Maggie remembers the dead cow by the side of the road.
That her mother denies she ever saw. Telling her there was no such journey, spanning evening blue, velvet black and morning pink.
Adamant that they never, ever, not even once, took a trip without her father.
But Maggie knows.
Remembers it, the cow, sprawled on the verge. With its mouth half open, tongue, pink and lolling, soft muzzle made dusty by the filth and flies of the road.
Maggie remembers looking at her mother, who drove straight past it; into the sunrise with her head bent and shoulders fixed. An urgent and unfamiliar silhouette, framed by a dazzling rush of blush and gold.
Her mother, transformed by the dawn, wearing a sudden desperate halo.
And Maggie remembers Joe’s feet. Those marshmallows clouds dangling below his car seat. How she reached for them, leaning over their hastily packed-to-the-brim carrier bags and crisp packets. Squeezing the hope of this journey into the creases of his toes. Trying to make him understand that their mother had become an angel.
She remembers cresting the hill and diving headlong into her stomach flip.
Then Joe stirring, her mother frowning, half turning.
And Maggie remembers letting go.
How, with her head resting against the windowpane, she had gone back to watching, vision blurred by the rush of sheep, trees, and purple fells. Sinking unwillingly into sleep, rocked by green and early morning. This lullaby of landscape.
Maggie remembers waking to the low, grey symmetry of houses. Walls and doors, one upon the other, running away from her in solid limestone rows.
Jolting. Her eyes springing open as the car door slammed. Her hot breath, fogging the up window. And how, with her sleepy finger, Maggie traced the outline of her mother, walking slowly up the nearest path. Her newly sprouted wings knocking at the roses, white eagle feathers poking through her leather jacket, spotted by crimson petals as they fell.
A milkman, white and whistling. Stopping by the car and winking. Maggie remembers sliding lower, pushing her hand between her legs; desperate to pee.
Beyond the glass, the milkman and the falling roses, a front door opened; to reveal a woman, wearing a thin grey housecoat. And a mouth that’s thinner. Both pulled tight.
Maggie remembers her mother, stepping back, then forwards. Weaving and dancing, white arms wrapped around her body; then out thrown wide. Arcing gold.
Everything unfurling, lifting and her red hair, caught in the hallway light flaming. Glowing. Sudden and strong; standing there on that path, wearing her halo.
Maggie remembers, how swollen with pride she turned to Joe. Showering his sticky, sleeping cheeks and cloudy toes with promises.
Then turning back.
Maggie remembers the light going.
And her mother crying out and hammering hard, over and over. Pounding with flat palms on the flat black door.
Then Maggie remembers her turning back, face washed with morning light.
Sparkling with a thousand golden droplets, drowning in the splinters of her broken halo.
is a writer and teacher living in Cumbria. Her debut flash collection ‘Oh I do like to be
’ was published by Alien Buddha in July 2022. Her short fiction has been published in Sledgehammer Lit, Pigeon Review, Reflex Press, Selcouth Station
and The Birdseed
amongst others. Her novella, ‘Magpie Moon
is due to be published by Kith Books in Nov 2023 . She is currently working on her first novel. Website