by Lauren Bell
Lou tucked her head in tight, making sure that it fit snugly in the hollow of his armpit. He made a little room for her so that she could adjust, settle down, and welcome his warmth christening her scalp. She liked it here, nestled inside Joe, Joe whose hair was starting to curl up at the ends like a child’s drawing. She nuzzled Joe’s chest, closed her eyes and dreamt of happiness.
When she woke, she found Joe’s head resting on her shoulder. His breath mixed with hers, and Lou felt her chest rising and falling in sync with his.
Lou thought of enzymes, of the lock and key fit, how one opened the other. She wasn’t sure whether she was the lock and Joe her key, or whether she unlocked Joe. Perhaps they took it in turns. Whatever their arrangement, they would always fit together, the strongest of bonds.
Five months later, their bond wasn’t the same. Lou would sit beside Joe and he would inch away, hugging the far side of the sofa as though this was his new Lou.
Lou shuffled over to him, seeking out the gap under his armpit, only to find it was no longer there. She tried tucking her head into the space she thought was there but there was nothing, no lock, no key, no fit. He tried resting his head on her shoulder, seeking comfort, but comfort didn’t come. He felt the jagged ridge of her bone biting into this cheek, and pulled away, hard.
Her words rang clear and true in the chasm which had opened up between them. Joe didn’t look at her, he couldn’t, he couldn’t show her his feelings, the absence of them, the dried-up well of his emotions.
“You’ve changed,” she said. There was hurt in her voice, a hint of surprise he couldn’t help but wince at. “We no longer fit together.”
She remembered those perfect enzymes, with their perfect shapes, finding their perfect partners and wondered what shape her future partner would take.
Lauren Bell lives in Birmingham, loves rainbows and is often drunk on inspiration. Her work has been published by Bunbury Magazine, Firewords Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and The Pygmy Giant.