WHAT’S LEFT OF US • by Carys Crossen

The flowers glow against the pewter light of a soggy spring. You regard them with distaste. Your feet smack against the pavement, thud, thud, thud, aggravation weighting your steps.

You do not want to go. You do not want to see her. Your feelings towards her range from indifference (good day) to malice (bad day) to abhorrence (day from hell). You imagine her feelings towards you are much the same. If she bothers to think about you at all.

Once your feelings for each other glowed glittering pink, for affection. Blue, the blue of the sea under a sunlit sky, for loyalty. Clementine orange, for warmth. You think of all you shared. Bottles of cola. Secrets. Nights at that crappy club (closed down now). Lippy. Seats on the bus. Hugs. Tampons. Confidences about that long-haired lad (skinny, spotty, moody), the bass guitarist. Her first serious boyfriend. Her obsession.

You don’t know when her feelings for you turned froggy green with jealousy, or ash grey with boredom, or black with disgust. All you know is someday she wouldn’t answer your phone calls. Wouldn’t speak to you in the halls. Acted ice-blue cold when you tried to find out what the matter was. Until all was white, blanked-out, sterile.

You hardened your heart. You never called, never dropped by, never spoke to her again. Made excuses when mutual friends organised a trip to the pub or the cinema. You gave her what she so obviously wanted. It was the last thing you could do for her. The very last gesture of friendship.

You stand at her door, wait impatiently as a shared acquaintance knocks on wood. You don’t want to be here. Your friends, the ones that lasted, insisted. She’s all alone, they said. It was such a shock, him dying like that. She’s devastated. She cries all the time. Can’t you find it in your heart to…?

No, you can’t find it in your heart to do anything remotely sympathetic. You’re here because your friends went on and on and on. At last, exhausted, you agreed to one single visit. That very day. Get it over with. You only delayed in order to buy these yellow carnations from the nearest supermarket.

Her sister opens the door, registers no surprise at your presence. She barely looks at you or your companions, beckoning you out of the wet with a weary gesture. You shuffle along the hall, turn left into the living room. It’s crowded with people in awkward perches on sofa arms, propped against the wall. Your friends, armed with platitudes, hugs, listening ears, stand discomfited in the doorway.

You see her. She’s sitting by the window, her expression vacant rather than mournful. She’s wearing purple, not black. T-shirt, jeans, trainers. Her eyes are un-pinked. Your first thought is that she’s in shock, but she doesn’t look stunned. Just a bit… bored. She looks less like a bereaved girlfriend than a woman waiting for a delayed train.

Your companions finally manage to edge forward, murmur a few consolations. She glances round, rouses herself, nods a thank you. For a moment you falter. She’s grieving. Unmoored. Needing solace. You loved one another once. Compassion stirs inside you, stretches its limbs.

Her eyes land on you.

Then they skitter away, uninterested. No anger at your invasion, no embarrassment or comfort from your presence. Nothing lingers, nothing is remembered. The bad blotted out along with the good. Just blank. Whiteness.

You quietly place the flowers on the coffee table and leave, not waiting for anyone. Yellow. Yellow for joy, optimism, hope, friendship. Yellow for dishonesty, betrayal, cowardice. Yellow carnations, in the Victorian language of flowers, signify disappointment, disillusionment. She will not understand the subtle meaning. You are not sure you understand it yourself.

You came for… something. You found nothing. You feel the colours being leached from your memories, your emotions, till they are as argentine as the sky. You step through the gate, turn to leave, take one final glance. She’s watching you through the window, her expression neutral, mild as a china doll’s.  

You look at her for a long moment. Then you turn away, into the steely day, and make tracks elsewhere.

Carys Crossen has been writing stories since she was nine years old and shows no signs of stopping. Her fiction has been published by Lunate, Halfway Down the Stairs, FlashBack Fiction, Honey and Lime Lit and others, and her monograph ‘The Nature of the Beast’ is available from University of Wales Press. She lives in Manchester UK with her husband, their daughter and their beautiful, contrary cat.

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