FictionFiction Week

Going Back: Fiction by Grace Hammond

By September 7, 2021 September 22nd, 2021 No Comments

The first time, it happened like this: “I think I’m taking the offer.”  

       I looked at you. “That’s your decision?”  

       “I guess it is.”  

       The cars whispered past us on the light-streaked street. Rain pattered into our hair.  

       I said, “You know what will happen, then.”  

       You replied, “I know.”  

       I went home alone.  

       Two days later, it was the third of June. I woke up by myself and made toast. I took the tram to work. I laid on my couch until I couldn’t stand it. The closet drawer was empty when I changed for bed and your book was gone from the night stand when I laid down. 

       The next day, I did it all again. And the next. Days seeped quietly into months. Time was supposed to be the cure, but the longer I went without you the more my organs dislodged; my heart and lungs and eyes drifting into vacancy. It wasn’t getting better. So I went back.  

 

The second time, it was this: “I think I’m going to take the offer.”  

       I didn’t pause. “I’ll go with you.” 

       Both of us were gone, together, by the third of June. We packed our lives into suitcases and flew across the country. We slept in the same bed and made pancakes on Saturdays. We watched movies and filled your bookshelves. But mostly, more than anything, you worshipped your nine to five while I haunted our apartment. There were no jobs for me in this city. I lived inside four walls, surrounded by your scent, your clothes, your financial support. I stared at television screens and hated myself. I told you I couldn’t stay.  

 

The third time, we tried to stay together. Days were crowded trams, empty bedsheets, buttered halves of toast. Nights were video calls and sitcom laughing tracks. It was wrong. The closet drawer was still bare, your books still missing. Your voice wasn’t enough. I spent months, years stretching it into something I could live with. But I couldn’t, and I couldn’t leave. So I went back.  

 

The next time was different. You said, “I think I’m going to take the offer.”  

       “Are you sure?”  

       “I am, actually.”  

       “You know I can’t leave.” 

       “I know that.”  

       “And you know I want you.” 

       You put your hands in your pockets. “Yes.”  

       “Stay. Please.”  

       “You want me to?”  

       “Yes.”  

       “You want me to give this up?”  

       “I want to be with you.”  

       “You said you wanted whatever I wanted.”  

       “That was before you chose this over me.”  

       You looked at me then. I still remember your expression. “Is that what you think I’m doing?”  

       “When you strip it down.”  

       “Please don’t be selfish now.” 

       “You are being selfish.” 

       You were still for a moment. The traffic lights played ping pong while the rain fell like frost.  

       You walked away from me.  

       I went home alone.  

 

So I went back. Again. And again. 

       You said, “I think I’m going to take the offer.”  

       I replied, “I don’t want you to.”  

       I replied, “Please don’t go.” 

       I replied, “That ridiculous job?”  

       I replied, “You are the one who’s tearing us apart.”  

 

Then you would leave. With or without me. There was no combination of words that could make you stay. So I went back.  

 

The last time, it happened like this: “I think I’m taking the offer.”  

       I looked at you. “That’s your decision?”  

       “I guess it is.”  

       The cars whispered past us on the light-streaked street. Rain pattered into our hair.  

       I said, “You know what will happen, then.”  

       You replied, “I know.”  

       I went home alone.  

 

Grace is a Brisbane-based writer studying Creative Writing. She is part of the ScratchThat team, where some of her own work has appeared. She was included in last year’s Literary Salon Collection, and is currently working on a young adult novel set in the Gold Coast hinterlands. While her writing tends to skip haphazardly across genres, it’s unlikely she’ll ever write something that isn’t a little bit creepy.

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