Wednesday 11 March 2020


by Demi-Louise Blackburn 

bitter lemon

I notice three emotions on his face.

So, I count them up on the phantom fingers in my head. One, two, three. Shock, anger, shame. Silence settles down on top of us like lead weights, a chill teases the back of my neck with lithe, damp fingers, and I feel like I might just stop breathing. The sun hangs low and heavy like the stone that’s lodged itself in my stomach. I have the urge to laugh, but the watercolour sky with its melancholy shades, it’s blues, seems to forbid it. It’s telling me with a cobalt frown that I should not laugh, because you do not laugh at those three emotions. One, two, three. Shock, anger, shame.

He has never looked at me this way before. Those eyes have always peered at me with gentle questions. Now, they scream at me, demanding, that blinding Summer sun of a smile wiped away with a few rushed words. I suppose, when your childhood sweetheart tells you that you couldn’t be worse for each other if you tried, it tends to freeze over all that warm joy like a snowstorm. I realise that I am laughing now, a high, nasally kind of noise that almost annoys me. I can’t help it. I can’t stop.

“What do you mean I’m bad for you?”

We’ve stopped in the middle of the path home, a barren farmers field on one side and the riverbank on the other, hemming us in like prisoners. I have a script for this, tallied up and stored away inside for when the time was right. I’d never imagined it would be today, celebrating an anniversary under the embers of the sun...only I’d looked at him and his smitten face and suddenly found that I couldn’t stand the sight of him anymore.

“I’m not suggesting it’s entirely you,” I say. “It’s just that I don’t think we’re a good fit anymore, is all. I want you to be with someone who can give you more.” 

What more is, I’m not too sure. Messages are running through my blood and my brain is screaming that he’s a good man. But my stomach doesn’t seem to agree, a war between guts and gore waging wildly below. Every touch of his makes my stomach lurch and writhe as though I’d stuck my hand into the ground of the farmers field, swallowing down the dirt and worms. His love never reminded me of roses and warmth and sweet Summer air. It reminded me of broken twigs and frost and something rotting under the ice.

“You have everything I want.” 

I notice the emotions change. Anger has jumped ship, his face now a tightrope, the new feelings hesitantly beginning to place a single step down – before retreating. I can’t quite catch what is going on in that head of his, but I can tell those nameless things are hovering just out of view, rain hiding away uselessly in a bloated storm cloud. In my head, I imagine my phantom fingers reaching out to his to feel what he feels, but we are too far away, and I’m scared to get closer. I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t understand what was in there, anyway. 

“I don’t want to give everything to you.” I say.

I notice three emotions on his face.

One, two, three.

And run.

About the author

 Demi-Louise Blackburn is a twenty-four-year-old author from West Yorkshire, England, covering everything horror, bittersweet and satirical. Though she adores flash fiction and short stories, she is also working on her first novel. More work and updates can be found at:

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