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My Ex-Girlfriend, the Narcissist
She’s called Gillian. She’s got brown hair and eyes the colour of a bleached winter sky.
She’s about 5’5, but she’s tough.
My girlfriend was a narcissist. She didn’t like me having friends, or seeing family.
So, I didn’t really.
Gillian stuck around, though.
In fact, that’s when I first met her.
A few months in.
I met her on the school run.
She was standing in a driveway nudging gravel with the toe of her Converse.
I asked her if she’d lost something.
Her wedding ring, she said. Not that it mattered.
He was a cheating bastard.
We walked to school together, her black wax jacket similar to mine, though I envied its collar, and the zip doesn’t work on mine. It broke on Melton playing field when I bent over to pick up a bee last summer, and now it undoes from the bottom up if you sit down.
Gillian wore dark jeans and a plaid shirt over a long-sleeved top with four buttons at the neckline.
She wore her hair in a pony-tail.
She was self-destructive.
I liked that about her.
And she stuck with me. Did I say that already?
She’d help me put the shopping away when the Tesco delivery arrived. It wasn’t my house, but I did everything in it.
She expected that of me.
Once, when she went away, we used her land to have a bonfire in the old metal drum that was full of weeds and earth and crap.
Gillian joked we should get all of her clothes and stick them on the fire, but burning her clothes wouldn’t do any good, we decided. She had enough trouble keeping her clothes on, having less of them would only add to the problem.
We cooked our lunch on the bonfire. Potatoes baked in tin foil. We burned our fingers getting them out, speared them with sticks and dropped them on plates.
Their skins were black but we ate them anyway, and inside they were smoky and white and good.
Gillian would be there in the evenings, too. I’d make my excuses and slip to the garage for another bottle of wine, and Gillian was there, back against the wall, picking at the fraying edge of her sleeve.
She’d tell me about her day, the sheep, the farm, her shift at Greenhough’s. She’d hug me, properly, hold me until I’d stopped shaking, or near enough.
Once, on fireworks night,
5th November 2018.
She had a party. Everyone was there. All of her friends, family, neighbours.
Her dad made the bonfire bigger than was safe. She poured everyone drinks and looked for me to give me something to do.
I stood in the shadows with Gillian. She was all nervy, jittery, bristling with energy, possibility, magic....
She was wearing wellington boots. Green ones, but they weren’t Hunter boots, and I was glad of that. They were bog-standard boots from an outdoors shop or a garden centre.
She had one hand in her pocket, I could hear the clink of the keys to her Land Rover.
You need to get shot of her.
She said, looking at the bonfire, into the flames. Her face was warm, golden, fire-lit and extraordinarily beautiful.
I’d never found her beautiful, my girlfriend, the narcissist.
I think that’s what my friends noticed, in the beginning.
She didn’t fit the type.
Gillian had a bit more about her.
She’s going to kill you if you don’t.
She looked at me then, Gillian did.
One way or another you’ll end up dead.
She was right. I knew she was right.
But Gillian only existed in my head.
The Husband of the Woman I Slept With
when he looks at her now
He finds she is hard to see.
but he hears her just fine
even though he asks again “who?” - for clarification? Or because his only reference is what he’s seen on
(this narrow life has no room for manoeuvre.)
but he doesn’t get it. doesn’t understand
because it’s a woman’s name she says again - it’s a woman who she
flirted with when autumn came and the leaves began to fall and he was planning bonfires whilst his wife
burned up in bed (over, over, over)
legs spread, a woman between her thighs, and
all he can think of to say next is “does it even count?” and “what do you even do in bed anyway?”
because that’s what you say
when your wife comes out gay
but three years on and it’s ok
this picture-book re-written so His wife’s not gay
and Christmas comes, and new years eve
and they sign cards altogether to prove she didn’t leave.
She beat the splintered end of a fence post further into the earth.
The ground - sodden from rain, gave way easily, but still she beat it, enjoying the bounce-back,
Chickens pecked at the soles of her boots through wire hexagons.
They'd escaped again early that morning. The wind had blown three of the fence posts down
little glinting metal hillocks
of wire mesh across the garden.
When she had drawn the curtains first thing she hadn't been sure of what she was seeing.
Now, here they were
Seventeen of them; Aracauna's, Bluebell's, Maran's, Orpington's and a few Goldline's
rescued from slaughter.
She looked at them now, the Goldline's, pecking
clawed feet curling
cocking their heads to one side, eye-balling the ground for worms or bugs.
They'd taken a while to feather up.
Serena had wanted to knit them jumpers after finding a pattern online.
And she would have done it too, in the space before death
if she could knit.
She wiped hair from her face
The wind was getting up again,
but the fence should hold
She was cold
Dipped her face into a scarf that smelled of Serena -
She looked out across the field.
Nothing was left of the trees now,
just swaying branches,
skeletons the lot of them
branches rattling like bones in the wind and around the very edges of the field she could
make out the golds reds yellows and browns, leaves from the two great oaks.
A pair of pheasants running,
A hare standing perfectly still in the rolling shadow of the clouds.
The storm had left the air taught and threatened,
another storm waiting to follow.
The wind had blown the grass flat.
She would be rebuilding the run again come Morning.
She stubbed the toe of her boot into the ground
The soil bruised and squelched a belch of watery mud across her laces,
hair wild and whipped against her cheeks, caught in her eyelashes
and the wet of her lips.
She felt weak for the first time in years. Only moments before she had felt hot and heady and
full of the thrill of life.
A fleeting feeling, like water through the fingers.
Winter had arrived and she hadn't even noticed it's coming.
The garden was dying.
Rose petals had turned to brown pulp,
the brilliant sweet -smelling purple Heliotrope she had bought Serena had turned grey and
brittle, whilst the trees sung a wandering song of their own.
She turned to where Serena stood by the door.
Serena, a shadow now,
with her loose fitting coat, and the blue-green blanket from the back of her chair wrapped around
both hands clasped about a mug of tea. She barely seemed to move beneath the
flap-flapping of the blanket and the gentle ruffle of her short dark hair.
But then she smiled, seemingly unable to help herself.
Serena was beautiful.
Serena was always beautiful
whereas she was standing in a fine mist of rain in her old boots,
losing hair grips in the mud.
But that one smile was all it took to remind her of why she (and the chickens) remained.
It had always been Serena.
Path of Nettles
Your eyes rotted peat black
Fallen in face like a rotting apple
Your corpse sweet-smelling rippling meat falling from bones
I mock your death
Laugh to a wind that takes with it every green living tendril dunk deep into the weak
As your death leaves
The vivid colour of life
to spring forth
The coward is gone.
Tilted Away From Me
(Cited as reason for divorce too many times to count)
Gives immediate gratification
On a level unobtainable
(I, sensitive, sweet, the easiest target with the biggest heart)
A comment. Easy enough
From comment to message
Cloak on, the past present
No future necessary
Pushed right through
from skin to skin
Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham is a fiction writer, artist, and screenwriter who lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England.
Her work has been previously published in Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review and The Mighty.
You can check out Natascha Graham on the following social media links: