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by Santino Prinzi

Volume I

You sit in the garden with the final volume. What happens in the end, you decide you must know by sundown. Your husband listed how hectic his day was going to be, but Beatrice was all you could think about. You told him that you’d be busy all day too. You didn’t specify why or the what. Not that he listens. The breeze is cold but you’re sweating in the heat. Not noticeably, but enough to be uncomfortable.

You must finish this book.

Sometimes you wonder how different life would be if life was more like a novel. You think of Emma Bovary, still one of your favourites after all these years. Would it be more or less unpredictable? The same? You stir your tea more vigorously than usual, convinced that the sugar hasn’t fully dissolved. Someone told you once that drinking hot beverages in the heat helps cool you down. You’re not sure if it’s working, you’re unsure if anything’s working.

You’ll forget to drink it.

Volume II

Beatrice isn’t ready. Every pair of eyes glared. She wished they wouldn’t stare, her own tears threatening to ruin her make-up. They’ll think I’m so happy, Beatrice thought as she glided down the aisle, her father at her side. She never really understood why they said brides glide until today; she’s so light-headed she can’t feel her feet touch the ground. Her father whispers to her, but what’s he saying? You don’t have to? She won’t look at him, she won’t look at the groom she doesn’t want to marry, not know she knows …

Volume III

Distracted from the novel by the slam of your husband’s car door, you check your watch. Dainty, rose gold, a mother of pearl face. Almost how your mother described your sister; naturally pretty, like, who’d ever guess you are sisters?

He’s home early, the classic plot obstacle to overcome. There’re only a few pages of the book left to read. Of course, there were chores your husband hoped you’d do, the same chores you vaguely remember telling him not to worry about before he left this morning. No, you decide; some obstacles can’t be overcome, you just have to go through hell.

You remain seated, remain invested and wait for him to come outside moaning. Soon you’ll read through his complaints, needing to know if Beatrice’s fate is happier than Emma Bovary’s. Your tea is cold, but you sip it anyway.

Santino Prinzi is a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK, a consulting editor for New Flash Fiction Review, and one of the founding organisers of the annual Flash Fiction Festival. His flash fiction pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This (2018), is available from V-Press, and his short flash collection, Dots and other flashes of perception (2016), is available from The Nottingham Review Press. As well as a nominee for the Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize, his writing has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Jellyfish Review, And Other Poems, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Airgonaut, Litro Online, Stories for Homes Anthology Vol. 2 and many more. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit his website: santinoprinzi.com.