I fell and I landed and the crash mat knocked all the air out of me. I swore and you laughed and dropped down onto your knees next to me and those big blue eyes refuelled my empty lungs. I swore again, although for a rather different reason, and you offered me a hand. You pulled me upright and pulled my head into your chest with both arms as I remembered how to breathe.

The smell of you was chalk and sweat and old rubber shoes and something else uniquely yours, and I counted each dose of it by the metronome inside your ribcage. As my breathing slowed, your grip loosened and your palms stroked my shoulders in a smooth, uninterrupted rhythm.



You pulled me to my feet and turned to face the wall, adorned with a rainbow of little rocks and numbers and scuff marks.

“Well quit slacking, then”, you said with a masterpiece of a grin painted across your face and I said I’d race you, and you gave me a slap on the arse and I gave you a punch in the arm. And you won, but when you looked me in the eye to gloat then I did, too.


Hielo y fuego

I gave up. I fell onto the sofa with the remains of a pot of chocolate ice cream, half-melted in the microwave out of impatient desperation. I let each spoonful melt across my tongue; grateful for a feeling at all I followed the cold sensation as it numbed my throat and spread into my stomach. As I scraped the last from the sides of the pot my dog jumped into life, barking out the window at a silver blur of car headed toward the dead-end. I called her down off the sofa. She didn’t look entirely convinced that the excitement was over but she obeyed and came to sit at my feet.

I sighed into the empty pot and heaved myself up to take it to the bin. April followed me half the way down the hall but the sound of a car door sent her hurtling back to her post on the back of the sofa by the window, to add to the collection of nose marks on the glass. I dumped the pot in the bin, and the spoon in the sink and turned on the radio. It was adverts, so it went straight off again. Leaning against the counter I let my eyes shut and my head fall back.

The barking became suddenly more urgent as the gate clicked shut. I was definitely not in the mood for visitors and considered just staying in the kitchen out of view and waiting for whoever it was to leave again, but the barking was drilling into my skull so I ventured back down the hall and shut April in the front room.

I opened the front door before you reached it; you were standing halfway down the driveway facing the way you had just come and running a hand through your hair. You turned at the sound of the door opening and my heart broke a little bit more just at the sight of you.

You were wearing my favourite shirt of yours, a dark purple button-down, sleeves rolled up in the early summer heat. Your hair had been starting to lighten in the sun and you looked so youthful and full of life and then at the same time utterly bewildered that I had opened the door to my own house while you were standing on my driveway. April was still shouting but with less fervour now you were out of sight.

You shook your head slowly and took the three paces between us in no time at all and took hold of my face with such a deliberate grip I braced for impact and your warm lips met my cold ones with all the subtlety of the big bang. You drew me forward across the threshold onto the cold stone floor and when my hands finally figured out what was happening they gripped the back of your shirt and held you close.

You pulled back and looked into my eyes, concerned and searching for something.

“You’re gonna break me one of these days”, I said.

“I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry”, you answered, pulling me into your arms; bringing me home.


I played for a while with the blood I drew. I don’t know why I’d never thought to do that before; it felt so silky against my fingertips, somewhere between oil and water. I watched it pool for a while at its source as the red pigment set onto the skin of my palms.

The red rivulets flowed in slow motion, seeking a valley in which to settle but stopped short of their destination by cotton, signing my autograph in brilliant red ink against the sheet below me. The healing was slow. Coagulation left ugly mounds of sediment which were dredged away by tissue. The air against the wounded flesh stung. It’s only when the drought strikes that the river bed screams for moisture.

I examined my fingers once more. It was strange; I had expected for the skin to feel dry, cracked, but the staining made it smoother than ever. It was as if this was good for me.


He held her under his arm with an impossible softness, planting small kisses against her hair. She was quite the opposite of his loving serenity; eyes wide and attentive, muscles softened yet braced to make her escape at any time.

“Would you like to come home with me?”, he breathed against the top of her head, where his rested.

His advance was met with silence. The blade of guilt carved a deep wound into her heart as the response rested on her tongue. He might just as well have asked if she wanted to break his heart, and she was very tempted.

There was something in his adoration that made her hostile. His love was pathetic; his vulnerability disgusting.

She shut her eyes. His deep sigh confirmed he understood.


She entered the bedroom after he was already under the sheets, his chest exposed as he sat against the wall fiddling with his phone. She closed the door without a word, checked that he was still occupied by the screen in his hand, then turned to face the wardrobe and began to remove her shirt.  The room fell abnormally quiet, the sound of him thinking seemed to vanish from the air and she could tell he was watching her before she looked in the mirror to her left.

He looked at her like an animal at its helpless prey. She thought that this was how someone must look at a person they are about to murder as they crouch in fear screaming for mercy. She tried to ignore the intensity of his stare as it burned into her skin and reached down to the floor to retrieve her nightshirt. She hastened her routine as she removed her bra and pulled the shirt over her head. It was grey and old and was more like a short dress than a shirt, it ended over her thighs and she liked it best that way. She did not want to be attractive, she wanted to go to sleep.

She unbuttoned her jeans, removed them carefully so as not to show any more skin than necessary, and placed them folded on the chair next to her for the morning. She flashed a glance to the mirror; he was still watching her, the same disgusting half-smile fixed on his face. It was a look of expectancy that was soon to be tainted with disappointment and displeasure.

She released a silent sigh before turning the light off and joining him in the small double bed. She was careful not to touch him and not to meet his gaze; she did not want to give him any sort of signal that the look on his face was welcome. He put down his phone on the cabinet beside him and looked over to her. He slid a hand over to her leg under the sheets and she held back a grimace, forcing a smile onto her lips. She muttered a goodnight and lay facing the wall, away from him and that carnal almost-smile.

His rough hand met the curve of her hip and her face contorted with the mixture of anger and sadness and pain that coursed through her veins. This was not how life was meant to be.


The bass captivated the room and the silent vibrations pulsed through my body as I stood breathing heavily, eyes closed, waiting for the drop. The air was dense with sweat and the atmosphere suggested that I was not the only person pausing to catch their breath. I felt a hand grab my arm and slide down to meet my open hand, and after a pause there was a sharp tug. Eyes still sealed I followed the pull of my guide wordlessly through the maze of bodies, holding tight as the beat got louder.

A blast of cool air hit my face and arms as we passed the fans and speakers that obscured the lesser-used side hallway. The music was muffled as the door fell shut behind us and the pull on my hand lessened; we came to a stop. I opened my eyes to glimpse a familiar blue abyss before me as I was pulled into his arms by the hand he had yet to release; the music picked up again as his lips met mine and my eyes closed once more.

I smiled into his kiss, my now liberated hands finding hair to hold him closer.


His target sat in the grass about ten paces ahead of him. The city in front was littered with lights, more appearing very gradually as the sky began to slowly lighten to a deep purple. She sat very still, her knees clutched to her chest, staring out over the sprawling concrete maze from the safe serenity of the hillside.

He stood observing her for a few minutes. Every now and then the wind caught her hair, blowing it off her face and out behind her with each icy gust. He folded his arms across his chest to preserve warmth but the woman before him remained unmoving. When the wind receded a little he began to take slow steps down the sloping earth towards her. He removed something from his coat pocket and fiddled with it for a moment. It glinted even in the low light, and was cold against his skin.

Just behind his target, he knelt to the floor on one knee, raising the shining silver object with one hand and lifting her soft, cold hair with his other. She continued to stare straight ahead, shivering slightly and with eyes swelling with tears. He placed the metal against the skin of her neck and she let out a soft squeak at the cold of it. He held it there for just a moment, before releasing her hair and taking the object in both hands.

He fastened it at the back of her neck, allowing the shining gem to fall and rest against the bare skin of her chest.

He planted a whisper of a kiss on her shoulder, then stood. As he turned to walk away, he looked to the sky. The purple was laced with hints of pink on the horizon; the sun was only beginning to leak through and darkness still reigned.


Walking out into the large room across the dull green carpet I look up and see high wooden beams and a scatter of cobwebs. I check to see that there are no current eight-legged residents and relax a little when I am satisfied that there are none. I begin to walk towards the small window at the back of the room but am interrupted; I feel an arm at the back of my knees and am suddenly removed from the floor. I let out a squeak of shock as I grasp at the shirt of the man now holding me in his arms, tugging on his tie and pulling it off-center. I look up to see familiar blue eyes and I straighten his tie again with a confused half-smile.

He begins to spin around in a circle and I abandon the tie and wrap my arms around his neck; a grin erupts on my face formed partly of shock and partly of a feeling I can’t quite decipher. He stops spinning and looks me in the eyes as I regain some level of composure and a less surprised facial expression.

He holds me as if I am weightless, his arms strong around me and his movements fluid. He smelled wonderful; sort of spicy and musky with a hint of sweet thrown in, a scent I can only describe as ‘Tony’.

“Meeting’s next door”, he says coolly, his face softened yet with no particular expression.

“That explains the lack of furniture in here..”

He tilts his head a little with a hint of a smile playing on his lips, and deposits me once more gently onto the floor. He turns as if going into another spin, his suit jacket lifting a little at the back with the momentum, and glides out of the room as if to an unheard rhythm. I glance back to the window which is now behind me again. I smile to myself. I can still smell him in the air.

After a moment’s pause I exit the room, closing the door behind me.


She stands at the door, open just a little. She can hear the loud chattering of advertisements as they attempt humour; she can hear the clattering of keys interrupted by an occasional bark of laughter, and she can think of no reason to push the door open and cross the threshold.

“Come here sweet! Watch this!”, the man shouts, the sound of opening credits now blasting into her ear drums.

She turns and silently dashes down the hallway to the kitchen. She closes the door and leans back against it for a moment, allowing the steady rhythm of the radio to drown out the screeching crowds of people in her empty house. She slumps to the floor, eyes closed, mind saturated.



She breathed deeply and heavily, cursing her bruised knuckles as she silenced the ringing phone.
“We need to talk. I’m worried about you.”
“Must we talk now?” she said, her words drowned out by her thumping heart and interrupted by struggling lungs.
“Where are you?”
“I’m in training.”
The voice at the end of the phone paused for a moment, allowing her to calm her breathing a little.
“What are you training for?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why are you training?”
“Because I don’t know”.

The low voice at the end of the phone muttered some words of concern before agreeing to talk later. She ended the call and clutched the phone to her chest, feeling her beating heart against her clenched hand.

Head bowed and eyes closed, she calmed herself.
The phone was replaced on the bench, and her training resumed.
With each punch came a wince of pain.
“It only hurts if you let it.”