Samantha etched the white oak onto her hand and arm: her wrist and forearm the trunk, her fingers the branches, fingertips the leaves, and on her palm the date and our initials. She wrote our first kiss inside her upper lip and the taste of us on her tongue.
On her teeth were inscriptions of all the places we’d been, all the dinners we’d shared, and all the conversations we’d had until poetry became songs in the dark. When her family forced her to choose — them or me — she carved tears in the corners of her eyes and fortified her ears with my whispers.
She stamped our first house on her waist and abdomen, the door a passage to her womb. There she conceived many ideas, the greatest a daughter we would name Abby. Samantha wore looser clothing and sang to the life inside, holding the form of it in gentle hands while feeding it strange combinations of food she’d never craved before.
Then the house collapsed, taking Abby and our dreams of family with it.
Samantha scratched ‘In loving memory’ onto her right palm and Abby’s name in the center. She etched ‘Don’t touch me’ onto her bottom lip and in her spit she poured acid so that her words scalded. She listened to her family while she bolted her ears with their scalding words, refusing to listen to anything I had to say.
She stamped her upper arms with barbed wire and I could no longer hold her, and she boarded the door to her womb. Samantha cut her hair and wore the severed strands like a noose around her neck. When she sowed new seed with her parents, summer had become winter and all the color faded from her body.
I tore down the house room by room until all we owned was gone and replaced with something that didn’t hold the loss or pain and promised a fresh start. When I saw the ultrasound on the mantelpiece, crippling pain tore through my chest and forced me to my knees, stealing breath even as I gasped for it.
I removed my shirt and chiseled deep scars onto my chest, deep enough to scrape my heart. I wrote the date of conception above these scars and the date of death below, but I couldn’t bring myself to write our daughter’s name.
I imprinted the oak onto my left hand. I wrote whispers in my upper lip and Samantha’s name on my bottom lip. Everything that I could hold on to, I imprinted onto my skin until I no longer recognized my reflection.
When I went to see Samantha, I showed her my left hand. I showed her my lips. She couldn’t hear me when I whispered and we stared at each other for so long I wanted to scream. Then she removed a piercing, followed by another. She touched my lips with the withered leaves on her fingertips and listened to my whispers while tears etched fresh tracks on her cheeks.
She caught the plummeting drops and imprinted them onto her palms. Her tears coaxed green sprouts, buds that promised blossoms, watering the parched threads of her left hand. Blossoms replaced the withered leaves, and color slowly replaced the lifeless grey Samantha had become.
She scraped the word ‘Don’t’ from her bottom lip and she tore the barbed wire from her upper arms. When we kissed, she inscribed new conversations on her teeth and wrote the taste of us on her tongue, and we agreed that one day we would try again.
Jake TS Wryte is a full-time writer from the Darklands of Africa where the creatures of his imagination have a bounty on his head. You can find his fiction in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hell’s Highway: Terrifying Tales of Tormented Travels, Hell’s Bells — 15 Tales of Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians, and Cursed Instruments, Hell’s Heart — 15 Twisted Tales of Love Run Amok, and Flash Fiction Magazine. When not reading or writing, Jake can be found hiking remote areas and wishing he hadn’t gone there in the first place, or avoiding assault by his rescue macaw.