She wakes at dawn, the light, a dishwater grey. The room looks different, submerged and opaque, and its unfamiliarity disorients her. It feels as if she is floating beneath the sheets, or under the sea. Beside her, a weight, a form, indented and heavy, but she does not look. She just lies there and allows herself to drift.
It takes a moment for her to realise she is rising, not floating. A blink, and a sigh, before she understands that something else has changed, something more than the light.
It is there, between her shoulder blades, a pinch of something, little nubs, pushing through. And something else too, something like a song fluttering within. A joyous sound, which unfolds and unfurls, and drowns out a voice. A voice from last night.
‘Don’t be doing that. I told you a thousand times, don’t you ever be doing that.’
The voice, ragged and flinty and rough, as it jabs, pummels, punches.
When she sits up there is a stretch and a creak, something tender like a bruise, something she needs to shake, and she looks across the room to the mirror, and catches sight of an angel. It sits on the bed, naked and tousled, wings folded between its shoulders and stares back at her.
She shifts, tilts her neck, and the angel does too, a trace of a smile on its lips. The beginnings of a whispered hello.
And she looks then. At the bed where he sleeps, his breath like the sea, roiling and curling in waves. She would stay there, she thinks, if this was the sound of him. If the sea was who he was. She would float in that soapy dawn light and feel nothing. Foolish, she knows. But that’s the truth of it all the same.
The thoughts pushed away by a tap-tap-tapping at the window. Open up!
She slips from the bed and does not feel the wood of the floor. Hears only the click of the latch, the rusted peep of a bolt, then a wash of dewy air on her skin.
On the ledge, she hesitates, wary of the weight of feather and quill. The light above, silvery and white and blinding. So that when she steps off, it is into a sort of nothingness. And she plummets, and falls. Hears a rush of air all around her. Deep inside her. Then the silence, as she soars.
Jennifer Harvey is a Scottish writer now based in Amsterdam. Her writing has appeared in various publications in the US and the UK, including: Carve, Folio, Bare Fiction, The Lonely Crowd, (b)OINK and National Flash Fiction Day anthologies. She has been shortlisted for the Bristol Prize (2017), the Bridport Prize (2017, 2015, 2014) the University of Sunderland Short Story Award (2016), and longlisted for the Bath Novel Award (2016, 2017). Her radio dramas have also won prizes and commendations from the BBC World Service (2016, 2009 and 2001). She is a Resident Reader for Carve Magazine and loves discovering good stories in the ‘slush pile’. When not writing, she can be found sauntering along the Amsterdam canals, dreaming up new stories. You can find her online over at www.jenharvey.net or follow her on Twitter @JenAnneHarvey