When Mary Dances by Rachel Smith
Mary eats only bread on a Monday. It’s one of those eat your way to a 6-inch-waist remedies she saw in a magazine. The photo was all glossy bobbed hair, white teeth, narrow waist cinched in by a floral apron. She picks at the soft inner flesh on her way out to the letter box, tosses crusts to the sparrows.
The sky presses low and cold the next morning. It’s a Tuesday though so she ties her laces, jogs across the park, and over the stop bank to the river. The water runs a deep muddy cold from rain in the mountains. When it clears there’ll be a rush on, nets filling with the slither of translucent whitebait. One handful with a beaten egg, fried in butter. Her mouth aches for it that evening, as she spoons boiled potatoes and peas, slices corned beef.
It’s early when she wakes, sleep edged sharply aside. She slips out of bed, the wooden floor hard against her knees. Under the bed, a box – yellowed tissue paper, peacock blue silk with a lace trim and the faint smell of jasmine. Fabric falls soft against her cheek as the dress slides over her head, skims bare shoulders.
The needle crackles and the radiogram begins to play. Mary moves, just like her mother had shown her – one foot after the next, arms in an empty embrace. A slick path worn on the wooden floor, from fireplace to table, as they’d moved around and around. And she’d believed – it was all about to begin didn’t she know.
Light refracts from the chandelier and the room spins. She feels giddy, the tart taste of bubbles on her tongue. His hand on her waist, warm through the thin fabric. High above a kaleidoscope of colour tumbles and twists. He dips her, low enough to make her wonder what it would be like to fall.
It takes a moment to realise that she is – slowly, softly sinking to the ground. Sunrise pinkens the window; a dust mouse hides under the sofa. On the ceiling, colours condense, float gently down. Mary raises her face, lets them soak through her like rain.
Rachel Smith lives and writes in the Cook Islands. Her work has been published in Flash Frontier, where she was Winter Writer for 2016, JAAM, takahē and Reflex Fiction. She was placed second in 2017 NZ National Flash Fiction Day and is the script writer for a feature film ‘Stranded Pearl’ due to be released in 2018. Rachel is joint fiction editor for takahē magazine in New Zealand.