Published 2005, Vignette Press
Velvet remembered the last time they had come. She had been ten years old—thirty years ago now. They used to come every year or two, depending on what, now one knew. Dragons kept their own time. They had been coming to the hills around the village since before anyone could tell. And every time they came, one or two people from the hills would disappear, burned to dust. No one ever saw it but people would suddenly go missing and never come back. The dragons would leave that day too, and there would be scatterings of ash on the top of the tallest hill.
The last time they came, Velvet’s mother had been one of the missing. The dragons had come slicing through the air from the southern mountains. Velvet remembered them glinting in the dawn light. They spent the day wheeling on the wind above their hills. They dodged through clouds and blue sky, sending occasional wreaths of fire through the air. Then the sun went down and their dance became a spectacle of flame and sparks in the darkness. Velvet had watched secretly from a window. She remembered the hot fear; being unable to look away.
Velvet never went to the hill to see what the dragons had left. The snows came and went and the street was full of warm sunlight the day she suddenly found the village irritating, feeling a sudden urge for open air. She had run up the smooth slope of the hill. Breathed. She remembered that day and its air fat with spring. From then on that was where she ran to breathe.
That year was the last time the dragons came. No one knew why they stopped coming. They had taken three lives—unusual but not unheard of.
Now they were returning and more people would be ashes.
If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say
When Kath and Rob told their parents Kath was pregnant, she watched the middle aged faces flatten out in pleasure. Maybe there was a hint of relief there too, but probably that was just her.
Kath felt she was doing the right thing with herself, with her life, being married and now having a baby. At church, she was one of the expectant mothers who had the herbal tea bags kept back for them. She didn’t feel sick, but she was always hungry and she slept a lot.
At the supermarket, people stopped to say hello and ask after her health. They were interested in whatever was on her mind and how she was feeling.
When she got big about halfway through her seventh month, the weather turned sweltering and the days dragged. The time between Rob leaving and coming home was interminable, but it also seemed to take the whole day to do the breakfast dishes, make the bed and get dinner ready. She found herself dreading the days. She wished people would visit her, break up the day, while away the hours alone.
She went to see Rob’s mother sometimes, but a lot of the time it seemed too much effort to get dressed and brush her hair.
Her mother rang sometimes and they talked, often for half an hour. Kath found she couldn’t find the words to say how she felt, that there wasn’t room in their conversations to bring it up.
She rang her sister and Lisa was so happy to hear from her and wanted to know all about the baby and the house and Rob. Kath told her everything was wonderful, just what she’d always wanted, although some things were unexpected. After Kath had rung a few times, she always seemed to ring at the wrong time, when Lisa was on her way out or had something on the stove.
Sawdust and Glitter
Stubble had begun to darken his cheeks. She brushed it with her fingertips, and the line of his jaw with her thumb. She kissed him lightly, unlingeringly, drew away just enough to give him space to react.
He kissed her with soft lips cooled by beer. He smelled of the pine wood smoke caught in his hair, aftershave, and himself. He pulled away, kept a hand on her face. They grinned at each other, pleased with themselves.
They kissed, just kissed. They rested with foreheads together, breathing each other in.
‘I have to get some sleep.’ She wished it wasn’t true.
‘Me too. I have to be at work in a few hours.’
She didn’t want to let go of him but curling up in her sleeping bag was also pretty appealing.
‘How will you get home?’ she asked against his lips.
‘Isn’t it pretty far?’
‘Yeah. We walk a lot in this town though. No taxis.’
She smiled. ‘I guess so.’
She walked him out to the track that led towards town and they kissed good-bye. She watched him walk into the dark.
She thought of him while she checked the fire and found a bottle of water to take to bed, while she settled into her sleeping bag, while her body relaxed and moulded into the mattress. She remembered every movement of his hands, his lips and tongue. She slept softly, deeply.