Flash Fiction: Unraveling

Unraveling FF

Unraveling

She was twenty-nine, broken-up-with, and sitting in a kayak in the middle of a moonlit lake.

A ball of blue yarn distorted itself into an egg shape between her knees. The double-bladed paddle resting crosswise on the sides of the kayak laughed at her. Unlike her and the man now sleeping on the opposite side of the campground, these blades would always swim synchronized, bound together by the shaft between them, inseparable.

There was nothing solid to hold her and him together anymore. Nothing but the strands of memory and emotion that stretched from her like spider threads, floating ghostly over the moon-washed water between her and shore.

He could have waited until the trip was over.

He could have let their last memory together be so full of wood smoke and dusty hiking boots and blankets laid out under the stars that there was no room for shocked silences. For confusion and tears. For solitary midnight kayak trips without a lifejacket or a walkie-talkie or any clear purpose in mind—other than to get away. From him. From herself.

But no. He had let his doubts and fears bubble over and hiss into the campfire. And all she could do was gape at him like a gutted fish. She felt the flame-heat on her face and hands like the kisses she wanted him to give her. In her imagination, she saw, tucked away safe in a zippered backpack pocket, the tiny velvet box she had thought he’d bring on this trip.

She had misread him so badly that his life-story might as well have been written in Ancient Greek.

There by the fire, her hands slid down her knitting needles to cover the half-formed strip of stitches that would have been her garter. A blue thing and a new thing, the smell of wood smoke still lingering in the fibers. He would have smelled it as he pulled the garter off with his teeth, reminding him of the night his love said yes.

Now, out here on the lake, she pulled the unfinished garter off its needle and started unraveling the stitches, pulling each loop free individually. It felt like plucking out her eyelashes, like yanking out her teeth. One by one.

But she kept going.

Soon, the garter was a memory and a pile of crinkled yarn sat in her lap. She stared at it, dry-eyed, for a long time.

The soft plish of water on kayak hull filled her ears. A breeze began blowing. Her arms grew bumps and her nipples hardened under her thin T-shirt. The moon’s frozen face peered down from space, and everything—not just the yarn—looked blue under its gaze.

Finally, she rewound the disappointed yarn around the ball. It felt cruelly soft in her hands, like the love-softened words he used to speak in her ear, like the hidden parts of his body that she would never get to touch now.

She dug her fingers into the ball, clinging to its softness and tearing into its heart at the same time.

Then she hurled the yarn into the lake.


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