always fiction

All The Places Her Hands Had Been

Emily Norton's affecting short story presents how easily 'always' can be taken away, and the fragility of a promise made.

by Emily Norton

After I stepped out of the shower, I stared blankly at my naked body in the mirror. The yellow bruise on my hip from bumping into the kitchen counter, the short blonde hairs on my thigh that my razor missed, all the places her hands had been. I stepped into a pair of black underwear and threw on an oversized pyjama shirt. After brushing through the blonde knots and tangles in my hair and stopping on occasion to poke at the acne on my face, I left the bathroom. She was sitting on her bed. Fairy lights cast a shadow on her face.

‘I could’ve done that for you,’ she said, gesturing to my smooth hair.

‘It’s okay,’ I shrugged.

Quietly, she ventured to the bathroom and I heard the shower squeak on. I sat on the edge of her bed.  The only photo of us in her room was pinned to the bulletin board on the wall in front of me. A mini polaroid, her arm draped over my right shoulder, her chin resting on my left. I was smiling a quiet smile; the kind of smile that doesn’t make your face ache with happiness, but is somehow the happiest. I gently massaged my right shoulder, it hurt all of a sudden.

Scraps of my journal were tucked under the metal edges of the bulletin board. Poems for her. You are the softest part of me, I wrote. With you I have love, I wrote. I wrote. I wrote. I wrote.

“It’d be so easy to take one picture off the wall. It’d be so easy to throw away a cheap necklace. It’d be so easy to forget me.”

When she emerged from the bathroom she was in her pyjamas; the half-heart shaped necklace I gave her hung from her neck, the silver fading into pink. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen her wear real pyjamas. She usually opted for a sports bra and underwear. I couldn’t remember what the necklace looked like before she’d worn it in the shower a million times and replaced the chain. My breath hitched when she accidentally grazed my hand while reaching for her phone.

‘Sorry,’ she mumbled.

‘It’s okay,’ I shrugged. My hand ached.

I snuggled under the covers on the left side of the bed, pulling the duvet up to my chin and shivering.

‘Do you want me to turn the heat on?’ she asked, looking up from her phone.

‘No, it’s okay.’

I watched as she scrolled through her phone. I watched as she folded her laundry. I watched as she laid out her outfit for work the next day. She didn’t stop once. When she turned off the lights the room got even quieter. The kind of quiet that gives you a headache. She got under the covers on her side of the bed and turned to face the wall. I stared at the ceiling, at the darkness.  It’d be so easy to take one picture off the wall. It’d be so easy to throw away a cheap necklace. It’d be so easy to forget poems no one else cares about. It’d be so easy to forget me.

‘Goodnight,’ I whispered to her back, ‘I love you.’

I don’t think she heard me.


Emily Norton | @_emnorton | emnortonwrites.weebly.com

Emily is a 19-year-old Professional Writing student in Toronto, Ontario. If she’s not writing, she’s watching Brooklyn 99 or talking to her mum on the phone.

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