Madder Bloom


She considered this as the last of the strawberries popped into her mouth and she stabbed straight through the paper plate reaching for another.

She was reading a novel whose cover bore, of course, an oily athlete in a breezy kilt tango-dipping a corseted lass with her hair loose in the wind and lips airbrushed to match its unnatural burgundy.

The shearing of paper startled her out of the flushed chest of the erotica woman. She set the book facedown next to a black vase of dry roses. One of her plastic nails popped off when she scooped up the plate. It bounced off the table and into the vase.

Nonono, she gibbered, pleaseno, nogodwhy.

The plate sagged to the floor like a dirty rag, forgotten. Juice stains like bisected kisses were arranged in a ritual circle.

Faster than a wet object can fall, the hand sans nail shot into the vase. Nails on ceramic. Nails on a chalkboard. They were fake, but sounded real enough. Her breath hitched at every false flag for the red acrylic chip.

The sound of a car door shutting, distantly. Three floors below.

She felt another, then two more pop off her fingertips. She started to cry. Her mascara was waterproof. Not everything was ruined.

Her hand was stuck.

Danger calculus. Broken vase or stuck hand?

The last of the nails popped off, and rattled the rest.

She closed her eyes and tried to pretend that she could clean up the shards in the ten seconds between key rattle and hinge squeak.

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