Cadency is the first piece of fiction we’ve been lucky enough to run by our friend Laura McPhee-Browne. She’s such a huge talent and we’re so excited to have her on Good Good Girl.
No one has touched her in twelve years. No one has kissed her in twenty. Sometimes, she almost brushes the hand of the young man on the register of the supermarket where she shops once a month but she always pulls back before it happens. This is not because she would not like to touch the young man’s hand – he is not so very young and it would not be unheard of for a woman to want a man’s touch upon her – but because she is somewhat afraid of touching now, and the stirrings that go with it.
She has no family apart from some who do not understand her. Her siblings, and there are many scattered around the place, try to quarrel with her if she speaks to them. They have suggestions on how she can live her life more appropriately, and they don’t believe she can say anything important so they talk over her and hang up before she has a chance to tell them that she is fine. Sometimes after these phone calls she feels she may scream, but screaming is something she has never done, and so she sits and scratches at the side of the table where the plastic meets the wood.
Her days fill up quickly. She waters the plants at 6 and 10, in keeping with the water restrictions. She walks down to the stream behind her block and sings to the fishes she can see, and the ones she cannot. She eats lunch between 12 and 1, depending on her hunger levels, and this is always a lunch of modest creation. Between lunch and her afternoon eye rest, she plays Solitaire on the computer and listens to pop songs on her tape player; the one her siblings laughed at when she last let them visit, many years ago.
One afternoon she hears what can only be a knock at the door. No one has knocked in so long that the noise startles her, and she is mottled and wide-eyed when she opens it. There is a man on the doorstep. He wears what was once known as a pork pie hat, and is short and stout. He bids her hello and she says hello back, so quietly she can barely hear her own voice. When she reflects, she has not uttered a word in four days. The man explains that he is her neighbour from across the way, just home from work. He tells her that he has admired her since he moved in and was working up to this moment, when he would knock and say hello, and ask if they could be friends.
She invites him in and offers tea and a seat. The man is excited. She can tell because he is tapping his thick leg and smiling in that way that looks like the beginning of crying. After she has made the pot she brings it to the table and sits. He is even redder now, and after apologising for something he leans over and places his hand on her face and his lips on hers. She is kissed. She can feel her pelvis aching and then she is kissing back. They stay like this, or almost like this but a little to one side and a little to the other until she pulls away and states, oh dear I’m sorry, though she is unsure what she is sorry for and now sees what he had been apologising for. All she seems to be able to do is straighten out her skirt and ask him to leave. He asks if he can come again. She says yes, of course. She hears the door clap behind him and breathes out.
Words by Laura McPhee-Browne
Illustration by Marine Bucher