Monday, 10 February 2014

Mustard Heart by L.A. Craig

Words with JAM BIGGER Short Story Competition 2013
3rd PRIZE WINNER (250 word category)

He works in a deli, draws mustard hearts, hides his feelings beneath sourdough, ciabatta, rye.

Esther, name pinned to her tunic, works at Health Mart, the bottle green uniform pulls the colour from her face. She has a grey kind of beauty. Her eyes are the blue they call petrol, not baby. Freckles skip across pale cheeks and cluster the bridge of her nose. 

To release her scraped back hair, feel its weight caress his grateful fingers.

She smiles her order: ham, Swiss, lettuce. Hands crossed against drab through the glass counter, a signet ring on her pinky.

Maybe he’ll write his own initials.

She turns her regal neck to look out to the street. This neck he will never trace with soft lips, but he can make her taste his kisses. He squeezes a diagonal line over the ham, Swiss, lettuce. It slides down the gloss surface of the cheese. He pulls another from the opposite corner. Wraps. Presents his affection.

Outside, a gorilla wears the same dark green. Esther nips the cigarette from his mouth, unwraps the wax paper, slow, like a striptease. The guy sees something in her eyes. He grabs both her wrists, she laughs, wrestles free for a second, then his paws, rough in her hair. A pinch in the ribs with her free hand, she knows his soft spot. He backs off. 

Esther holds the sandwich up to his face. Forces him to take a bite of someone else’s feelings.

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