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  • Writer's picturejmbriscoe

Take Her Back: Extra Content

Summer, 2016

It really is extremely unlikely.

That is what I tell myself as I pick up the own-brand kit and stuff it under the fishfingers and ground coffee in my trolley. I’m only two days late, after all, but it happens so rarely… one of the perks of genetic perfection. It’s probably just stress, I think, as I check my watch quickly. Two hours till pick-up.

A young woman shopping in the supermarket

Just stress... The culmination of too many different swirls of feelings in the last few days. The heart-clenching shatter of longing and terror as a tall student with hair just one shade darker than Ralph’s had crossed my path at the university. The familiar gripe of guilt and regret a few hours later as Ariana’s face twisted in resentment at yet another refusal to let her go on some school trip. Willbury nudging his chair a fraction too close to mine in the coffee hut this morning, the carefully-casual brush of his hand on my thigh shivering memories so jagged I’d had to clench my calf muscles to stop the stomp of my blocky heel on his brogue. The wheeling cry of a red kite as I’d crossed the supermarket carpark, the kiss of summer on bare skin burning my soul back to that August in Cumbria…

I shake my head at the frozen food aisle. Tiny triggers, that’s all it is. Little stresses coinciding with the time of year to spark memories and snag a handful of hormones for good measure. I grab a bottle of discounted Rioja as I head to checkout, as if to prove my point.

I wish it weren’t so messy. I wrinkle my nose as I hold the test between finger and thumb and place it carefully on the little pink bathroom stool Ariana doesn’t really need anymore. As I wash my hands, I meet my gaze and pause for a moment. No. It won’t be positive. It won’t. That would be… But then, I think about him. Jack. The bright blue eyes, tumbling blonde curls, so opposite to anything I’d ever considered to be my type. His lazy grin as he’d called my fake name across the bar. Hilary – the only other senior lab researcher under thirty – had introduced us in the canteen earlier that day. He was a visiting academic from Perth, his effortlessly erotic accent overtaking any further detail of what subject he specialised in, which university he was from, even his surname. All I knew was that he was part of the crowd going out for drinks that night and that suddenly the prospect of enduring the sticky floors, sloppy eye-fucks and increasingly-slurred questions about what-my-deal-was-no-but-actually-though seemed altogether more tolerable.

A busy nightclub

I still don’t know what came over me, except perhaps a glass too many of the shitty rosé Hilary kept topping up.

‘Live a little, Elodie!’ she’d gurgled. ‘You’re still young! Act your age for once.’

And even though it had come out more like ‘funce’, there was a part of me which agreed. Which felt the warm press of Jack’s hand steering me towards the dancefloor and thought, why not? Ariana was fast asleep in her bed less than ten miles away, my sweetly uninquisitive teenage neighbour slowly working her way through the stacks of beige I’d set out for her on my cheap coffee table as the TV blared. Why not, I thought, shutting my eyes and feeling the thrum of the music reach past the dull burr of alcohol and snag at the dancer within.

Wow, Jack said, as we flowed together – spinning, dipping, stepping, tumbling… there are no good words to describe dancing as a dancer. Wow. You can really dance. I blinked and smiled and knew it wasn’t Elodie’s shy simper this time, I could feel that these weren’t Elodie’s movements beneath her sensible top-and-jeans. But Hilary was at the bar, necking more wine with the man she’d been chatting to for the last hour. Lynn, Willbury and Ted had ‘left you young ones to it,’ though I’d felt Willbury’s gaze spearing across my body like a contrail long afterwards. Jack was a stranger who would be flying back to the other side of the planet in two days. So there, in the darkness of the club, under soft strobes to music I didn’t know but felt to the tips of my soul anyway, I let Bella out. I let her swarm through my body, lifting my soul as her muscle memory flowed with the synthesis of a million tiny movements and I thought, Oh Jack, you have no idea.

His hotel room was basic, unmemorable. The act itself paled in comparison to the blaze of his hands on my body on the dancefloor, his gaze electric with the possibilities of what we might do next... I was home shortly after one, woke the bemused babysitter, stuffed an extra twenty in her hand and didn’t complain about the crumbs adorning my sofa.

And now… even though I know it’s stupid, I can’t help but wonder… Curly hair, most likely. Blonde like his, perhaps, with hints of my brown tumbling through. Eyes the colour of the ocean on a beach far away. We could move. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Australia. So far away from the dark triggers of who might be hunting me, the shadows and pain lurking in my past. In Australia I could dance again. I see it all as I stare at myself. Long, sun-kissed days. Sandy limbs. Honey-brown skin. I see it all in the brightness of my own green gaze, a candle behind the emerald.

I look down. The pink stool. Belonging to the daughter I have utterly forgotten in the last few seconds of irresistible daydream. The sudden, clambering heaviness does not contain enough guilt as it should do as I remember who she is. What she means. As the little window of the test remains clear, the swallow which spikes jaggedly on its way down does not contain as much relief as it should do, either.


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