By Ben Fitton
“Name’s Graeme.” At least that’s what I think he said. Funny kind of accent.
“’Lo, son. I’m Norm.”
I try to sit up; end up squirming like when ma used to insist on kissing me in front of my friends. Still, trying’s an improvement. I actually feel pretty good.
“Easy, Norm,” he says. “There’s no rush. This here’s the one time you’ve got all the time in the world.”
He covers my hand with his and I’m vaguely pleased at his cold grip. I remember thinking how when you’re ill the way I’m ill the warmth of others gets you jealous.
“Hey, Lena, another one of your long-losts?” And I’m looking for her, for that smile as easy as slipping on ice, hair the red of the house fire that burned up the night we first met, standing side by side as links in a bucket chain.
But she’s not there, and then that moment between not knowing and knowing, of something dissolved, and a memory of an ugly warm grip against a dry, cold hand.
And I remember, completely, and all the world becomes spaces she doesn’t fill.
“You ready, Norm?”
I’m so tired of having to remember.
And somehow I’m out of bed, standing. Walking.
“Never did save that house, Graeme. Watched it burn for hours, Lena and me. Best night of my life.”
I feel his cold hand on my shoulder. “Funny you should say that, Norm,” he replies. “She told me the very same.”
Ben Fitton lives in Yorkshire, the UK, and is a copywriter for a friendly local corpora-global mega-giant. He finds writing fiction inherently scary but has overcome this fear on a few occasions to have his work published at Lqqzine, Maudlin House and 99 Pine Street.