Flash Fiction: "Muted"


They sat on a bench that was spotted with bird shit. They didn’t mind. Her legs were crossed at the ankles and his were spread apart at forty-five degrees, so that in reality their share of the bench was a sixty-forty affair. She didn’t mind. He ate his sandwich, then his crisps, then his apple in succession and she ate hers all at once, taking bites of each and balancing her crisps on her knee. Her napkin had already blown away and her drink rolled off the bench and he’d chased them both, but he didn’t mind. The sun warmed their necks and she’d already told him to put sun cream on twice today. The breeze raised goose bumps on her arms and he’d suggested this morning she bring a jacket. He still wore his shoes with the holes in and she still hadn’t decided what they were going to have for tea next week. The water lapped against the stone wall like a thirsty dog, clapping against the stones then retreating then clapping against the stones and retreating. Pollen sat heavy in the air and a bee buzzed behind her head. She froze momentarily; but it was gone. A squirrel ran up the tree in front of them. She pointed, he smiled. He finished his food and placed his arm around her shoulders. She liked it but not for too long because it weighed her down and gave her backache. He started talking and she frowned and said nothing. He paused, and then tried again. She frowned more, then replied. He looked at her and put his head to the side. She shrugged off his arm. “You know it’s entirely up to you.” "But.” “But?” “But, it’s not. I think about you and what you want and us and what’s best.” “And yourself. What do you want?” “I don’t fucking know.” He put his arm back around her. She leant into his shoulder. A squirrel approached their bench slowly. They weren’t interested, and it ran away. He spoke. “Maybe.” They stood up. He took the rucksack that she had bought him for Christmas last year and slung it on his back and she took the sandwich packets and apple cores to the bin. They went home.

Rebecca Shoulders is a short story writer and novel attempter. She has been previously published by Fincham Press. She likes to write realism flash fiction focussing on the details and sensations of everyday life, and is also working on a comic fantasy novel. She’s in her final year of her BA in Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton. She likes writing, plants, and her boyfriend. She lives in Lewes, East Sussex. You can follow her on Twitter @rtheshoulders.