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by Amanda McLeod

The smell of burning lingers in my nostrils as I pull my coat tighter against the morning frost. Sunlight barely peeks above the horizon as I begin my daily commute, pressed against the bodies of strangers trying to peer out through clouded glass. You’re trying, I know you are; two pieces of blackened, buttered toast, slapped together and jammed into a paper bag, along with half a jar of cinnamon sugar. Pushed into my hands with a kiss while you hide behind the door in your robe. The sweetness won’t be enough to obscure the taste of charcoal. But at least you’re up. The up days are easier than the down days.

The train jolts me into the woman next to me and I mutter an apology. I’m still clutching your brown paper bag in one hand, the grab handle in the other, my briefcase wedged between my knees. The butter is soaking through the paper, leaving greasy windows for strangers to peer through at my breakfast. It looks as appetising as it smells.

With a screech, the train pulls into the station and we spill out like ants, scurrying to our designated tunnels to get on with our daily, mindless work. I check my watch, and as I do a dollop of butter slides through the disintegrating seam of the limp paper bag and leaves a cinnamon-brown, oily stain down the leg of my trousers. I would’ve thrown the burnt toast in the bin before I boarded, but I knew you were watching; because you watch every day pass by from the upstairs window. So I carry it with me, all the way to my office, where I place it with the others, a burnt toast shrine to our damaged love.

Amanda McLeod is an Australian author of fiction and poetry. Her words are in many places including Anti-Heroin Chic, Ellipsis Zine, and Anthropocene. She is also managing editor at Animal Heart Press. Connect with her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites or through her website amandamcleodwrites.com.