I remember you, she says, looking right through me. The deserted sky flares into tourmaline blue, ballet slipper pink, and flushed merlot, covering the valley like paint. It is the long cold season and the winds swirl, throwing her voice so that it seems to come from somewhere else.
I have imagined this moment, ruminated for years about its potential; my heart idling in long-term storage. I purse my lips to speak, but a sound—like a pained animal—comes out. A shrug is the best I can do to cover my embarrassment.
It is the winter solstice festival. Throngs of happy people mill about. I am not one of them.
You still living on the island, she asks. Her hair is lush. Mahogany-coloured with undertones of red, plum, and chocolate. I remember it being lighter. It hangs long like a filly’s mane. She tosses her head and her hair flips off her face, and I’m having a déjà vu.
I recall the same involuntary gesture, watching her from the stern of the canoe. She’s in the bow and pulling a j-stroke. Her paddle glides out of the water, clean; no splash. But with each dip she tosses her head and her hair flips off her face. In my mind’s eye, I can see her long tresses, gleaming like spun gold in the early morning light, as we paddle across the Sound to the cabin.
But here, now, she seems a slight impression of her former self. An unexpected turn.
She talks about her cooking show, and how the network is taking it in a new direction. I want to take in this moment, to have and to hold, for the next decade without her. But I don’t hear much. I’m wondering about the way she remembers me, as if I have been out of sight out of mind, until this very moment. When I have held her at a constant, all these years. It’s as if she harbours no emotional attachment. The realization is excruciating. How does she not know, not sense, how intensely I still feel? My stomach winces with vomit.
I tell her about my screenplay, its run in the theatre. She’s never heard of it. But wishes she had.
The moment eclipses as she offers a fond let’s stay in touch, and I am again watching her from behind. I memorize the pattern of whorls and rosettes in her hair. But as she is walking away, I realize that the relationship always had an expiration date, like yogurt. My lips quiver as the fantasy fades and reality rushes in like a gas fire.
Karen Schauber is a Flash Fiction writer obsessed with the form. Her work appears in 30 international literary magazines and anthologies, including Brilliant Flash Fiction, Bending Genres, Carpe Arte, Ekphrastic Review, Ellipsis Zine, and Fiction Southeast. The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings (Heritage, 2019), celebrating the Canadian modernist landscape painters, is her first editorial/curatorial flash fiction anthology. Schauber runs ‘Vancouver Flash Fiction’, a flash fiction Resource Hub and Critique Circle, and in her spare time, is a seasoned Family Therapist. A native of Montreal, she has called Vancouver home for the past three decades. http://KarenSchauber.weebly.com. http://GroupofSevenFlashFiction.weebly.com. http://VancouverFlashFiction.weebly.com. https://www.facebook.com/VancouverFlashFiction/. FB: @Karen Schauber. Twitter: @karenschauber