Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Warm Milk

by Hannah Sutherland
1st place – Flash Fiction November 2020

He’s drinking the glass of warm milk as he’s always done before bed, a ritualistic habit, born from his childhood. Slurps it down, wipes his lips with the back of his hand, says a satisfied “ahh,” then puts the glass in the dishwasher after rinsing it with lukewarm water.

I think it’s the only pleasure he gets in a day now, warm milk.

He slips in beside me, being extremely careful not to touch my arms. I wouldn’t mind, I want to say, if his skin accidentally brushed mine. Wouldn’t mind at all. But of course I don’t, because we don’t talk anymore, and how ludicrous I’d feel, as his wife, saying such a statement.

He’s showered before I wake, pulling on his trousers, straightening his tie. It’s as if with every added pressure and stress at work, his suits get tighter, suffocating him until he’s barely breathing. Hardly able to function at all. He stands, looking at his reflection in the intricate mirror above my dressing table, barely holding it together, but to a stranger, he’d look every inch the professional he alludes to be.

I take myself to the park on my lunch break, desperate for my fix of fresh air, to wipe away the cobwebs, as my co-workers say, pleased with their cliché. I’m walking, kicking my boots through the fallen leaves, shades of yellow and brown, covering the greenery, and I see him. I think I’m imagining it, the way he leans over, cocooned into himself, rubbing his eyes, looking small but finally accessible.

So I stand, observing, hiding behind the overhanging oak, the bark imprinting on my hands, and in my mind, I walk over to him, sit beside him and without saying a word, he knows. He rests his head on my shoulder and he’s suddenly not so heavy anymore. “I’ll quit,” he tells me, and the relief is so strong I vomit. After a while, we kick through the leaves, walking home, holding hands like we used to do when he loved me, when he loved himself. And together we are more powerful than when we are alone.

He gets up and stretches, shakes away his feelings, and he’s back, the steely man in the suit who looks completely fine to everyone.

Almost everyone.

I walk over to him, feeling bold, and as he sees me, his face falters. We embrace, folding into one another’s bodies. I don’t know what will happen next, or if I can help him, if he will even let me, but I’ll try. And just before we break our hold, I whisper into his chest, “I’ve got you.”

Soup Kitchen

by Rose Walker-Taylor
2nd place – Flash Fiction November 2020

I had my fiftieth birthday at the end of April.

I look around me now and struggle to believe that at fifty years old, I now sit here. The path had been so clear, glinting and gilded. Yet, this is where I am now.

Despite the preconceived notions that I was dim, this could not have been further from the truth. The plan had been immaculate, executed perfectly. Eight languages learned, alongside the study
of architecture and design. Even the modelling had been a calculated choice, how else do you escape a forgotten town like that?

The soup kitchen I now wait in is suffocating. The oil of a thousand previous meals hangs in the air. The particles falling gently, saturating my hair. My “everyday” clothes that have been imposed on me sweat and suffuse the grease so deep into my skin that if I were to press my nails into my thighs I am sure they would sink in without any resistance. These rags are a far cry from the pieces I had worn just four years ago, drawing eyes, awe and envy with my every step. Before everything changed. Now I must fit in, avoid unwanted attention.

I close my eyes and try to shut out this filthy kitchen. How had my path forked so violently right?

It was him. He couldn’t keep his damn mouth shut. His brash, quite frankly reckless behaviour had thrown me down this one way road. Despite his lies and the outlandish things he had said and done, I had still been startled by the reaction of those who had decided his fate, and in turn my own.

Marrying him had been an obvious contract. It was not love, but I had entered it gladly, this final part of my plan. I had kept to his predictable and sometimes brutal needs of the arrangement,
maintaining my beauty and figure at all costs. He had promised me that I would never work again, never want for anything. Yet here I am, in this rancid place, waiting for my name to be called.

There is no going back now. I will have to grit my teeth and make it through the months ahead, knowing I could have been anywhere but here. Hoping his next fall will inevitably be a victory for myself.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, as Mayor of our beloved little community, I am honored to welcome the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump!’

I stand, smooth down my jacket and go to greet the wretched public.