by Nina Fosati

How Desolate Was Its Abandonment

Marnie’s tender throat prevents speech. There’s no one to talk to anyway. She methodically loads her car. Bags filled with clothing, bedding, and pillows are stowed in the back of the station wagon. Every possession she has fits in this traveling box. Periodically, she rubs the side of her face against her shoulder. Remorse nibbles on her earlobes, makes them itch and burn.

She packs Robin’s car too, clears the trailer park of their occupation. She has declined all offers of help, claimed the sorting of Robin’s possessions as her penance.

Marnie crams the small car to the liner, barely leaving room for a driver to fit in the seat. Robin’s brother slouches off the number 33A bus and, wordlessly, she hands him the car keys. He climbs in, drives to the corner. She watches as he pokes his head around the front of the stacked assemblage, checks for oncoming traffic, turns right, then drives away.

I thought I would see you again.

The refrain loops in Marnie’s head as she trudges to the main office to turn in the keys to the trailer. The manager comments on her calm in the crisis. He doesn’t ask about the pills, the bourbon, the whispers of a smother bag. He doesn’t mention the ruined mattress. It leans against the front corner of the trailer, the indecisive stains transforming from burgundy to rust to black in the humid air. They both know she’ll never see the security deposit.

She treads back to her loaded car, opens the door and listens, one foot raised. A hornet climbs the nearby goldenrod. It inspects each yellow strand and buzzes with serious intent. Prairie sage and wood mint wave in the breeze. A whiff of sweet phlox floats behind.

Summer days, I thought would never end. There’s no changing what happened, no going back. The hinges groan as she pulls the car door closed. She shifts into drive. At the street, she pauses. Right leads to the land of labeled and weighed, known and measured. The sidewalks swept clean enough to threaten a fried egg. She turns left.

With her Fog and the Diamond Sky

Lucy opens the door, and with a tisk of alarm enfolds Marnie in her arms. ‘You drove all the way here. Like this?’

Steve leans against the doorframe, one long arm raised across the threshold. Lucy rubs Marnie’s back, brushes the hair off her face. She leads Marnie to the overstuffed chocolate-brown couch, makes her sweet tea with milk, tells her to settle, exchanges worried glances with Steve.

Marnie sits motionless as a manikin. Her pupils inflated by the diamond sky. The apartment complex gradually quiets. Steve slips into the living room, turns down the lights, checks the door and windows, locks up for the night. He kneels next to the couch, awkwardly pats her head, then lifts and carries her into the bedroom.

He and Lucy undress her. They tenderly guide her to the shower; make sure the taps run hot, gently pat her dry. They tell her to raise her arms, and then unfurl one of Steve’s tired t-shirts down her lean body. They brush her short brown hair. Lucy has her lie down on the bed, and then reclines next to her. She puts her arm around Marnie scooping her close. Steve spoons behind, his hand serene on her hip.

Marnie crumbles apart. The subsumed pain, hidden by need and nerve, crashes into her and she howls. She smacks a creamy pillow and it ruptures into silt. She is kneeling on the shore scooping fistfuls of sand captivated by the holes that always refill. The gritty ooze glitters and clings. Movement trails in kaleidoscopic streaks and sparks, mesmerized she loses certainty, follows the iridescent tracks. They materialize and disappear, shimmer in and out of the heavy fog blanketing the beach. The saturated sand breathes beneath her feet. It swells and subsides, swells and subsides.

She and Robin lie in the damp sand and caress a river nymph. Henna hair streaked with green and lavender flashes in the firelight. They lie on either side encouraging and supportive. She is skittish as a ginger barn cat, a freckled sprite, fluid and burbling beneath their curious hands. They marvel at the enchanting purity.

Waves lap against her bare legs, tingling cold as her body is slowly soaked and filled. Loving fingers drip frosty lavender swirls down her belly. Heartache bleeds into the biting liquid, orange and sparkling. Her cuts and bruises bite at first, then the water cools and soothes. They bestow the grace of absolution. She surges into the black silence, the soul-sick fury eased. For a moment, she floats through emptiness, the stinging guilt calmed.

Nina Fosati is an artist by inclination and a writer by misfortune. Beguiled by historic clothing and portraiture, she impulsively holds forth on her favourites @NinaFosati. Nina is also the Shorts on Survival editor for the r.kv.r.y quarterly literary journal and has had a small assortment of stories published in journals and anthologies.