Flash Fiction: Oranges (Sketches from Book Two)

by Aki Schilz

She was opening the orange as if it was an origami flower, its peel falling away in bright chunks. He watched her eat it, and she watched him watching her, her head cocked slightly to one side, observing him observing, watching the slight quiver of his Adam’s apple and the flutter of his fingers by his thigh where he rested his left hand, the wedding band glittering. She thought about his wife. Wondered if she knew about her husband’s obsession with younger girls who sat naked and cross-legged on beds peeling oranges and letting the juice slide out of the corners of their mouths and drip down onto the curve of their breasts. She went to flick away a drop of juice from her nipple, and that is when he came towards her, crawling on all fours as she knew he would, his eyes over-bright with a reverence an observer would find perverse. He knelt before her on the bed. His breathing by now was ragged. She wanted to feel in control, to feel powerful, straight-backed and elegant in her nakedness, with her neck that curved like a swan’s (this is what he had told her the first night they had slept together. She had been lying on her back and he ran his thumb from the nape of her neck down to the nub of her spine, and whispered that she was a swan. His swan. Beautiful and dangerous.) But she didn’t feel powerful now. She felt instead a familiar throb in her belly, an ache that spread like a bruise through her, making her tender and vulnerable. And when he drew each of her fingers into his mouth, one by one, sucking the juice from them as he placed a hand between her legs, she felt the curve in her spine crack and felt her armoury of feathers floating away down a torrent of river, a whitewater obliteration: she could feel herself opening up like an orange-coloured origami flower, and she could feel, too, her heart breaking inside her chest.

When he had left, she gathered the bedcovers up in her arms and breathed the smell of him up through her nose and down into lungs and her whole body; into her arms and legs right through to the tips of her toes that she stood up on now, feeling her calves stretch out like rope as she lifted herself up and up toward the ceiling where the fan cut through the stale air of the room, her whole skin filling with him where it touched the still-warm sheets which she wrapped around her now, tighter and tighter around her shoulders, her hips. And all around her arched feet, with small thudding sounds, segments of curled orange peel were falling, escaping from the linen folds that had held them, making a sound on her carpet like an arrhythmic heartbeat.