When Angela was seven, she asked her mother what kind of meat was on her plate.
“Rabbit,” said her mother.
Tears dripped down Angela’s face. “Like Snowdrop next door?”
For the next six months she would only eat meat if her mother promised that it wasn’t killed. That it came out of a tin. Until her father yelled that he wasn’t going to put up with this bloody nonsense a minute longer and shoved a plate of fatty bacon in front of her, threatening to stuff it down her bloody throat if she didn’t eat it NOW. As soon as the bacon was in her mouth she rushed out to the wash-house and threw up in her father’s work boots.
After the ferocity of the beating and the neighbours hammering on the door, he locked her in the coal cellar for the rest of the freezing pitch-black night.
Jamie’s mother lamented to her sister that Jamie had never had a girlfriend and she couldn’t understand it because he must surely have met hundreds of girls at university by now. Her sister replied that girls these days only went for bad boys. Besides, what kind of girl studied physics and astronomy?
Three weeks before graduation Jamie phoned his mother to say he’d like to bring a friend home for dinner. Angela. They worked in the labs together. His mother was speechless for a whole minute. Before she gathered her wits for an interrogation, she heard Jamie utter an unfamiliar word.
“Angela’s vegan,” Jamie repeated, “Me too, now. We don’t eat dead animals.”
“But… what about roast beef and Yorkshire pudding? It’s your favourite meal.”
“Not anymore,” Jamie said. “But don’t worry. Angela and I like cooking and we’ll bring plenty of food.”
On Sunday Jamie’s mother eyed the lentil and coconut dahl that Angela set down on the table and gave a tight smile. During dinner she noted that Angela avoided answering questions about her parents or her background and talked only about things called solar wind, ions and energetic particles. But Jamie’s mother couldn’t miss the way they looked at each other. While Angela was out of earshot, she asked Jamie if they were planning on getting married after university.
“No,” said Jamie. “Angela doesn’t believe in marriage.”
“Oh? What about children?”
Jamie shook his head. “Angela doesn’t want to bring children into this world.”
“So… what does Angela want.”
“She wants to live in Iceland.”
Inside the cabin Jamie laid the wood for the fire and struck a match. Angela stepped outside into the black frigid night. When the cold penetrated her bones, she looked back at the window and saw flames in the hearth. Then she called him. Jamie came out and waited with her. Ribbons of green and blue light began to ripple and flare across the sky. In the icy air Angela felt the heat from the fire in Jamie’s arms and the warmth of his cheek against hers.
Sandra Arnold is an award-winning writer who lives in Canterbury, New Zealand. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and is the author of five books. Her most recent work, a flash fiction collection, Soul Etchings (Retreat West Books, UK) and a novel, The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell (Mākaro Press, NZ) were published in 2019. Her flash fiction and short stories have been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally. www.sandraarnold.co.nz