God’s Gift by Audrey NIVEN

Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with you as you stoat down the street, hungover, shoes not tied.

“Ho, Mary!” he shouts over the traffic. Should have combed your hair. Brushed your teeth at least. He’s crossing the road. Coming your way. And you straighten up, put your hair behind your ear, put your hands in your pockets, casual.

Blessed art thou amongst women, because he’s talking to you. Crossed the street for you. Dodged a bread van for you. Doesn’t do that for just anyone. Wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss. He says,

“That was a session last night,” and you give a comedy groan and roll your eyes and go,

“Jägerbombs, eh?” and laugh, though the inside of your mouth is thick and your stomach is green. But he’s talking to you. Not bothered that you were plastered. He reaches for the curl behind your ear and lets it twist round his finger, smiling.

Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, everything inside you hot and yearning. Jesus! It’s not eleven o’clock yet and you’re looking like shite and feeling worse but he’s got you.

He lets the curl fall free, runs his finger round the curve of your ear, down the back of your earring, a long fish skeleton, down your neck, past the pulse. You swallow. He looks at you, right into your bleary eyes, inviting.

He puts an arm round the small of your back and pulls you in. You hold your stinking breath, breathe out through your nose. He says,

“What are you doing?” and you’re thinking, he crossed the road, he’s holding me, asking me. Holy Mary Mother of God

When it’s over, you feel the sheen of unwashed sheets. The room’s dark with a ratty curtain tacked shut across the basement window. He’s lying half dressed, shrivelled and pleased with himself. The place stinks; sour milk and beer cans, ashtrays. You pull up your knickers. Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

You lace your shoes, tying it all in, the shame. Sober now. Amen to all that. 

You put your hand on the latch. Sun out on the street, a freshening shift in the breeze.

Audrey NIVEN is a Scottish writer and creative coach based in London. Her stories are widely anthologised and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. She runs the Propelling Pencil Flash Competition and has judged the Mslexia Flash Competition. She should be working on her novel. @NivenAudrey

Unmade bed
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