Contributor: Lindsey McLeod

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Saudade is a unique Galician-Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English; it describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.

I have been waiting for what seems like days. Tick tick. You have been gone for an indefinable amount of time, and left me with her. I know she hates me - that much has been made perfectly clear. I'm not exactly keen on her either. She resents the bond we have together, the closeness, the daily walks to the local swingpark which thankfully so far you have not invited her to come on after that first disastrous attempt. Tick. She is my enemy for your affection, the strange body sleeping in your bed, taking up space in the already too-small flat. Tick tick.

It is not that she has forced me into the kitchen, where I huddle now under the table next to the radiator, listening to the irregular old clock hung crookedly on the wall. I could sit in the living room on the soft couch if I wished, although I would have to endure her mutterings and pointed glares. I could even go and curl up on your bed, in the space that smells of you and safety, if I felt brave enough to risk her wrath. Tick. I was, after all, here first. She knows that. She cannot get rid of me. She can only try to outlive me. I was never particularly bulky, but now, looking down at my scrawny body, I see how much I have been changed by the past few months. I've heard you arguing with her late at night. She screams at you about the cost of my medical bills, about my occasional accidents. Tick tick. Your voice is always steady, quiet. She threatens to leave you. She never does. She smashes objects around the house. She never replaces them. I can't help but cringe when she speaks to me, and somehow that seems to make her hate me even more.

I hear your footsteps on the porch, and the slow click of your key in the lock. Tick. Everything you do has an edge of solid reassurance. There are no words to explain how much you mean to me, how my heart swells up with joy to know that you are in my presence again, a barrier of protection against the enemy and the rest of the world. You exchange a few words with the devil, then I hear your boots, heavy and somehow more real than anything else in this house, in this world, thumping across the floor towards the kitchen. I scramble out from under the table as eagerly as my old bones can manage. Ticktickticktick. When you push the door open I throw myself at you with all the energy I can muster. You laugh, bending down to my height and gather me in your arms. "Easy there," you say, chuckling. "I've only been at work for a few hours. Did you miss me that much?"

It may seem like just a few hours to you, but locked in this house all day under the eye of the enemy, listening to the clock, my finite time rushes away unbearably slowfast. I bury my head in your shoulder and try to force down the lump in my throat. Tick tick. The feeling is beautiful and terrible at the same time. It makes me shiver. To be reunited with something you missed so much, longed for so badly, is overwhelming. I can't deny that every time you leave, I wonder if you will come back to protect me or to gather your things and leave. Tick.

The enemy pushes open the kitchen door. She gives me a distasteful look but refrains from saying anything. "What do you want to do about dinner?"

You grin down at me as your hand gently strokes my hair. "Let's just order in tonight. That new Chinese place looked good."

She grimaces behind you, and the blame in her eyes is directed solely at me. Tick.

"Fine," she snarls, and slams the door.

A brief look of contrition flashes over your face, but it is quickly replaced by a rueful smile. I look up at you, apologetic for my existence.

She bangs back into the room. Tick tick. "She's not your goddamn mother, you know."


You don't look at her. You look at me.


"I know," you say. But your arms tightening around me tell a different story.

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I won the Cazart Short Story prize in February 2012; recently I was longlisted in the Fish Publishing 2013 Short Story competition. Three of my flash fiction stories are available as a download on the Ether Books mobile app.
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