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by Annette Edwards-Hill

Susan’s mother is on a diet and Susan knows better than to ask her if she can see Richard tonight. When Susan got home from school her mother was sitting at the table with a glass of water and two almonds in front of her; afternoon tea.

Instead Susan lies in bed waiting for the house to stop creaking and the slither of light underneath her door to be swallowed by the dark. She gets out of bed and lets herself out the back door, opens the garden gate and walks across the park.

Richard’s computer screen is on and it projects a galaxy of stars across the room. The last outreaches of the virtual universe fall on the edge of his bed. Susan can see him in the dim light, he’s awake, waiting.

She leaves while it is still dark, in the light of a thousand shooting stars. The sun rises as she cuts across the main road. By the time she is back at the gate, her shoes are wet with dew.

The next evening when it is still light, the neighbour knocks on the door, he speaks to Susan’s father. Later, Susan’s father goes to the garage and comes back with a padlock.

“Jack says he’s seen prowlers, someone going through our gate late at night,” he says as he locks the gate.

Mum is hungry and goes to bed early. Dad follows an hour later, taking the key with him.

Susan lies in bed thinking of the stars bouncing off the walls of Richard’s room, his hands, his pillow. She gets up.

She is about to open the door to her parents’ bedroom when she hears a creak then footsteps in the kitchen. She finds her mother bathed in the light of the open fridge.

Susan goes back to bed.

Annette Edwards-Hill lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her writing has appeared in Flash Frontier, Bonsai: The Big Book of Small Stories (Canterbury University Press, 2018), Headland, Fictive Dream, Gravel Literary Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction and others. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. She was shortlisted for the New Zealand Heritage Book and Writing Awards (prose) in 2018 and was the 2017 winner of the Flash Frontier Winter Writing Award.