I’ve stashed an envelope with five $100 bills, for the day you call

By Cole Beauchamp

The moss-like smell of you. Rolling in the leaf pile your dad had so painstakingly raked. Laughter erupting like birds taking flight. Low autumn sun slanting through trees, casting you half in light, half in shadow.

I imagine you at Yale, studying law like your parents wanted. A campus of bouncy blonde ponytails. Polo shirts. All those single beds behind the doors of single good girls.

The catch in your breath when I touch you. The way you always hold my eyes after telling a joke, making sure it lands. Your watchfulness.

I imagine you married. The right sort of chap. Your father slapping him on the back. Tuxedos and you in a frothy white dress. Tablecloths laden with crystal and silver. Champagne bubbles evaporating into the air.

Arguing about pizza crust – thin or deep? – but really, just drinking each other in. Everything I cannot say trapped in my throat. Mozzarella that stretches longer than our arms can reach. Finally, your lips on mine, tomato and oregano laced with vodka and cranberry. Your hands sculpting me into being. My heart like an animal thumping against my ribcage.

I imagine you pregnant, your bump holding high and proud. A boy, of course. You burying your face in your son’s neck, astonished at the marvel of him. Eyes that glow like yours, like campfires.  

Best friends, who would suspect? We cling to each other in stolen moments, loving and wounding and restoring and ripping.

I imagine your perfect nuclear family. Two children. A Volvo, the best protection money can buy. Four faces at four windows, all gazing outwards.  

They arrive with the softness of snowflakes, the words I’ve been dreading. No fight. No scene. Somehow easier to breathe now it’s happening. A release with open hands. We even devise a coded message, one our future partners – we already see the ghostly shimmer of them – will not fathom. Aunt May has died. We promise to drop everything, come running.

I imagine you thinking of me, remembering, folding me in soft layers of tissue paper, boxing me away.

I move on. I have to. But part of me, even now, sitting here in my kitchen, watching the robins hop about and the blue tits chatter, washing my family’s breakfast dishes, even now part of me longs for your voice to flow into my ear. My name on your lips like honey.

I imagine you, grey seeping into your roots, creases forming around your eyes. All the years we have lived without each other. Your children leaving the nest. That longed for moment. You pick up the phone.

Cole Beauchamp (she/her) is a copywriter by day and fiction writer by night. She was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and has stories in Janus Literary, Ellipsis Zine, Sundial, Free Flash Fiction, Lost Balloon and Damnation Lit. She lives in London with her girlfriend, two children and an exuberant Maltipoo. You can find her on Twitter at @nomad_sw18 and on Mastodon at @nomad_sw18@zirk.us.

Artwork by Lesley C. Weston (Pen and ink with a sprinkling of flim flam for color)

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