by Zoe Holness
So here I am, not moving, not budging from this very spot. And there she is, right outside the door. Now usually with friends, they are the sum of all their parts and that is why you love them. They are, the very best sort anyway, complex and multidimensional. But the particular friend outside my door . . . she has many dimensions, but through and through – like the rings of an old oak – is stubbornness. She’s overflowing with the stuff. However, if I’m honest, so am I. So she’s truly met her match with me. She can rap at the door all she likes.
I am categorically not interested. I don’t want to be bothered by her chirping like a cheerful little bird. Bounding about and knocking things over with her clumsy joy. It’s the last thing I want when I’m . . . when there’s only grey. When there hasn’t been a sky for ages. When I don’t think there’ll ever be another sky.
The night is drawing in, temperature is dropping. But I won’t let her in. I can barely hear the knocking now over the crackling of the fire. It is a bitter and spiteful solace, and I know it. All of a sudden, quiet. I creep to the door to further investigate. She must have given up and gone home. It is a bitter victory, and I know it.
“It’s the last thing I want when I’m . . . when there’s only grey. When there hasn’t been a sky for ages. When I don’t think there’ll ever be another sky.”
On the mat there is a small bottle she must have posted through the letterbox. It looks wholly unattractive, and reads: Merry Mead.
So that’s her game. She’s foolish to think such a pitiful thing could cure what ails me . . . and anyway, there’s nothing the matter.
Next morning I wake to little birds perched on my window box. Singing and warbling right against the pane. I go to the window, and there! She’s back, and digging over my flower beds! She sends the birds to torment me, she is a horribly bold girl.
Down stairs the potion stands on the hearth above the fireplace. In my mind’s eye I see her working the earth in the beds, pressing ripe bulbs into the soil, and scattering seeds for new herbs.
The only thing you can do to defy the grey is to plant for the spring.
I hear her whistling with the birds. Perhaps she is filling the feeders, or oiling the squeak in the gate.
I heave myself up and fill a basin. I wash. I find a work shirt and some old jeans. I pull on sturdy boots. I stand with my hand on the door handle . . . I return to the hearth, I uncork her gift and sink it in one go.
Then I open the front door and step out into the garden.
The sky is still grey, but a bright grey that hurts my eyes at first.
‘That stuff tasted disgusting.’
I laugh small, a small laugh but a real one.
She hands me a fist full of hyacinth bulbs.
‘It’s good to see you.’
. . . .this time, she wins.
Zoe is a young writer from the West Midlands currently living and working in London. She is fanatical about the study and discovery of new perspectives and this undertaking is prevalent both in her life and her work. In writing she finds a conversation she can be a part of about how to understand the elements of self, the chaos of the world, and how one finds their own place within it. This, combined with a passion for blurring the boundaries of fantasy and reality, she believes, sums up her voice in essence.