Outside, the street sizzles, squeals, screeches. Kids and dogs and water and cars and mowers and bikes. Shouting, laughing, yipping, slamming. Your ears ache deep inside. Pain canters across your forehead. You squint through the window; it’s all too saturated, too golden. Sun flares like burning metal in glass and puddles. Flowers spill like lava from baskets and tubs. Children seem to glow in their clamorous joy; fat fireflies in denim and suncream, rushing, careening. Your eyes sting, run with tears. Pain digs hooves into your neck muscles. You need the night. Colour washed away, shadow shushing sounds.
You pull the blackout blind and, inch by inch, the day is switched off, until the last slash of vivid orange-blue-green is erased. You push in earplugs, writhe into bed. The night feels your pain, your sorrow, wraps you in soot-black. You curl and tuck like a sleeping bird; softly fluffed by night-breeze.
It’s past two and the street slumbers but for the occasional late taxi, a startled dog, two cats bickering. The room’s comfortably bright as you work; moths tick softly against the window. The sewing machine purrs like a just-fed kitten, needle flashing through layers of paper-frail organza.
You don’t want to look at her, backed into corner shadow, but she always commanded attention. You put down strips of boning and go to her, pull her into the light. That dress. A print of blue jays on custard-yellow; their wings spread in glorious sapphire and cobalt. She wore it with a red patent leather belt. Glossy scarlet peep-toes and lips to match. You run your hands up the fabric, dust has settled on the shoulders like a grey chiffon scarf, you blow it away.
You press in close to her, wrap your arms around her slim waist, worm your head into the curve of her felt-covered neck. Breast to breast, belly to belly. She has no arms to hold you back, no hands to stroke your hair. The hug is yours alone. You stay until you’ve borrowed some of her bright spirit, her fearlessness. Something of the blue jay skipping inside you. Then you push her back into the corner and return to sewing.
Outside, the street sloshes, scrunches, scratches. Kids and dogs and slush and cars and shovels and sledges. Yelling, giggling, barking, thudding. Your ears ache deep inside. Pain canters across your forehead. You squint through the window; it’s all too brilliant, too silver. Ice blinds like scalpel blades on windscreens and paths. Snow blazes like camera flashes from rooftops and branches. Children seem to glow in their clamorous joy; red-faced slugs in quilted coats, slithering, skidding. Your eyes sting, run with tears. Pain digs hooves into your neck muscles. You need the night. Shine buffed away, shadow shushing sounds.
It's almost one and the street’s blanket-silent but for the creak of freezing metal, straining trees, the burr of a night-feeding owl. Your sewing almost finished, you work on hand stitching, finessing. She watches from the corner and you imagine you hear the dress swishing. Blue jays blurring as she spins. Feverous sun licking her winter-paled skin as she dances. Partner after partner, up on the toes of those scarlet shoes. A beautiful day bird, trilling with joy. A long time ago.
Midnight. A winter sky trimmed with purple, buttoned with stars. The roof of the apartment building glitters, you hold onto safety rails; knit gloves snagging on iced metal. On the roof across the street there’s a pigeon loft, bowing under snow – you imagine the birds inside, huddled together against the cold.
You secure the wings tight against your back, pulling on the chest strap until it digs and your breath hurts. The organza shivers in the night air, bat-black against the sky, the bones creaking like sapling wood. You climb over the rail, boots slipping, lean out into the bite of the sky. Let go.
The night feels your pain, your sorrow, wraps you in soot-black. You thrust and glide like a nocturnal hunter; lifted and buffed by night-breeze. Beyond the rooftops is welcome darkness; the grey puff of trees, the ripple of river. As you swoop and catch a breath of frost, you think of her, standing at the window in that dress. You hear her laughter, smell her sun-brown skin, taste the sweat from her lip. Such a long time ago. You make the organza snap, the bones tense, and you dive. Darkling forest comes fast. Somewhere for a night bird to find peace.
is a writer from Northwest England - mostly hindered by four cats, aided by copious tea. She volunteers in a charity shop where they let her dress mannequins and have first dibs on haunted objects. A forensic science degree and passion for microbes, insects and botany often influence her words.