Amniotic Suns by Jenna Grieve

Photo by Aiman Zenn on Unsplash

Eucalyptus oil, bath salts, jar of pressed flowers. Anya has sculpted this evening from the clay of a decade. Outside this bathroom drifts three empty rooms – her fledgling home – and the single backpack she flew with. Outside that, the constellation of a city. Maya’s pleas that new beginnings don’t have to be perfect burst like blood vessels. Anya has plotted for too long to settle for an imperfect bath.

Cornstarch and milk to cloud the water. Basil and mandarin candles on the rim, wooden wicks crackling with enchantment. The water sizzles her skin, pulses between her raised veins, and she sighs in relief. Anya slices a pink grapefruit with a letter opener and sets each pithy circle to sail the perfumed sea. Lights off, window cracked open to let the breathless night slink in. Through its rippled glass, the spire of the Duomo di Firenze threads the silky moon, the cool of its light whispering along Anya’s forehead. She is new here.

She knew this night would come. It sang to her in dreams, in the sun’s drowsy rays. It’s why she collected and pressed the flowers. Lying back, jar at her side, she drops them in, one by one. Water avens souvenired from the waterfall hike with Maya, honeysuckle snuck from a meadow picnic with Liam. Marigold petals plucked from Grandma’s garden, the ones she helped plant, enchanter’s nightshade that grew in the woods near her childhood home, the woods where she’d been a witch. The handfuls of forget-me-nots she pressed between textbooks, intent on defying their titular instructions. The bathtub seethes with these memories, memories to drown. Anya swims her arms to rearrange the patterns of the flowers. She inhales the steam in a long, indulgent breath.

A bottle of local rosé in an ice bucket. Two white towels on the rail, fluffy-new. A pair of stolen bath slippers posing at the golden clawfoot, a relic from her anniversary trip with Liam. Anya snatched them on impulse from the poshest shop on the Champs-Élysées. They are a reminder of her own ferality, that she can be powerful and unpredictable. This is the first time she will wear them.

The steam will open her pores and cleanse her lungs. The city will open her mind and purify her blood. Anya doesn’t speak Italian but she will learn. She will learn because she wants to forget English. Moonlight pools on the milky surface. A tiny shift, a splash, and it shatters. Maya was Anya’s moon once, but in sunlight it hurts to remember the night. Curlicues of steam dance up her skin. They condense at the back of her throat, Anya tips her head back and lets the water drip to her stomach. She cannot call Maya or her move will have been for nothing.

She needs time. Time to be lost in a new city. Head below the water, she can see herself from above more clearly than she can feel herself inside the water, as if this is not an experience she is allowed to have. Her dark hair fans around her, rays of an amniotic sun. The flowers circle her knees and gather above her face.

There are two suns, the life-giving mirage we see in the sky and the real thing – first, and colossal, and deadly. The honeysuckle is a diffused sun when the forget-me-nots orbit it. Outside, a firework of pigeons burst into flight from the Duomo, and streetlights melt in the mouth of the moon.

About The Author

Jenna Grieve is a fiction writer from Scotland. Her stories have been published in Luna Station Quarterly and Firewords.

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