Miriam spoke to lockets. There was no one else to talk to. Her sister Elizabeth’s chatter was a gravel swarm, but when Miriam murmured to her she turned away. Miriam felt like field puddles. She lugged along at Elizabeth’s side. To the townspeople, she was always ‘the sister’ and never her own name. Sometimes, when she was younger, at dusk, she’d muttered her name into wild poppies and watched them close.
They were twins, but Miriam was second. As children, Elizabeth had a mind like comet plummets and Miriam dawdled behind. On her own, she played stunted games. She filled her pockets with marbles. They clunked at her steps. But with her sister, the rooms felt like wall-less forests. Elizabeth spun stories of beasts and wonders and Miriam felt sealed in her tales. Miriam felt she was never in a story of her own. Only when Elizabeth slept, did Miriam feel her own stories, light as frost melt. In the mornings, she tried to tell them, but Elizabeth just swept her into another adventure.
They grew up. Miriam stopped trying to tell stories. They tickled inside her like moth creep. From her window, she glimpsed Elizabeth roaming woodland edges: she had leaves in her hair. When Elizabeth looked up and saw her, she didn’t wave. Miriam dressed for the party. They walked through the village in a crowd of Elizabeth’s friends. They didn’t talk to Miriam. She thudded her feet hard on the cobblestones to feel she was really there.
At the party, she sat in a corner, her voice smelling of cupboards. She kept quiet. She tried not to look at Elizabeth whirling in the dance. Feeling outside the music, she stared at wallpaper patterns. Words jostled and jarred in her. She gazed across the crowd seeking someone to talk to, but no one looked back. She ducked behind a heavy curtain and whispered into her hands. Folding the words small, she squeezed them into the locket round her neck, snapped it shut and pressed her ear hard to the metal: it sounded like creased hail.
The locket was warm. Back at home, she hung it on her mirror before going to bed. She watched its glint until she fell asleep. In the morning, feeling full with a story, she took another locket from her jewellery box and pushed the tale inside it. She felt sky lit. She moved through the house like feather float. She filled all her lockets with her words. She kept her secrets in gold and silver. She found all the stories she hadn’t told. She stopped looking for Elizabeth from the windows.
She took lockets from her sister and mother. Her room shone with them. She hammered nails into the walls and hung them on short chains. They rattled. When there were no lockets left, she paced the woods, tales billowing inside her. She found streams swollen with empty lockets bright as fish flash. She scooped them up and carried them home. They smelled of pearls. She filled them with her words. She stuffed lockets in her sleeves and shoes. Her steps were heavy. Sometimes, she couldn’t move.
The lockets trembled with her words. They sounded like bee wings on glass. The air tightened as they strained to stay shut. One day, they bolted open. She tried to grab her secrets and push them into her pockets, but they slipped from her grasp. Her tales seeped through window gaps and door cracks. Elizabeth stood in the garden outside. The words swept over her, tangled her hair and billowed up into the winds. The skies became noisy with Miriam’s stories.
Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and can be summoned by a cake signal in the sky. Her best friend is a dog who can count. Through the WoMentoring Project, she was chosen by Kirsty Logan as her mentee. Rebecca’s been nominated for Best of the Net, and was a finalist in the first Wyvern Lit flash fiction contest. Her stories can also be read at Rose Red Review, Maudlin House, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere.
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