As Clear as Crystal

By Sandra Arnold

“Mum, you know that old muslin dress of yours with the embroidered sleeves?” said Crystal. “Can I wear it for Robbie’s 21st party? It’s a 70s theme.”

Liz lifted the dress from its box at the back of her wardrobe. A photograph fell out. She slipped it into her pocket without looking at it.

Nathan arrived in a huge black afro, pink velvet flares and a white muslin shirt.
“Oh, you look wicked, Nath!” Crystal shrieked.
“You look outrageous!” Nathan grinned.
And you’ve both stepped out of my photograph, Liz thought, trying to breathe.
“You’ll freeze!” were the words that came out.
“We’ll be fine.”
“Drive slowly! There’s ice on the roads.”

She watched them roar away in Nathan’s old bomb.
Heart thumping in her throat, she rang Sally. “It was like watching Alex and me speeding into the future we thought we’d have.”
Sally asked how long it had taken her to stop looking back. Sally didn’t think she’d ever reach that point because she still wanted to kill Jeff and the slut.
“Come and drink wine with me instead,” said Liz. “Bring things to burn. We’ll celebrate with roasted marshmallows.”

They tossed clothes, photographs and CDs on the fire in the garden. They toasted each burning item in red wine and roasted marshmallows in the blaze. A plane flying in loops beneath the frozen clouds spelt HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY ROBBIE in blue smoke.
“The future,” said Sally, raising her glass to the pink and gold sky.

Liz took the photograph from her pocket and threw it on the flames. She watched it curl and burn. Sparks flickered in the wind like fireflies. Ash settled on the trees like snow.


Sandra Arnold is an award-winning writer who lives in New Zealand. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia and is the author of three books. Her flash fiction appears in numerous international journals. She was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize and the 2017 and 2018 Best Small Fictions. Her third novel Ash will be published by Mākaro Press (NZ) in 2019 and her first flash fiction collection Soul Etchings will be published by Retreat West Books (UK) in 2019.