Anew by Linda Grierson-Irish

Where did you leave it? I asked. She didn’t know, her memory was skittish, kept spinning off sideways, she said. I agreed, reluctantly, to help her search. When did you last see it? I wanted to know. But she was off, gone sideways too. I followed. We walked a long way. In our sitting room, I stretched out the seconds. Did what I thought a detective would do; rifled books, looted drawers, swiped under the sofa for more than dust. No, no, she said, we must keep going. I flinched in the bedroom, glad that we barely finger-tipped the surfaces. She had become harder to delve into lately, her upholstery opaque and tight-stitched. I was relieved not to be reminded. In the garden I flipped over stones, peered into the upturned face of the dog-rose she planted three years ago as I foraged the internet for diversions. Not there, she said, and she was off again and away, through the meadow where we imagined we would one day unleash a Labrador, over the lane and up into those ink-rinsed hills, along charcoal paths, to the pie and ale summit of my proposal. Are you sure it’s this far back? I asked. Yes, much further, she said, and I began to doubt her motives. She wasn’t looking properly. She hadn’t even bothered with Florence, its heart-plucking domes, our new-to-us flesh-play. She’d bypassed the hospital too, but that I understood. Who wants to gape at how we’d patched ourselves up while those tiny bones unknitted inside her?

My feet fumbled on a discarded overcoat. Ahead she was unwinding, unwrapping, shedding. I hadn’t noticed before. She must have been so hot and heavy, so stifled under all those layers.

It’s here, she said, stepping out of the fabric furled beneath her. Standing slender and light on the warm earth. And for a moment I almost saw it too, volting through her veins.

I called to her but she couldn’t hear. I’d been pre-back-dated. Undone. And since I couldn’t return the way we’d come without her, I pressed on, sideways, where the undergrowth winked signs of an earlier enticement. The path opened out like an estuary, inviting me to wade in, choose any direction I wanted. From the corner of my eye I glimpsed a flare beaconing over the moorland. I thought I recognised something I’d once hoped for. Sprinting away from me.

Linda Grierson-Irish lives and works in Manchester, UK. Her writing has appeared in Flash Frontier, been placed, shortlisted and longlisted in a number of competitions, and nominated for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions.