He wakes to the room spinning, a full bladder, and the scent of lavender.
His mom’s shadow slides across the walls in the hallway. Through an open doorway he sees her in the kitchen, stood in front of patio doors that look out onto the garden.
He doesn’t look at her neck, the side of her breast, the small of her back. He doesn’t look at her thighs, her calves, her ankles.
Moving slowly on the settee, dressed in only his underwear, he covers himself because he’s hard and he needs to piss, and if she sees he’s there on the night he shouldn’t be, she’ll know he’s argued with his dad again.
She reaches between her legs and wipes the inside of her thigh. She sniffs her hand, then brushes it across her stomach. Lifting her hands above her head, she stretches, standing on tip-toe like she’s preparing to dive into a swimming pool.
She moves out of view and there’s the sound of her filling a glass of water, then a second, which makes no sense. He looks at the ceiling, imagines his dad in her bed.
She climbs the stairs with two glasses of water. Her feet pad across the landing above and there’s muffled laughter. One time, hearing the same kind of laughter, he’d walked in on his mom and dad doing it.
The laughter stops and there’s a male voice he doesn’t recognise.
He dresses, slides open the patio door, and walks across the lawn. He tries to piss but it hurts. Then it starts and he’s watering the fence and the flowers.
Relieved, he fastens his trousers and sits on the swing beneath the tree at the end of the garden.
Candlelight flickers in his mom’s bedroom, throwing her shadow onto the vertical blinds. She rocks back and forth, and he is moving back and forth on the swing, and they are moving in time with one another, back and forth, and through the open window he listens to her having sex with a man he doesn’t know, and it sounds different to when he walked in on her with his dad.
He plants his feet on the grass, nausea building.
Then his mom’s shadow isn’t moving and someone blows out the candle.
He walks across the lawn towards the garden gate. His leg brushes a row of plants and the scent of lavender wafts over him.
When he bought the candle, the lady in the shop explained how lavender aids sleep. He told his mom it was to help her sleep on the nights he’s not with her. When she held the candle to her nose, she smiled and muttered the word, ‘sleep,’ like it meant something different.
Adam Lock writes in the Midlands, UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018 and the STORGY Flash Competition 2018. He was placed third in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been shortlisted twice for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2018. He’s had, or soon will have, stories appear in publications such as Lost Balloon, Former Cactus, MoonPark Review, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Syntax & Salt, and many others. You can find links to his stories on his website: adamlock.net. He’s also active on Twitter at: @dazedcharacter.