Hard Enough To Leave A Mark

The first time Laura bit Dave, he gasped but held her tighter, so she did it again. Four years later, she still craves the salt of his skin, thrills at creating purple splotches on his collarbones, rows of small pink crescents on each hip. No shame in having a body, her godmother used to say. Laura was always grateful for the woman who boldly spoke of blood and flesh and wanting, when her own mother had seemed so fearful of it all.

Lately, they’re into procedurals. Laura rests her head on Dave’s chest when they curl up in front of the TV. It relaxes her, his warmth, the liquid sounds of his insides, his heart thudding faster when scenes turn violent. He has to look away, which she thinks is adorable. She’s always loved people more when she feels protective of them. She has fond memories of the girlfriend at university who hated spiders.

The day she learns about the other woman, Laura is surprised. She has never been cheated on before. She checks her calendar and waits for the next new moon (she does not need a new moon, but it coincides with when she bleeds). She tidies the flat and finds a few discarded items (they must always be discarded). A sock underneath the bed; a torn Saltire poncho from a wet weekend in Edinburgh; the branded pen from Dave’s old job. She hides them in her section of the wardrobe, behind her party dresses.

The day comes and she leaves work early. She sets up the discarded items in the fireplace and lights the fire. This ritual is something her godmother taught her too. She goes through the familiar chants, reaches inside herself for the blood. (Her godmother kept a small, sharp penknife for this purpose, but Laura has discovered that there is no need for injury.)

She wonders a little sadly how it will happen this time. There never seems to be a link between how the body is marked and how it dies. At school she broke her best friend’s nose, she was so angry with him, and a few days afterwards, he fell from the ninth-floor balcony of the hotel room where he was staying with his family. She doesn’t need to make it as serious as a broken nose. The arachnophobe was involved in a car accident after she bruised her with a book. And there have been other men and women in between. Strangers. Just for practice. 

She knows it will work again; she left a few scratches on Dave’s back at the weekend. When he moaned into her ear and gripped her shoulders, she imagined him doing the same with someone else.

Laura sits and whispers into the crackle of the fire. She thinks about Dave and his gentle heart, its fleshy red pulsing. It would be nice for him if his heart just stopped. No blood, no drama. He would be terrified of going any other way.

Tian Yi lives and works in London. Her writing has appeared and is forthcoming in Not Deer Magazine, Fractured Lit, CRAFT, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing and is working on a short story collection.

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