And when only longing remained

But the girl continued to love the man.

The love had snaked its way into her bones, and anchored in the deepest part of her. She missed him, and began to forget the sharper edges of their relationship.

She remembered instead the way he had touched her wrist on that very first night. She remembered his worried eyes, and the soft pad of his thumb against her bottom lip. She remembered him singing in her ear, and the rough of his neck, and the tremble in his throat when she undid his tie.

She began to polish the grooves out of these memories, until soon, only shiny surfaces remained.

She slipped these better moments into her pocket, and she took them out at night in the dark. She started to hold on to every last night, and let go of every next morning, and soon her loneliness recalibrated into longing.

And when only longing remained, she took these memories out of her pocket, and laid each one before him.

It was a gesture both hesitant, and hopeful.

It turns out the man had been waiting for the girl this whole time. He welcomed her return, and held out his hand, and when she took it, both were full of forgetting.

– Maggie Valentine, The Memory of Stars

Joanne Piechota image at body, remember

To sink under slowly

The feeling is immediate under my toes. A sensation of sinking in, of earthing myself. The sand starts warm and soft underfoot, and closer to the water it becomes damp and hard, leaving my footprints in a trail behind me.

I scratch a crooked heart with my big toe and watch as a wave licks at it, then washes it away. A pang – is that how easily we lose something? I look out, fix on the moment where sky and sea merge, and I feel a kind of horizon ache. A sadness that expands before me.

If you are here right now with me Ben, you are the anchor, the thud that brings me back.

I keep walking, letting the last slide of each wave wash over my feet. We acclimatise to the coldness best in this way, inch by inch of skin, no surprises. I have never understood people who run toward the water, who dive straight in.

I have always been one to sink under slowly.

 – Anna, The Memory of Stars 

That it would end like this

Benjamin Mackintosh is dead.

These words are whispered, shared all over the office – the concrete floors reverberate with the news. Shock is traded from one division to the next, as the slow stain of grief spreads throughout the building. It reaches my desk when I return with my second coffee of the morning. My last moments of peace taste of froth and plastic lids.

Maggie – it is Shelley who approaches. Maggie, have you heard about Mack?

The mention of your name, and my breath catches. It is always this way, the shock of hearing your name said out loud. The sensation, it is a type of falling, but I’m still standing, still managing to shake my head – No? as my heart starts to hammer. The endless, artlessness of this heart, where even three months on, the sound of your name can split it down the middle, cleave right through it.

(Cleave – to hold fast, and to tear apart. I will soon understand this contradiction).

Would I have noticed earlier, if not for trying to steady my heart? Would I have seen the pale of Shelley’s tidy face, and the way the other women were crowding forward behind her? Would I have been better prepared for the detonation if I had been paying attention, instead of bracing myself against the mere mention of your name?

This name that was mine from the beginning.

In every beginning an ending is written.

It is one of the very first things I told you. When I would lie naked in your arms and spin my stories. The mind of a poet, and the body of a goddess you once said against my chest, and I wrapped this description like a gift. It was rare for you to be so gracious with your definitions, Mack.


I did not know that it would end like this.

Shelley has placed her hand on my arm. Polite, distant Shelley, and it jolts me back. Maggie, she says, Maggie, Mack is dead.

We worked together for a period. Seven years ago. We were close – we were all close in those long days and longer nights, and it was no secret that Maggie and Mack had a thing. It never went anywhere – God, no! – there was the wife to consider, and Oliver, the kid. But there was definitely a little something, a spark that caught, and many were aware of the heat. This is the story Shelley must consider now as she touches my arm. As she tells me you are dead.

This is not something I can understand. In the silence that follows, I shake Shelley’s hand away. I perhaps say Sorry – an involuntary and sharp exclaim, before I walk on hollowed legs to my desk. I sit down without knowing where I am or why. It is only when I reach for my phone that I see how my hand grips the coffee lid, see how the plastic crumples against a trembling fist. Curious – it doesn’t even look like my hand. Everyone is watching as I stare at this hand. I hear Shelley start to cry behind me.

Truth takes time to sink through the skin. I feel my heart clench against it, ball into a fist under my ribs to fight it off. I am offered a last, merciful moment of incomprehension before the muscle contracts, suddenly, violently. The beat gets me going again with a force that nearly splits me in two.

(Cleave – to hold fast, and to tear apart. Now – now, I understand the contradiction).

Maggie, we just found out. Something happened this morning. Maggie, it’s bad …

Poor Shelley, the messenger. As culpable as harbingers will always be. And it is true that I will hate her, inexplicably, from this moment forward. When she kneels down beside me, I have a desire to strike her.

They’ve just called a meeting, but … but Mags, I thought you should hear it from us first.

Thank you. I say Thank you across her shoulder. And then it comes. A single, sharp stab, as my heart is perforated. I hear the words. That Mack – my Mack – is dead. I start to shake, and I discover that I have been biting down so hard on my lip that I have the rust metal taste of blood on my tongue.

Jacqueline Bublitz Writer