Issue Four:
Footprints in the Snow

By Louise Mangos

I sold the Bechstein for a third of what it was worth. Some might say I was ripped off, but it was no loss for me. I burned his letters along with all his sheet music the day the men from Mozart’s Wine Bar took away the piano.

I wondered if the muscle they sent were waiters from Mozart’s. It needed four of them to manipulate the heavy instrument down all five flights. I envisioned one slip, and the blessed instrument splintering on the stone hallway of our apartment block. But it didn’t happen. They loaded it on a trailer, secured it with rope, and drove away.

We hardly ever lit a fire in the brick alcove in our apartment. We were on the top floor, and the flue wasn’t long enough. The last few times we tried, we ended up with smoke billowing back into the room, especially if a nor’easter was blowing. But sheet music must have a propensity to flare. It didn’t hurt to see his words go up in flames. On the contrary, it was a catharsis. But I did feel guilty about the piano music. That’s like burning books.

Afterwards though, as seeds of liquid gold traced the edges of each page of his letters, a tiny part of me regretted seeing his words blacken and disappear. I wondered whether this very act was absolving him of his lies. I shook my head and convinced myself the charred paper simply put closure on our relationship.

I closed my eyes and remembered his fingers flying over the ivories, melting my heart. I recalled the times we’d had sex on the rug, right in front of the piano.

My dreams floated weakly up the chimney before puffing half-burned ashy furls out onto the hearth, like the first dusting of winter. Debussy’s Footprints in the Snow.

A part of me wondered if he would have the nerve to come crawling back for forgiveness. I almost relished the thought of him asking for his piano back. He had admitted in his letters he still loved me. But he’d not only made me look like a fool, he’d also manipulated and destroyed our mutual friendships. People who had been forced to keep his secrets soon became uncertain allies in his deceit. I was alone, had no one to turn to.

Later that evening, I sat in the space where the piano used to be. Leaning against the wall, I stared at the dead fire, gossamer feathers of translucent paper fluttering on currents of air from the flue. There was nothing left but the acrid smell of contaminated memories.

He had played his last concerto for me, and was now composing a new piece for someone else. Caught in the act, the lid had finally closed on his philandering fingers. I could only hope it would fall hard. Break him. It was his turn to burn.

About the Contributor

Louise’s flash fiction has won the UK-SCC Flash Fiction prize (with 8000 judges), the Retreat West flash fiction competition, Microcosms Fiction (twice) and Ad Hoc Fiction (twice) as well as placing on several short and long lists along with her short stories and novels. Her flash pieces have also been published on the Flash Flood and Spelk web platforms. She has also had her work read out on BBC radio. You can connect with Louise on Facebook and Twitter @LouiseMangos, or visit her website Louise lives in Switzerland with her Kiwi husband and two sons.

Losslit canon

All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

There are so many losses in this beautifully woven story, it’s hard to know where to start. Orphaned children, loss of a sense, loss of homes, nations, and of course, love. But the hauntingly written prose lifts this novel out of an ocean of despair.

See all entries in the Losslit canon

More from Issue Ten: