It’s her dress I notice first. Same fabric as my bedcover, a garish crimson against sea-green floral that I’d bought for the exact purpose of pissing you off. Our house was made for summer, so come winter it was layered over a stack of musty blankets, pulled up tight around our necks.
She is holding a glass of wine, looking closely at your red painting. You had given it another name, something arty, but we both knew it came from bloodstained sheets.
It is never too soon to look ahead. You taught me that. Come winter she could be my human bed cover. When I come home late at night I will fall onto her and be embraced by floral arms.
The inside of her neck smells like old lipstick, and when she turns her chin towards me there is a faint bristle against my cheek. She does not move, make noises in her sleep, or have a sudden need to create in the dark of the night. I have always been an early waker - slid easily from under heavy arms. No need now. She wakes as I do, gently removes one arm after the other, unwraps me like a fragile package. I considerately turn away my morning breath, prop pillows behind her head, and bring her a cup of tea—white with half a sugar.
And then she moves two steps to the right, wine slips against glass and in a camouflage of crimson-green-red, colours shift like light on ice patterned windows, and I can no longer see where she begins and I end, or where we were.
I sleep with arms and legs wide these days.
Rachel Smith lives and writes in the Cook Islands. Her flash and short fiction, and poetry, has been published in print and online journals in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. She was placed second in 2017 NZ National Flash Fiction Day, is the fiction editor for takahē, and scriptwriter for a feature film Stranded Pearl, due to be released in 2018. Find her at @rachelmsmithnz1 and http://rachelmsmithnz.wix.com/rachel-smith.