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by Hannah Persaud

Tye’s first day of school his mother gave him a pencil. His father a toy sword. Write your way out, she said. Fight your way out, his father said. There was an incident and the sword was confiscated. At the school gate his mother’s eyes were red.

Years slipped. School too. The pencil nestled between skirting and floor. His father knew someone who knew someone. Call him uncle, he said, handing Tye a package. Stardust, he said. Tye was good with strangers. His mother poured seeds into his palm. Vegetables, she said. But stardust earned rewards. A phone, a laptop, a car. Green buds died before soil parted and an outline replaced his mother. The single bed became double and the pencil rocked its way into a gap in the floor. The packages became larger. The second time he hurt someone it was easier. Flesh softer than bone.

Life spun like plastic. A blur of handshakes and deals. It wasn’t stardust but it was magic and he was king. Riding the wave that never broke, the crest between his fingers. Until June.

Fresh like her namesake, bright as the sun. Love revealed magic as a fraud. He wrote words onto her flesh. You’re good, she said, poetic. He tucked her into his heartbeat like a medal. She tattooed the words upon her hand. To remind you, she said. I’ll give you the world, he said. I’d do anything for you, she said. He never knew how that could feel, before.

Tye was distracted and things slipped. A delivery. A drop. Clients called, threats started. A bruise became a blade became a finger. Come with me, June, Tye said. An adventure. She acquiesced. In the car he pulled stardust from his pocket. Last one for the road, he said.

I’ll give you this, June said.

She laughed as he pulled away from the curb, a car too quickly upon their heels. Streets blurred but escape was around the corner. It was too fast to stop, too fast to turn. The truck a conjuring trick gone wrong. June hurled against him, a corset. A saviour. Into a metal yawning wall. Her scream, the last breath of summer.

His mother visited in hospital. Placed the pencil in his hand. Didn’t say she tore up the floorboards to find it. Start again, she said.

Hannah Persaud writes poetry, short stories and novels and is represented by Laura Macdougall of United Agents. She won the InkTears Short Story Contest last year and is a judge for the competition this year. Her short stories have won and placed in various competitions and are published in numerous places including in anthologies by TSS Publishing, The Brighton Prize, The Fresher Writing Prize, and Magic Oxygen, as well as in a variety of literary zines.