THE THIN RED LINE • by Kay Harrison

I can’t work the till. It’s my first day. The café is busy but he’s patient. He stands watching me. He has dark hair. A tall drink of water as my nan would say.

Two days later we’re drinking beer in a pub. He orders for me. I don’t say I don’t like it. He takes me home. We have sex. I don’t even know him. That makes me cheap.


We go down south for the weekend. To the coast. He drives beer in hand. The winding road. He takes the corners too fast. The wide arc of white-blond sand, the white-crested surf. The wheels spinning on the road’s loose gravel.

We play pool in the local pub, drink beer, laugh. He points out the sexy women in the bar. It’s their confidence, he says.


I move in with him. It’s not been three months. He drinks and smokes and listens to Oasis. I buy groceries and pay the rent.

We fuck on the kitchen floor. We argue. I call my mum to tell her I’m okay. It makes him angry. I apologise.


The beer tastes like sick. I can’t drink it. I buy a stick from the chemist and sit on the toilet at work. I watch the thin red line materialise beside the blue one.

I find the number in the phone book, running my finger down the page, searching for somewhere close, smudging the newsprint.

I book an appointment. It’s for a job, I say. I’m sorry. I won’t be late.


I wake up sitting in something like a dentist’s chair. I’m in a room with other people. They hand me a yellow envelope. It has instructions about what happens next. No sexual intercourse for a week.

I can go but I have to come back to check everything’s okay. I won’t be making that appointment.


Outside it’s just starting to get dark. I walk home along the main road, a dirty ribbon of bitumen studded with cars. The day drops into night. The cat’s eyes flash red at the road’s edge with the passing headlights.


I get home late. The house is empty. He’s at the pub. He says if I can’t be bothered to come home then neither will he.

In the morning I buy flowers and go to see Mum.

– What a lovely surprise! she says as she opens the door.

– Yes, I say. Isn’t it?

Kay Harrison is a freelance feature and copywriter with work published in Overland, Seizure, Brittle Star, ACP magazines, ABC fiction, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.

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