Shedding by Ruth Geldard, Flash Fiction Semi-Finalist, LISP 3rd Quarter 2020
Shedding by Ruth Geldard
The relentless chlorine fug hangs above the waterline, but still manages to find its bleachy way into the nostrils of the woman in the pool. She is a graceless swimmer during daylight hours, easily lapped by pensioners, but alone at dusk as the darkening water turns from shallow turquoise to fathomless indigo, she too is transformed. Pointing her toes, she secretly dances.
As she swims, her mind worries at the attachment between her and her teenage daughter, not a physical bond, like the pink fleshy bridge that first fused them together, but a sacred, invisible current that thrums between them still. The girl in her perfumed bravado, unconscious of the breaking-strain of this precious time-sensitive bond, and distracted by extreme-makeovers, stretches it taut. Now it is fraying at both ends.
Underwater lights snap on, illuminating the woman’s flesh as it scrolls over her. In the anonymous water she recalls a dog she once had, a bitch, that when in heat, attracted other dogs who came howling through the letterbox. It is like that now, feral boys in sprayed-on jeans loiter on the same doorstep, withholding eye contact.
The mother knows that she and her daughter are hanging by a thread, she pre-empts the coming loss by projecting herself into the future, to conjure a place where her emerging chrysalis girl will be safe. Although this place has unknown co-ordinates, she believes they will both come to it from enlightened perspectives and connect again, in yet unimaginable ways.
Until then, she has no choice but to release her darling girl. Using her teeth, she severs the last connecting strand. She will keep faith here in the present, and while she waits, holding her head out of the water, chord-less, she will keep on swimming.