Our living guests carry on talking, drinking wine and sharing the cheese around the table. They get louder as the wine goes down, the sound tuning in and out as I listen for phantom footsteps and shadow breaths against my neck. My fingers tingle, and the air in the room becomes cold. The others are here.
The others pull at the hem of my skirt, nibble at my toes, shivers of goosebumps trickle through my body. I wear a long-sleeved dress so only the others know about the bumps. The conversation at the table turns to summer and where we will go this year. Mark describes the villa for two at the edge of the sea, the gentle waves, the sangria, the delicious food.
Our living guests begin to leave, to slip on their coats and wobble to the door, taxis arrive and leave, the house becomes still. The dishwasher sloshes, and Mark hands me the last glass of wine. We sit together on the sofa, and he holds my hand. He feels the chill on my skin, the rents in my heart, he holds me close, warming me.
The others whisper of sadness, of loneliness. They want me to stay, to talk to them. Even for a few weeks they will mourn without my attention. My heart has to beat for them all, my lungs have to breathe for them all. I must remember them all to give them life. They will let me leave with reluctance, but they know I will return.
Our living guests will murmur about my standoffishness as they return home in their taxis. The way the cheese was just a little too ripe, the room a little too cold. The poor lighting that left too many shadows, the undisturbed dust of longing in each corner, the sour smell of emptiness.
JOYCE BINGHAM — Joyce is a Scottish writer who enjoys writing short fiction with pieces published by Molotov Cocktail, Ellipsis Zine, FlashBack Fiction, VirtualZine, Funny Pearls and Free Flash Fiction. She lives in the North of England where she makes up stories and tells tall tales. @JoyceBingham10
Art by SUSAN SOLOMON — Susan is a freelance paintress living in the beautiful Twin Cities area of Minneapolis/Saint Paul.