Monday, 19 November 2012



“Oh!” she said, and stopped.
The sound repeating over
and over in her head,
much louder than she’d actually said it: Oh.

The picture still in her hand, showing him and the ex-girlfriend
who she’d never seen, or heard described – yet somehow, she knew
not a friend, or cousin, or any other ex, she knew

and that ‘Oh’
struck right to her core,
because she knew, too,
that he’d been right (not that
he’d ever said this, or could)
– that this was

so clearly, the kind of love she’d never had,
with him, or anyone –
never would, perhaps, she thought
(but this really was an afterthought,
a conscious attempt to redirect, reassert
her own claim on happiness).

Because what had really been expressed in that ‘Oh’
was just sadness.
They should be together, she thought (she knew),
and why oh why oh why did they ever
split up.

(Which she knew, too,
 he’d spent roughly the last two years asking himself,
including the three months or so she’d known him.)

Still staring, sensing how self-destructive this was,
but unable to escape
that picture, which she knew she’d never escape –

the look in their eyes, their faces, laughter, smiles,
all somehow combining to suggest such perfect
(Like children accepting all innocent
that the world is benign.)

It cut straight into her, cut her breath, stopped her voice, left that ‘Oh’
hanging, repeating inside her mind,
long after she’d left the room,
left him,
all behind.

Monday, 29 October 2012



They’d only just met, and he was moving away.

It was just one of those things.

Their circles of friends had only recently overlapped sufficiently, and he’d had this opportunity, which he couldn’t really – and so on.

So they were saying goodbye, without knowing what they’d be missing, if anything.

“Another one that got away,” she thought, a little drunk, a little wistful, filing him away in some mental space, to be taken out and contemplated at a later date.

The party was ending. She got up from where she’d slumped (how bohemian) on the floor, between piles of books and CDs – his things, half packed.

“It’s been good,” and “I’ll be back, I’m sure”, and a hug, close, lingering, somehow satisfying, but still not solving anything (it seemed to say lots of things, but how many, she wondered, were her own invention?) and that, was that.

The Strand

At 47 he’d never looked better, but neither of them knew it.

He avoided thinking about age, if he could, and she – well, she’d only just met him, and she hadn’t really thought too much about how he looked, either now or before.

She asked what he did, and for some reason he just said, obscurely, “I work on the Strand.” And for some reason, she just nodded and smiled, as if that was an answer.

Her eyes drifted but her smile stayed, and they moved on through the conventional round of first-meeting questions.

But afterwards, she came back to that phrase, and thought, how strange. What a strange thing to say, and why didn’t I ask what he meant? I suppose, she concluded, I didn’t really care.


She seemed to go to a lot of parties. At least, she had a lot of stories that started, ‘I met this person at a party…’

And she laughed a lot, more than most people, but she didn’t seem happy. Even when she was laughing she seemed somehow sad – especially when she was laughing, perhaps.

He realised she’d never looked him full in the eyes, or at least that was the impression she gave. 

As if her eyes, and her mind, were always somewhere else, even in the middle of laughing, or telling one of these stories about the people she met at all these parties.

Monday, 20 August 2012

He bought, she bought


He’d bought a small sailing boat, the word went round, prompting little malicious ripples of gossip.

Big enough for four, apparently.

(The word ‘apparently’ took on a particularly important role in these discussions, spoken with a special emphasis, as if to imply something worthy of suspicion, ridicule, contempt – any number of responses in fact. Hence its usefulness.)

There was some degree of speculation as to the source of funding for this purchase.

“Apparently,” they said, “It’s not even his money. It’s hers. From her last marriage. Or from when her parents died.”

Others were more concerned with the possibility of select couples being invited down for a weekend on the boat (or yacht, as some now said), which was, after all, big enough for four at the very least.

But Mrs Matthews, who lived close enough to know, said they could’ve hardly been out on it themselves, as they seemed to be at home every weekend.

As far as she’d noticed, at any rate. Of course she had better things to do than spy on her neighbours.


She’s bought one of those dry shampoos, the kind that are supposed to clean your hair just by spraying it on or something.

He’s not sure how long it’s been there, on the shelf by the sink, but now that he’s noticed it he’s remembered something.

He remembers her calling it ‘one-night-stand shampoo’.

There must have been an advert on TV for it, and she’d said that. In a tone suggesting scorn.

He’d made some noise in response and she’d said, “That’s what it’s for – it’s for when you stay out all night without planning to.”

Funny really, because at the time he wouldn’t have really said he was paying much attention, but now he can remember it clear as anything.

And there it is, her one-night-stand shampoo, in their bathroom.


He’d bought me a bar of chocolate, one of those big ones you’re supposed to share.

We’d had this silly thing before, sort of like a bet, and he’d ended up promising to buy me an ice cream, so then he turned up with the chocolate instead.

I’m not sure why it was so awful. I’ve never had a bad date before. He just kept asking all these questions, which I guess is what you’re supposed to do on a date, you ask questions, but I just wasn’t in the right mood or something.

So I think I told him to stop interrogating me, and he got offended, and that was it really. We had a few drinks and I sort of wanted us to click, but it just ended up feeling like an argument, even though it wasn’t.

I felt awful today. I ate the chocolate all in one go. That did help, a bit.


She’d bought him a grain of sand with his name written onto it, in tiny, spidery writing.

It was inside a small, clear pendant, part of a necklace, and (she told him proudly, like a child) she’d chosen the beads that went on either side herself.

He smiled mechanically, and said some of the polite things you’re supposed to say when you get a present.
But inside he was thinking: Bright red beads. She’s chosen bright red beads. I never wear red; I don’t have a single red thing. Why is she so pleased?

He held it up to his chest so she could see how it looked, then curled it meticulously back into its box, and put it away in a drawer.

The next time he took it out, several years later, he realised with relief that the hollowness and strange anger he’d felt at the time had faded.

Also, it seemed somehow to have broken; the metal piece fastening the pendant to the string had come loose.

He wondered if she’d noticed he’d never worn it. If she had, she’d never said.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

He went to Madrid... And I didn't

Waking up with a wail
In my heart:
He left me.
He went to Madrid
And he chose someone else.

Why are mornings the worst time of day?
In fact at first, I’m OK.
I’ve slept, at least, no terrible dreams,
Then gradually it sinks in.

Rejection, regret;
Should I have said yes?
Would things have been different?

...Most of the time, I’m actually fine.
But if he ever reads this,
He’ll think I’m obsessed
With a stranger I felt close to
Who asked me to go to Madrid
And I didn’t.

Pillow talk

I’d lounge around
On your lower lip,
Climb to the tip
Of your nose
And skip
To the middle-brow summit,

Make the return trip
Over the curved ground
Of your cheek
Then sneak,
To your ear

Where I’d whisper
So softly
You’d have no idea
That I was ever

You can also read this at Middlebrow magazine.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Flash fiction!

(To see the missing numbers scoot over to Middlebrow Magazine...)

May didn’t seem to believe in time. Not that she’d have put it like that, if you asked her. Likely she’d have looked at you with that eye-brow raised, lip slightly curled kind of face on her, before getting on with what she was doing.

She was always doing something.

When I say she didn’t believe in time, I suppose what I really mean is that she only believed in the present. She never seemed to think about the future, or at least I never heard her mention it –except for maybe what she planned on doing with the potatoes when she’d finished digging them, or what time she’d bring the chickens in.

And when she spoke about the past – only ever if someone else brought it up – it was with a kind of detached humour, as though she was reciting a story that really belonged to someone else, to amuse a child.
She always made me feel like a child, thinking back.

There was this church near where she lived – you had to go past it on the train to get there. It was just an ordinary little church, like most villages have, but it had this big cross outside, all lit up in neon.
It was always there, but I could never get used to it. Some days it just looked odd, other days I think it reminded me of a scene from one of those low-budget horror films… Not that I really watch them.
Anyway, next to the church was an allotment, and that always looked wrong to me as well. I think because I expected it to be a graveyard, and it did sort of look like one if you just glanced at it. But then you realised the things coming out of the ground weren’t gravestones, they were little sheds and fences.
Maybe there was a graveyard on the other side of the church, I don’t know.