In watery September daylight, the house is a dishevelled hyena, with an ivy fringe and a gaping mouth. Animals that hunt in packs always give her shivers, from nature documentaries watched in childhood behind pillows to flat reproductions in Biology textbooks. Something about ganging up on a creature, the planning that involves.
She hasn’t been alone in the wood for six weeks, since that schoolgirl disappeared, her mother fussily ignoring that she was going to college in two weeks and could look after herself. But this is for grandmother’s earring, which exactly matches her silver halter-top and she shouldn’t have been wearing last night. She straightens her newly-adult spine, peeks through the entrance.
What seemed romantic at midnight is unpleasant now. Gleams of light slither over cobwebs, dirt, broken beams. He’d whispered she was perfect by that dust-clogged hole in the wall. The spot where he kissed her is a crack that looks forged by a savage fist. Why would he bring her to a place like this? He’d said it was his secret place, a special place. A place made for a girl like her.
On the wall across are two deeply-scored figures, with identical fringes of hair and gaping mouths. His name is underneath, next to a man’s she doesn’t recognise. A glint reveals her earring, placed on a folded square of blue paisley. Like the scarf the schoolgirl is wearing in the posters all over town. One of the figures might be holding a knife.
He’d kept looking at his watch all night, looking at the doorway. Not keeping her curfew, not worried about being discovered. Waiting for someone.
The earring scars into her hand as she runs, ignoring leaves falling in her hair until she’s safe in her kitchen. In her wise mother’s arms.
About the Contributor
Stay With Me - Ayòbámi Adébáyò
This is one of the best I've read about the grief and loss, and how much we can change in order to try and keep things the same.
More from Issue Nine:
- The Place That He Can Never Return To
- The Cyclops
- The Girl with Many Names by Kristin LaFollette
- Three by Deb Scudder
- The Mourner by Louise Burgess
- Margot by Marni Appleton
- Pebbles on a Shore by Lynne E Blackwood
- blindfolded minds by Rachel Hawkins
- Phantom habits by Blakeley Bartee
- Dementia’s Mantra by Mike Ferguson
- Pack Animals