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 Purple Kisses


The tent is a body bag. I zip it up and walk away from the remains of my life. 


As the park gate clangs shut, pushed by December’s icy fingers, I lose myself in the crowds of partygoers. Some laugh as the wind unravels their hairdos, others pull their coats tighter, shivering with the cold and anticipation. No one notices the angular woman with the rough hair and animal smell, slinking in their midst down to the river.


In the urban jungle, a lion will sleep tonight.


Standing on the bridge, people hurry behind me to parties: a blur of noise and intent. I am a small inconspicuous creature, scurrying through the railings, bracing my back against them. Below, the lapping waters pull.


A boat passes, tugging my memory and The Thames recedes. There is the sailor untethering the cruise ship’s mooring ropes and we sail off on our honeymoon- my last maiden voyage. The sun beat down and I drowned in my voluminous white silk. Locked in our cabin, did the moon hammer at the portal window when she glimpsed in and saw how you loved your new bride? Did she stare on, shocked, when you pinned me to the bed and I pretended it was, what? To be expected? To be ignored?


Purple kisses planted on my arms. Pain blossomed behind my eyes, deep within my sex: heady like the rose petals someone had cast upon my wedding bed. Confetti to summon a spell of desire gone wrong. Finally you slept, paw momentarily relaxed upon my breast. 


Night gave way to day. Day submitted to night. I became an edge: a razor you said would slice, if you didn’t blunt me first. Shoulder blades, jutting elbows, kneecaps, bones rupturing the surface; my skeleton fighting back even as my skin fell slack, and it was easier to mouth yes rather than plead another no. 


The river writes my story in a choppy, coursing hand: our first anniversary, on a river that meandered just as you did, weaving and wending from the open curve of one pair of arms to another. Later you’d lurch into the cabin and break the force of your anger upon me: how dare I not satisfy your lust anymore. Didn’t I feel ashamed? 


A police boat tears down the river. Even as I lean back, clutching the frozen rail, I see myself tapping 999 into my phone; my measured voice reporting the incident, summoning the emergency services. I squeezed my rucksack and then myself out of the bathroom window, feeling the heat on my back. I tossed the spent match and my phone; I didn’t turn, even as I heard the flames roar and the water cannon blast. I set my face to the dark and walked. From villages to suburbs, on into the city; the river as my guide- a thread to lead me from the lair.


If pain has a destination, mine was the city’s park. Nods of recognition from others with purple kisses of their own.  As the sun slipped behind the skyscrapers, we’d leave our huddle of tents, light fires and tell our tales. When night and silence fell, only embers glowed in the ash.


The first firework of the night cuts through the memories, tears them to ribbons and flings them high and wide: cascades of colour, to welcome the new year. 


On the bridge, I release one hand and then the other. The familiar steps back and I embrace the new. A flicker of gold, one last toss of the mane and the ring disappears into the dark waters. My body is no longer your territory to prowl and mark. The predator sleeps at last. I clamber over the rails, tracing my steps back to the park with its tents: my new home.


The clocks chime midnight and it is a strike I do not need to fear. The sky explodes. 


I tip back my head and roar.


 

I'm a Brit who has lived for the last 14 years in Germany where I teach English and from last spring, creative writing. When I'm not at the chalkface I'm either walking my rescue dog or scribbling away. I've had some competition highs (first place in the now defunct Writer's Forum and online at Reedsy for a story called Letting Go plus quite a few shortlists) but I've been in the competition doldrums of late. Hey ho; writing is an itch I've got to scratch! This story is for all those women who break away from predatory relationships. It grew out of Braverman's poisonous rhetoric a while back about getting tents off the London streets. Ever since I saw a woman camped on a park bench with cardboard for blankets, I knew there was another story that had to be told. Thanks for reading.



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