Rachel Smith writes short and flash fiction, and more recently poetry. Her work has previously been published in JAAM, takahē and Flash Frontier.
In my writing I am increasingly drawn to shorter forms. I enjoy the challenge of creating full characters from only a few words – removing anything extra until all that remains is the essence of who they are.
Light and Shade
Take one handful of rose petals – the cream ones edged in pink that grow outside my parents’ bedroom.
Mum is propped up on three pillows looking out the window. Her vista she calls it. Dad cut a hole in the hedge, four macrocarpa trees unwound from their neighbours, and hung a wooden gate. Past the roses and the garden she can see green grass and brown mountains.
Now take five red berries, the ones that grow at school on the tall yew tree outside the toilets – soft and gluey between the fingers when squashed, with a hard heart inside.
I bend to kiss her cheek. It tastes unfamiliar.
“Where are the others?” she asks. Light fingers smooth long strands of hair stuck to my hot face and neck.
“In the kitchen – eating. Would you like a cup of tea?”
She nods, her gaze turned to the window.
Add a cup of water and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix it all in the half-moon shaped pot, 12 circles in each direction, and leave with the lid on for two days.
The cup of tea sits cooling on the table beside her bed. Through the open window creeps the soft smell of roses.
Dress in finery; Andrea in an old blue nightie, Kat a long pink sundress, and I wear white lace and high heels. My brother wears only his nappy.
Empty the pot into the red plastic teapot. Pour into four yellow tea cups and place on a tray. Walk quietly past her room. Sit the tray where the magnolia tree meets the hedge. Bow your head and make a wish.
Walk away without looking back. Do not see the sunlight falling in patterns of shade and light.
First published takahe 86