Tuesday 7 May 2024

Number Thirty-five by Mari Philips, bitter coffee

Susie clutched her wrist. The makeshift sling was useless. Her eyes darted between the clock and the flashing sign showing the waiting time. Five hours and thirty-five minutes. How could it be so precise? She dabbed at her mouth with her good hand and then examined the crumpled tissue. Just stale brown streaks now. She tried deep breathing again. In through her nose, and her ribs complained. Out through her mouth and her jaw throbbed. 

  ‘Let it go,’ her mother-in-law said. ‘Adam doesn’t mean it. He’s a good man.’

He never means it, Susie thought. She always wore trousers and long-sleeved shirts to work and laughed with colleagues. But then there was the collar bone when she slipped down the stairs. And the miscarriage. She felt a tingling behind her eyes and the fingers of her good hand skimmed her belly. He said it was her fault. Always her fault. She believed him.

‘I’ll have that coffee now, milk, no sugar,’ she said to her mother-in-law and watched her stride down the corridor to find a functioning vending machine. Susie fished a slip of paper from the heel of her shoe, then set off in the other direction. She spotted a taxi. What was it they said at Women’s Aid…thirty-five incidents before seeking help?

About the author

Mari lives in Leeds, writes mostly flash fiction, with several published in CaféLit, and is working on a couple of ‘longer’ short stories. She also occasionally dabbles in poetry. She is a keen singer and sometime traveller. 

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