She smells like Chanel No. 5 and sweat, runs one fingernail underneath another. Blue fish swim through yellow silk. Cobbles. Picking at her fingernails. The bricks. Red. Grey. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Scaffolding. Red. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Window. The girl
in the coffee shop smiles at her. Half obscured by her own reflection, wearing trousers and an apron. It’s a shame her hair is pulled back today. It is beautiful hair, changes from red to yellow in the sunlight. She smiles back. Glances at the sign above the window, then ahead. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Blue. Yellow.
Painted. Wind blows. The cuticle on her ring finger flaps. She bites at it. Her skirt brushes her hand like a friend might. There is something there. Part of the door. She stares. The paint. Purpose built cloud of colour, someone else’s inside joke. The skin rips further than she thought. Up her finger she sees red. The thing on the door is not growing. It is still. And she stares. And she is still. And it stares. Fish swim, blue scales on yellow silk. She begins again, ignoring the blood that now covers her grandmother’s ring, counting the bricks as she passes them. Slowly, cobbles are lost to moss and she is alone.
Petals spread. Birds fly low. Cold wind makes the fish swim faster. Green finds its way inside her open finger, coating her veins with ivy. She smells rosemary. Heartbeat of hummingbird, legs spread wide. Sunlight like pleasure. Brown fills her vision, she welcomes it. It is a respite from colour. But it does not agree with her for long. She buzzes like her blood is fruit flies that are angry at being trapped inside. Every pore yearns for water. Her fish have left her for the pond between the willow’s fingers. Her stomach acid bubbles into amber and the flies are crystalised, to be given as gifts to lovers when the species are extinct. She has no lungs left.
There is pleasure in sunlight. Yellow like that day in the meadow where kisses filled her skin until it was so sensitive even a breath would have fulfilled her. But that has passed. There are no kisses now. There is only her, watching the birds fly and the grey and blue of the clouds that they silhouette against.
She is soil. But soon she will be taken into the trees and she will be green.
—Published 1st of July 2021
About Grace E Tompkins
Grace E Tompkins’ Novella Loving won the Cowan, Johnson and Watson Award for Best File of Original Literary work. She has also won several other creative writing prizes, including for Streetcake Magazine and One Mic Stand, a Manchester based poetry slam. Her work contains themes of power, nature, surveillance and capitalism.