Friday Flash Fiction: Tongue

Tongue
By Neil Beynon

“What is it?” you ask.

I say nothing.

You look up from your knees where you’ve dropped down to check why I have not moved. Your hair falls across your face, you push it back behind your ear with two fingers whose ghosts I feel on my neck and the brief glimpse of the sun through your window points out freckles I never noticed before. The room is musty still with the scent of the night before and I wish you’d opened the window while I was gone. You seem made of glass as the growing quiet between us knocks you on your arse.

“Oh.”

I could not speak if I wanted to.

“Can’t we talk about it? Is it me? I can’t fix it if I don’t know what’s wrong?”

I cannot bear this. Outside a pigeon lands on the window, it buries its head under its wing, grooming its pink breast whilst shielded by the slate of its wing. I am racked with jealousy.

“That’s it: you’re not going to say a word?”

I look back at you looking at me with eyes that scream at me “I will not cry” but know they lie. Part of me unfurls, detaches and watches the scene with something like wonder only more bitter; I am not sure I will get this piece of me back. This isn’t happening. This isn’t real. I reach out a hand.

“Please…” you say, rocking back out of reach. “Just go.”

I walk. I do not want to but my body picks itself up, oblivious to the part of me left behind and my feet pick a path. The latch snapping shut behind me sounds more like a chain snapping and the stairs are lost to me in the stench of bleach from the cleaner two floors above.

She is waiting on the tarmac outside, arms thrust in the pockets of her coat, collar turned against the weather or perhaps against the twitching of the curtains behind me. She risks her neck in the gusty wind as she meets my gaze, eyebrows raised.

“Is it done?” she asks when I do not answer her silent query.

I nod.

“Good,” she says.

She pulls the jar from her pocket and holds it up for me to see. My tongue is a gaudy brown-red smear against the dishwater grey sky. She shakes it in the jar but does not hand it over.

“I think I’m going to hang on to this for a while, “ she says, returning it to her pocket. “Now, come on.”

And I do.

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