by Elizabeth Atkin

I keep a secret in the sand. I let it sit between the grains, and wash away into the sea. And roll back out, and in again. I leave it there, at the mercy of the tide, because I want to, because I don’t want it on me all of the time.

It lives on the beach. And honestly, it was fine. It was a fine secret. It was the first secret I ever kept, and it stays where it’s supposed to. The sand didn’t, though. Sand goes everywhere. On him, on our blanket, in my knickers. (His name was Sam.)

I keep a secret in a bed. A squeaky bed, with a tired mattress, that lives in a Victorian house, in a decent area, opposite a green field. After the secret-keeping, I would often sit by the cracked, white window pane across the room and stare at the grass, the surrounding trees, the lone bench, and watch the dog walkers pass idly by. Talk to each other. Make connections.

I only lived there for a year. Maybe someone has done up the house, now. Left the bed in a skip. Maybe they’ve put up some new student flats where the field was. That’s cool. Things change. (His name was Tommy.)

“I keep a secret in the sand. I let it sit between the grains, and wash away into the sea.”

I keep a secret in Spain. One that is warm, that feels sticky, that would taste like Sangria, if you could taste it. It looks like a strange burnt-red villa, with intricate glass windows, and green vines swirling round the sides. It speaks in foreign tongues. It tickles my ears, my neck, all the way down to my toes.

It was the only one that made me think: maybe I want to keep more secrets. (His name was . . . God knows what his name was.)

I keep a secret in an alley. Vodka. Round the back of a dingy bar. Vodka. The bar sits at the top of a cobbled hill, which is notoriously difficult to climb. More vodka. The alley is just off to the left side, near the bottom. It’s grimy, and it smells like vodka.

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep that secret there. I wanted it to share it with him, that I remember. But I barely remember anything else, bar the stench. It was coming from me. Only from me.

Occasionally, I wonder if he could smell it, too. (His name was Jim.)

The last secret . . . isn’t really a secret. Because I haven’t kept it yet. And if I ever do, I don’t want to put it some place, and just leave it there.

I want it with me, always. I want to lie in it, luxuriate in it, until I drown in it. I want to loosen my body, drop down into an infinity pool, submerge in the blue, and let the water run over the edge, as it blurs into an orange skyline.

(Her name is Jessica.)

Elizabeth Atkin

Elizabeth Atkin is a journalist currently living in London, but originally from Newcastle. She’s also the fiction assistant at 3AM magazine.

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