top of page

Sorry is a Four Letter Word: A Short Story

She’s moved her sofa since last time I came here. I’m not going to mention it, obviously, or her new haircut which looks horribly nice on her. She always did have better hair then me. Mine being a bike helmet and hers being the sort of hair that swings, pendulum-like in a ponytail and glimmers in the sun.

She looks nervous, which I’m pleased about but also hate because for so long my job was to comfort her, smooth her out like rumpled silk when anxiety crept in. I always know when she’s worried, she gets a little line right between her eyes. It’s her tell. She knows my tells too. The redness round my nails. The eye tic she swears no one can notice even though it makes my eyebrow move up and down like Elvis.

‘So,’ she says, which is just the most pointless word in the dictionary. So. There we go. Ho Hum. Such is life. I hate platitudes. She hates platitudes. What a waste of time it was to come. Once we spent twenty-four hours at a silent retreat. She said she was flirting with spirituality. Truth was, she was flirting with the zen teacher.  It wasn’t uncomfortable then, the not talking. It was hilarious, that holier than thou smugness on everyone faces, the slowed down way they walked and pressed their hands into their chests. Who knew you could get kicked out of a class on higher love for laughing? I thought the whole point was to reach a transcendent plane. There is a photo somewhere. Me and her in matching baggy trousers and string bracelets, cross-legged on a mat that smelled of old flip flops. Her head is on my shoulder and I’m smiling with all my teeth, even the twisted one at the front that we call the can opener and has saved us more than once when in a tight spot.

‘Tea,’ she says, without making it a question, but I nod anyway because it’s one thing to punish her but I am not going to punish myself. She knows just how I like it. My tea, a toffee nut shade of brown, two sugars. She doesn’t drink tea, which makes it even more special that she perfected such alchemy, just for me. She drinks black coffee which is why she is thin, and I am not. We spent one summer trying to outdo one another with new adult habits, like starting the day off with hot lemon and ginger and swilling coconut oil round our mouths and eating olives and artichokes and very expensive mozzarella that slid about in a puddle of yellow ick. She carried on some of these things while I went back to Monster Munch and Frosted Shreddies.

I hear her in the kitchen, the slap of her old lady slippers across the tiled floor. I love that about her. How she won’t compromise the comfort of her feet for fashion. These ones are trodden down at the back. I normally buy her a new pair each Christmas, ugly as I can find. The cat’s bumholes of slippers. Velcro, swirls, a low heel, a sheepskin bootie from the free catalogue the sells incontinence pads and grabber sticks. I want to sit down but it feels like I’m making myself too at home. Even though this is my home or was my home. That’s my Fleetwood Mac record on the turntable. My coffee table book about 1970s architecture which I bought to look intelligent and never read. That’s my crossword book under it, a pen as a bookmark. She was always good at the quizzes, but I was a cryptic queen. She could remember things like dates and bridges and what we had for dinner when we were nine and ten at that Butlin’s holiday, but I still knew the dance we made up to ‘Especially For You’ when I always had to be Jason because of my helmet hair, and she got to be Kylie.

Before this we had only fallen out about stupid things like who left the hair straighteners on or used the last of the milk (me, obviously, she didn’t even drink milk). The summer heat made me itchy and ill-tempered. I’d break out in hives, and she’d dab on lotion while I moaned. She got piles from sitting on a cold pavement for twelve hours protesting the closing of an independent grocery shop and I had to look at them. I had to put cream on them. Some things can’t be unseen.

The shop never stood a chance of staying open and that is why I adore her. She cares about showing up. ‘It’s not about the destination’, she once told me. I responded by buying her car stickers that said things like ‘the more you know the less you need' and ‘I hope something good happens to you today’ and ‘honk if you don’t exist’ and the bitch used every single one of them, even ‘the obstacle is the way.’

She bangs the teaspoon against the cup three times and I want to cry for how much I have missed the sound but I won’t because of the sofa and the hair and the fact that she’s doing better without me and I am just the same only a bit worse. It’s hard to care about flossing without her reminders, and so what if I’m watching too much Killer In My Village and giving myself nightmares again? I don’t call her when I wake at 3am and the whole world is asleep in a land of milk and honey while my heart is pounding like the horses of the apocalypse, and I’m wrung out with fear that this is all there is without her.

That’s the thing about needing someone. They can always stop needing you back at any time, and then you just have this massive shoulder bag full of problems that only they can fix but they are not there anymore. There is just a massive black hole where they used to be that sucks you in. I mean, in theory, obviously, because I’m fine. I’m so chill. Whatever is cool with me.

She comes back, a mug in each hand. Two Kit Kats in her mouth. I take them without thinking. They are shiny with her spit. I used to wake her up by licking her like a dog. Our mother had died not long before, I was in a weird place. She set bowls of milk on the floor and used the padding from her bra to make me knee cuffs, so I didn’t get sore when I crawled on all fours.

The mugs are new. White and tall. I wonder what happened to the old ones and why she got rid of them. Did she throw them at the wall like Greek people do at the end of meals? Are there splinters of china too small to see but sharp enough to hurt? I’m so grateful for those old slippers, keeping her feet safe.

She nods at me then at the mug. I frown, confused, look again. Printed on the side in black bold font are the words: ‘I’m sorry too, you big twat.’


Recent Blog Posts
bottom of page