We like the craziness, me and my sister. Rushing into the garden when the sheep escape from the field. The lambs are all wearing lipstick, the roses Dad planted mushed into Joker mouths. Ma never picks the flowers anyway. Stevie brings daffodils and wine.
It’s a relief to stop having to make petal salad, like she did with her last boyfriend. The Vegan. Stevie doesn’t care whether she’s organic or not. He cares about reclaiming the kitchen, hammering foot dints off the drier, exposing the wounded oak beams.
It could be paradise here, he says, with enough work.
Ma swirls courgetti onto his plate the same way she used to fidget with her hair when she had fat curls. It’s shorter now, fine as wool wisps we find snagged on the raspberries, but the gesture remains like she’s dialling her girlhood on a brown 80’s phone. Ellie calls it kiting, when we’re alone, using her fingers to wind a guy close enough to squeeze our birth off her waist.
I used to be so small, before you, Ma says, my wrists were twigs. Even a child’s fingers could make a bracelet around me.
Stevie says he likes something he can hold onto and grabs her. Stubble smearing a bud on her cheek
We have something to tell you, they say.
The wedding will be next April. We can wear lemon.
Ellie draws horns in the sauce streaking her plate and raises an eyebrow. Or tries to. We’re the same. Sometimes we practice lifting one then another, in our bedroom. Holding our fists on our brows for resistance, but nothing moves, except our ears when we chew more halloumi.
You look like lambs, Stevie says, especially you.
He points to my blushing sister and laughs. Ma baas.
I picture the lambs. Ears pivoting to breach the fence, heads low as playing livestock when Ellie gets me to suck milk off her fingers. I baa. They’re both laughing so much I don’t know how to stop. Ellie puts down her fork and eats nothing more.
The kitchen snows on her, flakes of gloss rubbed off the joist falling into her water. She drinks the glass anyway, swallows flecks of white paint as if a blank space is laying inside her.
Angela Readman’s stories have won The Anton Chekov Award for Short Fiction, The Mslexia Competition & The Costa Short Story Award. Her collection Don’t Try This at Home is published by And other Stories, and was followed her first novel Something Like Breathing in 2019 . She also writes poetry, her collection The Book of Tides is published by Nine Arches