Fireworks

She's Called Gillian

by

Natascha Graham

She’s got brown hair and eyes the colour of a bleached winter sky. 

She’s about 5’5, but she’s tough.

I met just after I met my girlfriend.

My girlfriend was a narcissist.

She didn’t like me having friends, or seeing family.

So, I didn’t really.

Gillian stuck around, though.

In fact, that’s when I first met her

A few months in

She was standing in a driveway nudging gravel with the toe of her Converse.

I asked her if she’d lost something.

Her wedding ring, she said. Not that it mattered.

He was a cheating bastard.

We walked to school together. 

She wore dark jeans and a plaid shirt over a long-sleeved top with four buttons at the neckline.

She was self-destructive.

I liked that about her.

She’d help me put the shopping away when the Tesco delivery arrived. 

It wasn’t my house, 

but I did everything in it.

She expected that of me.

My girlfriend,

The narcissist.

Once when my girlfriend went away, 

we used her land to have a bonfire in the old metal drum that was full of weeds and earth and crap.

Gillian joked we should get all of her clothes and stick them on the fire, 

but burning her clothes wouldn’t do any good, we decided. 

She had enough trouble keeping her clothes on, 

having less of them would only add to the problem.

We cooked our lunch on the bonfire. 

Potatoes baked in tin foil. 

Their skins were black but we ate them anyway, 

and inside they were smoky and white and good.

Gillian would be there in the evenings, too. 

I’d make my excuses and slip to the garage for another bottle of wine, 

and Gillian was there,

back against the wall, picking at the fraying edge of her sleeve.

She’d tell me about her day, the sheep, the farm. 

She’d hug me, properly, hold me until I’d stopped shaking, 

or near enough.

 

Once, on fireworks night,

She had a party. 

My girlfriend, 

the narcissist.

Everyone was there. All of her friends, family, neighbours.

Her dad made the bonfire bigger than was safe. 

She poured everyone drinks and looked for me to give me something to do.

I stood in the shadows with Gillian. 

She was all nervy, jittery, bristling with energy, possibility, magic....

She was wearing wellington boots. 

Green ones, but they weren’t Hunter boots, and I was glad of that. 

They were bog-standard boots from a garden centre.

She had one hand in her pocket, I could hear the clink of the keys to her Land Rover.

You need to get shot of her.

She said, looking at the bonfire, into the flames. 

Her face was warm, golden, fire-lit and beautiful.

She’s going to kill you if you don’t.

She looked at me then, Gillian did.

One way or another you’ll end up dead.

She was right. I knew she was right.

 

But Gillian only existed in my head.

logo b&w.jpg

Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as writing for stage and screen. She lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England.

Her play, How She Kills, was performed by The Mercury Theatre in August 2020 and broadcast on BBC radio in September. Her second play, Confessions: The Hours, has been performed by Thornhill Theatre London, and both have been selected by Pinewood Studios and Lift-Off Sessions as part of their First Time Filmmakers Festival 2020.

Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction essays have been previously published by Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Yahoo News and The Mighty.