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by Rachel Smith

They don’t have a scent but I prefer them just the same. Red of freshly scraped skin, flamboyant stamen. In the day they open, petals fragile as butterfly wings. The hibiscus hedge is thicker than I first thought but if I wriggle carefully on my rounded belly then I can see OK.

A blue painted door, open. Dog chewing on a fish head in the shade. Mama dozing on a mattress inside. Grandson out back, herding leaves with a plastic rake.

When I stand up on my deck railing I can see over the hedge and their house, to the ocean where storm birds gather black against grey, all angles like a broken umbrella. On the beach yesterday one shat on me. I felt sure it must bring good luck so I left it there, a sticky black trail on my right forearm, until Tyrone asked what it was, turned away in disgust, told me he didn’t think I’d be dumb enough to fall for those stories, that shit was shit and there was no good luck about it. I rubbed the black away with a wet cloth until my skin turned sunburn pink.

Monday and Wednesday. Their truck leaves early. Grandson driving. Mama with flowers in her hair. The blue door is closed.

Tyrone was woken early on Saturday morning — thwack thwack thwack of a bush knife right outside our window, shreds of red and green hedge falling to the ground. I’d slipped out at dawn, collected the hand of bananas left on the door step, watched fiery clouds fade to a bruise. He yelled, Shut the fuck up, it’s bloody Saturday morning. A breeze rose off the sea to prickle my bare skin. The blue door opened and closed.

Sunday, Mama reads her bible on a seat outside the blue door, puts on her white hat, leaves in the truck before the church bell tolls. The blue door is unlocked.

I have found ways to fill the day. There is ocean and sky, our bed to smooth, never ending leaves to fall, and my own red plastic rake. There is a boy at the shop who smiles when I buy my two bottles of beer each morning at 9am.

Monday. The blue door is closed, handle cool as it swings smoothly open. Mama’s room is spotless, a cross above the bed, fresh flowers on the table. Her white hat slips down my forehead to cover my eyes. The sleeping dog wakes.

Tyrone doesn’t come home. I should be worried but instead I stretch my arms wide across freshly washed sheets that still smell of sex and damp skin. I get up, wrap my pareu tight and step across the grass, pick a red flower to lay on his pillow, knowing that come dark it will crumple down tight.

Rachel Smith lives and writes in the Cook Islands. Her work has been published in print and online journals in New Zealand and overseas. She was short listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2018 and placed second in the 2017 NZ National Flash Fiction Day. @rachelmsmithnz1. rachelmsmithnz.wix.com/rachel-smith