by Olivia Tuck
I don’t like the dark.
November is a smoky month, what with people setting fire to things for fun. Shadows clog each day’s arteries and my lamplight is too yellow, too dim, to be an antidote.
My room’s damp. The old wallpaper bubbles. The plastic styling head I got for my seventh Christmas leers at us, its lips parted in mutism. I pretend I don’t mind.
Storm has dyed her hair again. It’s changed from will o’ the wisp white to a migraine in pink purple blue, like the Milky Way. Usually people being perfectly matched with their names only happens in books, but her moods are gale-force. She smells of the void thunder leaves after passing by.
Now, she’s hanging off my bed, the galaxy pouring onto the carpet. She says, ‘Dan fancies you.’ I say, ‘No he doesn’t.’ She says, ‘He does too.’ I say, ‘Lads don’t like me.’
‘Dan does,’ she assures me. ‘He’s a lad.’
I snort. She’s talking crap. I am fat to her slender-yet-shapely. I am rice pudding to her half-Turkish baklava skin.
Besides, Storm likes Dan. ‘He’d be more inclined to fancy you,’ I say.
‘Oh, I’m nothing to him.’ She loops a streak of solar system around her finger.
I look at her. ‘I find that hard to believe.’
‘Nah,’ she murmurs. ‘I don’t think he knows I’m alive.’
The quiet is a dialing tone. It spins through the ears at a pitch higher than what could be considered comfortable. I feel Storm’s chest twitch. Twitch. Twitch. She wipes her eyes with her wrist, leaving lash soot marks. Stains. The world is all over stains. I see the grubbiness on everything. The meds generate their own grime. But it’s okay. My vision was too clean before. I felt a screw turn in my ribs every time I moved, and the shadows had – literally – the Devil in them.
Storm uncoils. The smoke is hiding her, smearing the watercolour features down her face.
‘Stay still,’ I whisper. ‘I can hardly see you.’
I know she’s grinning as she scrabbles across the skin of rubble that covers the floor. She holds up whatever she’s found. ‘Lay off these.’ Her voice is leaves, falling. I realise she’s seized a blister pack of pills when I hear it bend in her grip. ‘Then you’ll see me clearly.’
She springs over the windowsill. I watch the shape of her run through the night’s blowing cinders, to the mulberry tree. She’s laughing. So impulsive. I choke on her beauty. Without staring back at the sleet coming from my tear ducts, she picks fruit that shouldn’t be there at this time of year.
Bites into it.
The sky breaks.
Olivia Tuck has had poems and prose published in literary journals and webzines, including The Interpreter's House, Lighthouse, Amaryllis and Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her work also featured in Please Hear What I'm Not Saying, a charity poetry anthology on the subject of mental health, and she has been Highly Commended and shortlisted in one or two story competitions. She is due to start at Bath Spa University this autumn, to study for a BA in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites