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by Eleanor Mae

Mother is eating a vase. The flowers lie discarded on the hall floor, petals darkening as water pools around them. Red roses; a flower she’s never been fond of. The vase is an heirloom, blue with a pattern of small white dots that shine like moons against the dark pink of her tongue.

As I stare, Mother blushes. “I know, honey, I know.” She rolls her eyes. “It just … it just looked so good.” She pops another china fragment into her mouth, crunching it up with a decisive jerk of the jaw, and winces.

My father is watching the news, his mouth open. As I enter the kitchen he holds up a hand, pointing to the screen. The perky blonde newscaster has her co-anchor flat against the desk, one knee firmly on his chest as she pulls the patterned tie from around his neck. “I’ve always loved this tie, Tom.” Her voice, a pleading coo, rapidly muffles as the tip of the tie disappears into her lipsticked mouth. “Such a nice motif — and the silk! So shiny.”

My father and I watch as Tom starts to cry. Each inch of tie is carefully, greedily swallowed.

“That damn vase.” My father looks to the hall, where crunches and gulps still sound. “She could have picked her wedding ring. Or the bracelet I got for her birthday.”

I look into his hurt eyes. “You never know.” A loud crunch rang out, then a small yelp of pain. “She could pick those next.”

“Oh, please.” My father folded his arms. “Second place.”

I leave the room as the newscaster takes off one of her shoes, her tongue wrapping round the heel as she begins to nibble. Mother is still scrabbling on the hall floor as I climb the stairs, her fingers wet with blood and china dust as she scoops up the last few pieces.

“So good,” she mutters to herself as I pass by. “So good.”

I sit at my desk, journal open, pen in hand, but can’t think how to begin. I stare out of the window into next door’s garden, where the neighbours’ young daughter is using both hands to shove a peony into her mouth. Green stem-juice stains her romper as she tears at the plant.

I hear Mother’s light feet climbing the stairs. She knocks. “Honey?”

The neighbour’s daughter catches a small white butterfly in her chubby fist. She crams it into her already-full mouth, the insect flapping frantically as she bites.

She chews in rapture, swallowing the creature, her lips stained with wing-dust.

“Honey.” The door handle rattles again, harder. “Let me in.”

Eleanor Mae lives in Italy. She has previously been published in Madcap Review and The Forge Literary Magazine. She tweets at @EleanorMae__.