by Laure Van Rensburg
She was the warm breath in your ear that told you to speak to the quiet girl at the end of the bar — the dare you followed until my number was stored in your phone.
She was the flame that lit your cigarette, the high that hit you when you took that first drag of the day, the black tar that stayed in your lungs long after you stopped smoking.
She was your love of Neil Young, Radiohead and Kurt Vonnegut. She was the references I didn’t get, the invisible pen that underlined all of my inadequacies.
She was everywhere, although you called her ancient history, but one whose words were etched on the tablets of your bones. There were tales that defined you that I didn’t know, like that weekend in Berlin or the stained jumper you wouldn’t throw away.
She was the shadows shrouding the recess where you first kissed me — the puppeteer still moving the strings long after they had left the stage.
She was the pause in your questions, the delay of hesitation, the words you didn’t speak. She was the name never on your lips, but always on your mind.
She was the phantom fingers knotting in your hair, pulling you close as you tasted me for the first time. She was the hungry mouth trying to swallow me.
She was the flicker of ennui in your eyes when I suggested a quiet night in on the sofa, and the curl of your mouth when my hand slipped below the elastic of your pyjamas as David Attenborough lectured us on endangered species.
She was the scar slicing your eyebrow and the small dent in the plaster of the living room wall. I ran my fingers along the depression, licked the porous surface that stuck to my tongue.
She was the kohl pencil forgotten in the bathroom cabinet. The blackest shade that rimmed her eyes and your desires. A reminder that someone had been there before me, important enough to leave something behind, important enough not to be thrown away. A message to those who would come after her.
She was the storm goddess, the one who would never lose because she was an idea, a memory only made of the good parts of your history, an excitement like salt on a split lip.
Laure Van Rensburg is a French writer, living in the UK. Her short stories can be found in online magazines including Across the Margin, Ellipsis Zine, The Fiction Pool, Barren Magazine, Storgy and Reflex Fiction. She has been longlisted for the Bath Short Story Award and twice shortlisted for the TSS Publishing Flash Competition. Twitter handle: @Laure0901.