Love Lies Bleeding by JP Relph
I can’t stop staring at her mouth. Lipstick feathering into the strained sympathy lines there. Like the lines on flower petals, to tempt the bee. Her cheap pink words – nothing medically wrong, just keep trying – aren’t exactly sweet, more like slogans on sad tee-shirts. At home, in the garage, our hair dripping spring rain, we fuck in the car like horny teenagers. All bashed knees and squeaking leather. Thinking maybe the recklessness will do it.
Red flowers in my underwear.
We want to keep trying.
I crush fistfuls of dandelions, tearing hot-yellow petals free, feel daisies tattooing my spine. Sap oozes through my fingers, bitter-sharp; I smear it over his sweaty thighs. After, I stay on the grass, holding him inside me, willing the seed to take hold, germinate. The drive home is sun-cooked and subdued, the car boiling with grass stains and restrained hope. We drink tepid water and he picks at the dried crusts on his legs.
Red petals on the sheets.
We need to keep trying.
I slice the beets, watch them weep. So fat and fertile. The leaves have thick purple veins, I cut through them, wound them. I make too much soup and too many cupcakes; crowd the freezer with sloshing containers. On the couch I slide on top of him, guide him inside me with fingers stained and muggy-fragrant. He grips my skinny hips, watches silent sport over my shoulder. I lick icing from my lips, slosh like beet soup.
Red veins on toilet paper.
We can only keep trying.
I sit in the white chair in the room painted vague-yellow, watch another morning flush into the black of another night. The sun struggles, pale and weak as my belly, to create something golden-pink. In the garden, the dandelions are clocks now, tick-ticking in the wind. Our boiler broke so I huddle in a hand-me-down quilt. So cold last night, we only lowered our pants, went slow and shivery in woollens and socks, ghost-breaths pinking each other’s cheeks.
Red flush on my fingers.
We’re getting tired of fucking trying.
I wait on the edge of the bed, chewing my thumbnail to shards. Snow silenced everything beyond the window, cocooning us here. Winter light plays like daisy petals over the meadow-green rug where we lay for hours after a quick, almost angry shag beside the rattling radiator.
Twenty-one days ago.
At my elbow, pink as cheap lipstick, ink suffuses into the tiny square window. I press my hands to my flannel-swaddled belly. I hear him clattering the kitchen, smell the warming soup. The edge of my thumbnail floods red. I glance down, the ink continues to bleed.
JP Relph is a working-class writer from northwest England, mostly hindered by four cats and aided by copious tea. A forensic science degree and passion for microbes, insects and botany often influence her words. JP writes about apocalypses quite a lot, but hasn’t the knees for one. Her debut collection of short fiction – Know That We Held – was published in June 2023.