The room is sweet with bed breath and strawberry shampoo. She stares at her moon-skin children, pinning them in place with her eyes. While she watches, they cannot change. They’ll be ever-pyjamaed, round-eyed.
Sphut. It is unmistakeable. The sound of a grain of self collapsing onto boards. Sphut. She lunges forwards, hands cupped to catch it, misses. At night their shedding is slower but it is a constant battle to stop them growing. She stitches lead into their hems. Shackles them with memories. Still they wrench themselves away from her, turning always to the future like flowers to the sun, so she runs behind them, collecting the parts that fall. Teeth. Fingernails. Hair. She’s exhausted with the fetching and the labelling and the saving of them. They haven’t enough tupperware.
Her husband moves through the house like a love-ghost. He pushes the toenails aside to fetch down the teabags, rummages behind the shed-skin tub for the sugar. She doesn’t see the trails that he scatters on the floor. Doesn’t mark the round ‘o’ of his scalp appearing like a surprised pink mouth. Unwatched, he dwindles rapidly.
His final disintegration is signalled only by the clatter of his enamel mug falling to the floor. His photograph-children leer at him from the fridge door where they are pegged in time by magnets. They gawp at the small dune of Dad-sand, all the faded colours of her love.
When she finds him she sprinkles him with grief. The dune shudders at her unfamiliar touch.
The neighbours hear her at night, stacking and restacking time, but the children left long ago and the tupperware castles she builds don’t keep her warm. Her fingers fade, her lower legs. When she moves, her sands whisper regret. I wish, they say. Should’ve, should’ve, should’ve…
Originally from Leeds, now living in Devon, Abby writes flash and longer fiction that often explores family relationships. She won the Flash500, CrankedAnvil and placed 3rd in the Bath Flash Fiction prize. She has been long-listed or shortlisted in several competitions including Reflex Fiction, Oxford Flash Fiction and New Writers Flash, and has stories in Popshot Magazine and Riptide. Abby has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter. She is currently in a stand off with a second draft of a novel.