds sullenly breaking away. Small rivers of storm water raced along the gutters, seeking a return to the place from which they had come.

Emily stepped outside and told herself today would be beautiful and bright. She heard it in the singing warbles of the currawongs and saw it in the blaze of flowers above and below.

***

Paul Alex Gray Photo

Paul Alex Gray enjoys writing speculative fiction that cuts a jagged line to a magical real world. His work has been published in Ad Hoc Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and 101 Words. His novella The Aliveagainers is a featured story on Wattpad. Growing up in Australia, Paul traveled the world and now lives in Canada with his wife and two children. Paul spends his days working in the software industry and his nights dreaming up stories. Follow him on Twitter @paulalexgray or visit www.paulalexgray.com.

The Last Journey – by KATE MURDOCH

The Last Journey – Kate Murdoch

 

 

The hold is frigid and dark save for flashing lights outside a lone window. I rise and make my way to the main part of the aircraft. My mother sits on the aisle, nursing a whiskey and ice. The seat next to her is vacant so I make myself comfortable. The cabin is dim. Heads are lolled in sleep, others read or watch movies with their individual lights.

 

I watch a silver tear cleave her cheek and place my hand over hers. She does not see me. Her gaze rests on the seat in front and I know she thinks of me. She’s pushing me on the swing. I remember that cold day. I was six and my laughter echoed through the playground, my breath a mist, my body rotund in a heavy parka. She does not think of my last day. Her mind skirts around it as it hurts too much. I reach over and touch her face, yearning to hold her and ease her suffering.

 

At that moment she looks straight at me and I’m sure she sees me. Then I realize she is remembering. Picking up memories like playing cards, turning them over, searching for lost details. As if they might bring me back.

 

I stand and stare at my mother, imprinting her image on my heart. I have to go. Not to the hold but to the other place. We have travelled together as far as we can.

***

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Kate Murdoch is a Melbourne writer and artist. She exhibited widely as a painter before turning her hand to writing. In between writing historical fiction, she enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction.

Kate studied Professional Writing and Editing at Swinburne University (Melbourne Australia), and has completed short courses in creative writing at RMIT. She is currently writing The Orange Grove, a novel about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in eighteenth-century France.

Her stories have been published in Flash Fiction MagazineEunoia ReviewThe Flash Fiction Press and Spelk Fiction. She also writes at her blog: https://kabiba.wordpress.com/
*Featured image courtesy of artist Toby Penney*

Being Caught and Letting Go – by PENNY BARRATT

Being caught and letting go

 

by Penny Barratt

 

 

At the age of 10 you played kiss chase through the Dublin back streets with Diarmaid Carey. He snagged your best coat running at full tilt, ripped the pocket and you skipped home to confess and get a taste of your Da’s belt.

 

At 12 you were still the better runner but you let the lad catch you anyway. It was safer for your clothes that way.

 

At 15 he followed you home from the youth club and you slid the latch and led him all quietly up to your room while Da, who had never liked Diarmaid or any of his kin, was next door in the bathroom, singing full tilt in the shower and not once suspecting what was going on.

 

When you had just turned 16 Diarmaid said he’d stick with you when the baby came and Da gave him a bloody nose right there in the street and told him how he’d kill the feckless can of piss if he ever clapped eyes on him again.

 

At five weeks your Mammy was freaking at the thought of what the neighbours were saying and that there was no place under her roof for harlots. You had to look the word up. Your Da said abortions were meant for mental health situations and you must have been mental to get yourself in that state in the first place. Sure any doctor alive would certify to that?

 

So at six weeks you found yourself in the clinic and you sat quiet and still while Mam shrieked and carried on so loud that the doctor thought that she was the suicide risk and that the abortion was for her. The receptionist shooed Mammy out of the surgery while the doctor looked at your pale milk face, asked all the wrong questions and filled in a form in triplicate.

 

At seven weeks you had to go back to the clinic twice. Twice you sat on a bed in a white room with a high window and a framed print of the Alps. You snapped the blister packs and took the pills, tiny, shaped liked hexagons, and stored them between your cheek and your lower jaw, two on each side, and let them dissolve, slowly, melting, disappearing over the course of one hour. You imagined they were sweets. Smarties. The nurse gave you a glass of water and a filthy look.

 

At 11.28am on the Tuesday you were back home and alone in the bathroom with the door bolted. A pain low down in your belly and a streak of blood and you could finally let go.

***

Penny Barratt (1)

 ***This is the second piece of writing that Penny Barratt has had published that isn’t a feature or a news story, making her a regular contributor to Sick Lit Magazine. At the start of this year she took a vow to attend fewer creative writing classes, write more, get as many rejections as possible and finish at least one of the three novels she’s started.Three out of four achieved so far, with particular success at number three.***

*Featured photography by C.C. O’Hanlon*

The Bus – by KATE JONES

The Bus

 

I stand among the groups of middle-aged parents lining the pavement beside the bus that contains their beloved offspring.  Excited faces scattered with acne and over-zealous make-up press against glass, or turn away, sharp haircuts bobbing as they talk fast and laugh with friends.

I pick out your window.  You sit politely, neatly, long curls hanging round your shoulders.  Your father’s nose side-on to my view.  You do that thing you do with your glasses, where you push them up your face with the back of your hand.  I have never seen anyone else do this, apart from my mother.

I tell myself that you are not leaving forever.  You are not my mother.  You are just going off to adventures, and experiences.  You will come back.  Yet, my insides feel the same way as they did when I lost her.

Your long lashes loll like fronds as you bend down to retrieve a paperback from your holdall.  I wonder if you have packed the bunny that has sat on your bed since I brought you home from the hospital, the yellow blanket wrapped tightly around you.  My grasp onto your perfect form even tighter.

Your friend taps you on the shoulder and you stretch your arms to hug her.  She bounces down beside you.  Your face is hidden from me now as you turn to talk to her.

Other parents are milling around in groups, talking to one another, shouting to their offspring if they have their this, their that.  I don’t shout messages to you.  I just watch, this last, lingering, private moment.

The engine starts, rumbling loudly and spitting out cancerous fumes from its large exhaust.  You face back toward the front and pop a red sweet into your mouth, making your cheek plump.  A faint cheer goes up from inside the bus, and some of the still malingering parents’ cheer, too.

You turn your head at last.  Look surprised that I am still standing there, alone and apart from the crowd.

And you smile.  Genuine, happy, relaxed.  You raise your slender arm to wave.

I raise mine too, mechanically, try to smile back as honestly as I can.

And then the bus pulls away from the curb and you turn back to your friend.  You have already dropped your hand.  You are already miles away.

And though I tell myself you will return, you are not gone forever, I walk back towards my car knowing that my home will be quiet, and things will be as I left them.  I know that there will be no smell of body spray clogging the bathroom; no dirty underwear on the floor; nobody playing loud pop-songs into the night.

And I know that the world – my world – has shifted slightly, into the unknown.

Kate Jones©

 ***

KATEJONES

***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 www.writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com.

Find Kate on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/katejonespp

*Photography courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

Minor Changes / You Never Asked – by PRERNA BAKSHI

Minor Changes

(First appeared in Poeticdiversity)

 

In memory of my beloved sister

 

Everything is still the same

as you left, just with minor changes.

Like this chocolate-brown colored wooden door

that you would ask me to shut

when engrossed in watching TV,

it had stopped getting shut. Lost its shine.

It’s now all repaired and polished.


Like this bed you used to sleep on, the one

on which we spent countless hours

whispering and giggling at night.

This bed is now heavy

with the weight of your absence.

Its mattress had stopped providing support

for my orphaned back.

The bed is still the same but the old mattress

has now been replaced with the new firmer one.


Like this little red-colored bed side alarm clock

that had stopped ticking

when you left; refusing

to make the familiar tick-tock sound.

It’s now all repaired, it ticks

but just ever so slowly…


 

You never asked

 

Between the yearly

anniversary congratulatory calls, and

the usual everyday talks,

for years this daughter

has longed to hear

those three words: Are you happy?   

 


 

Waiting, someone would ask;

hoping, someone would care;

but people have long assumed

she is happy, until

the time she would finally

take the plunge, leaving

everything behind, would bid

her final goodbye, out of nowhere then,

in no time, hordes of people would show up

with concern in their eyes, would ask

with a heavy sigh:

 


 

Was she not happy enough?

 


 

***

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Prerna Bakshi is a writer, poet and activist of Indian origin, currently based in Macao. She is the author of the recently released full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UK, which is available to order here. Her work has been published widely, most recently in The Ofi Press MagazineRed Wedge Magazine, Off the Coast, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism and Peril magazine: Asian-Australian Arts & Cultureas well as anthologized in several collections. Find out more about her and her work at http://prernabakshi.strikingly.com/

*Featured image courtesy of the brilliant C.C. O’Hanlon*