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époque press
pronounced: /epƏk/
definition: /time/era/period

Harmony Kinnear
Short Story


In the kitchen there would be something pickled, a little basmati rice and half a can of tuna. We’d eat this on plastic fold out chairs and laugh in the sunshine. You’d smoosh it into a ball between dirty fingers and feed Baby. She’d smile wide, wet, pink and toothless. It would remind me of a slice of melon, and how much, how wholly, I craved fresh fruit.


You had been laid off in February but they had waited until March for me. We were two young women with an infant but our boss had shrugged his shoulders. By May things were dwindling, but there was a secret growing abundance. Time. You got freckles as living markers of this abundance. Of the hours you’d spent sleeping in the long grass, on the patio, in the hammock (before it had been reluctantly sold). I’d look back into the house and there’d be almost nothing at all. It didn’t seem to matter. It was romantic, to sell all our furniture, to steal carrots, onions, apples - to do almost anything if it meant my wife could lie there all day and catch freckles.

And that was my mistake, to romanticise what happened. But in the summertime a shortage of almost anything can be met with a swim in the sea, a roll down a hill, birdwatching, sunbathing and later sun-gazing. I would hold you, holding Baby, and we’d all sit in silence. The sun as fat as the moon, oozing behind the hills, the colour of a ripe mango.

It was sometime in August that you burst my bubble. At the sink I thumbed Margarine streaks under sudsy water when you crashed in sobbing. The palm of your hand looked like it had swallowed a plum.

“I’m sure it had been a queen,” you got out between sobs. “She was huge. If I’d just caught her - properly and calmed her down - I thought we could have sold her honey.”

We sat on the linoleum and you sobbed some more. I held ice (something you can’t run out of) to the purpling palm. I didn’t say it but felt so angry with you. Your panic, your tears, your frantic plan. It wasn’t romantic of you and the romance of your being had been keeping me going. I only realised it then but that was your end of the deal: to stay romantic. To be able to look at you, not a care in the world, made me feel rich. But from then on you only bit your nails and hunched your shoulders. I couldn’t tell you how angry it made me, so I smiled and told you not to worry. I told the lie: there would be another job, there would be something left to sell and it would carry us through a bit longer.


Now, it’s September, I can’t sleep. I’ve made ten cigarettes last a summer with one to spare. I light it ceremoniously and smoke out our bedroom window. “I’ve always wanted to be your provider”, I think not facing you, “To be that part of ‘a man’, which has failed me, too.” The cherry winks cheekily at me in the darkness. I realise in this moment, why it was hard for me to be pregnant.

You wanted children, then quickly found out you couldn’t have them. You never asked if I would carry a child for you, you assumed. I managed by thinking of it as the ultimate act of providing. Motherhood was for you, not for me. I loved Baby instantly, but from a distance like my father had loved me. But I had to be close in a way my father was not. Breastfeeding wasn’t easy. When we were alone, Baby held my gaze like she knew. A look of love, reproach, humour and devotion.

The cherry goes black as I push it into the window ledge. Now, I consider the abundance of time. I wonder how romantic poverty will seem in the winter. I imagine that special kind of resentment that only comes from the shortage of all things. How it would nestle in-between us on cold mornings. How it would push me out of sleep too early, bitter and hungry. How it would mature into paranoia - “there had been three slices of bread, not two,” with accusations of lying and greed. How it would age into cruelty and I’d tell you that I’d hated you since August. And you’d tell me that you’re leaving with Baby. And I’d tell you “Over my dead fucking body.” How it would become the motion of your palm, which I had once iced on our kitchen floor, flying towards my face. That would be a mystery. But there would be red in my gums and on my teeth that reminded me of pomegranate seeds.


I come back to bed and hold the back of you. You’re sleeping so peacefully. There are freckles on your shoulder, just visible in the half-light. I will leave town to look for work tomorrow.

Harmony Kinnear is a young prose writer from Brighton who is doing their Creative Writing undergrad degree at UOB. Harmony has been obsessed with storytelling their entire life and has never wanted to do anything else.


Of the work featured here, Harmony says:


‘In my writing, I tend to favour dense imagery and lots of colour. In this short story, entitled Freckles, I wanted to pit money against time. To consider how different people emotionally cope with and rationalise a “shortage”. While this piece begins very warmly, the hunger my protagonist feels and her craving for fruit gets lost in everything. A large inspiration for me here was the old adage, the best things in life are free.'

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