by Karen Jones

I TOOK SUCH a long, slow drag of my cigarette, sucked my cheeks so hard, I thought my face, my entire body, might turn inside out. My organs, muscles, veins on show, raw. Would they notice me then, those girls who stand in a group just a few feet away? Would they invite me in, at least as a curiosity? I could tap the top of my thigh, at the Great Saphenous Vein, tell them it goes all the way down to my Doc-Marten-booted foot, the longest vein in the human body. They’d point the toes of their stiletto shoes, admiring their own tanned, long legs, imagining the vein pulsing under their skin. I could show them the place where my appendix used to be, tell them how I’d almost died of septicaemia after the surgery, and that was why I was off work for a few weeks last year. They’d pretend to have noticed I wasn’t in the office back then; feign a care they’ve never felt. I could put my hand to my chest, tell them about Takotsubo syndrome, how people really can die of a broken heart. They’d hold their manicured hands to their mouths in shock and sadness, move a little closer to me, and though not quite ready to touch me, they’d stare at my not completely broken heart, still working hard to keep me alive. Then I could exhale, long and slow, my body turning outside in, but standing in the middle now, not off to the side, not in that corner. And I could choose to stay, be part of them, or crush my cigarette under my boot and walk away.


Karen Jones is a flash and short fiction writer from Glasgow, Scotland. In 2021, she won first prize in the Cambridge Flash Prize, Flash 500 and Reflex Fiction. She is Special Features Editor at New Flash Fiction Review and an editor for National Flash Fiction Day anthology. Her novella-in-flash, When It’s Not Called Making Love, is published by Ad Hoc Fiction.