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Vital - Miranda Overett

Do you remember the strawberries? You said you loved the plumpness of them, the ripeness- that they made you think of spring, of lengthening days and sunshine. Of leading me by the hand to sit and make up stories on the grass, to wipe traces of their sweetness from my chin. There’s sunshine here now, but it’s winter warmth.Superficial, bullied by the wind.

I spent hours labouring over the curves of those fruits, denting their skin with sharp tools, building pockmarks that looked less like blemishes than birthmarks, signs of vitality. You examined every one of them with love, even grey and supple as they still were, clay not yet dry, nothing veneered yet. You said you could taste them.

I wanted to agree, to swallow up your optimism, but they felt rotten to me - so vital they were overripe, something of decay in their swelling, blooming roundness, bloated from the inside out - like an unwary hand reaching in to pluck them might force out a treacherous poison.

I wish you were here - to show me I was wrong about them. To wrap your hands around their hardened bodies - fired now, red and glistening - and breathe them into life. I can see you so clearly, turning around to show me a handful of fragile, trembling berries. Taking crisp bites, and giving me that look which always said ‘see, Lia, you were worrying about nothing’.

But I wasn’t, was I? Turns out I was pouring something of myself into them, and something of you too - all that wild, reaming life draining away from us and out into something that didn’t need it as much as we did.

And the clay’s lifelessness seeped back into us in return.

When I woke in the middle of the night, still half asleep, and saw the blood on my legs, it first made me think of strawberries - of the squashed guts of overlong summer days, the richness of them, dry mouthed sunstroke. All of my insides, the seeds and flesh of me, the sweetness... sticky on my skin.

I thought of you too, bleached white by your hospital bed, and I wished and ached for you to be there to wrap your hands around me, breathe my daughter back into life, to take her own crisp bites out of the world.

But no. My hands, which sketched in all those exaggerated shapes, which unknowingly hinted at the decay, were right. Because all that is left are sunshine and clay, and me. You are gone, and she is gone. And my husband, who you never liked anyway, is further away than I can reach.


Miranda Overett enjoys working, writing, and walking the dog in Budapest, her discovered home.


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