“Miss Rhodes!” “William?” Each steps back three feet on the Scremerston Station platform to take in the other from head to toe. William flashes a youthful toothy grin as his former English teacher’s cheeks plump up in recognition. But for the business suit and hat, he’s not changed at all. She shifts from side to side, feels the balloon of her body.
Neither remembers the assurances they once made to each other. William long ago shrugged off his promise to keep writing stories and to keep in touch with Miss Rhodes, and she has already forgotten she pledged to foster his dreams of being a writer. Free from guilt and apologies, they jabber on. She chatters about her recent retirement and the beach where she vacationed, and how the voyage made her queasy. William announces his recent engagement, tells her about the child they plan to have and their promise to raise it with every advantage. Both agree it’s strange they’ve not bumped into each other all these years, then go their separate ways.
Promises begin as pussy willows and find it difficult to be demanding. But promises are easily miffed when commitments prove frivolous and are set aside. Soft grey buds lengthen, grow scales and a spine, become stalkers, become python.
Pussy willow brushes her velvet against William’s cheeks. She begs him to forget the click of his young fiancée’s slip-in pumps, the spice of Shalimar between her breasts. She asks him to tender his resignation at Lloyds, to move back in with his stuffy parents and return to the classrooms where he excelled.
Pussy willow wants Miss Rhodes to cry phooey! to oaths made and niggling. She asks her to rumba every weekend at the social hall and to eat powdered sugar donuts after dancing. She urges Miss Rhodes to travel more and shop the souks of Marrakech, to remember her sister can feed and dress their father.
But pussy willows speak in whispers and are not so easily heard. After a while, Python will unhinge his jaw, slither towards William’s wife, wrest their mewling firstborn from her arms. Python will widen his mouth further and dispose of Miss Rhodes’ father. He will press a steamboat ticket in her hand and hiss that the boat won’t capsize, although he can’t promise.
work appears or is forthcoming in The Ekphrastic Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Intima, Thimble Literary Magazine, London Reader, SurVision, Rogue Agent, Popshot Quarterly, The South Shore Review, The Fortnightly Review, Feral, The Phare, Sledgehammer Lit, Flash Boulevard, New World Writing, Emerge, The Disappointed Housewife, Tiny Molecules, Potato Soup Journal, and elsewhere. Her stories and poems have received Pushcart and Best Microfiction nominations.