Text Box: Fourth Quarter 2017 — Second Place

The Morning After


Susan Howe

























Amy awoke slowly, sensing the morning was already well advanced but without the sullen weight of self-disgust that usually accompanied waking in a strange bed. Eyes still closed, she reached across and patted the other side of the mattress, finding it cool and empty. She inhaled the scent of fresh sheets, a welcome change from the standard blend of sweat and stale beer that invariably deepened her shame.

She stretched, luxuriating in the warmth as some details of the previous night returned. A bar, drinks and dancing. Supper in a late-night café and more wine. Conversation and laughter. It was unlike any pick-up she had ever experienced. Then the inevitable sex, but tender and generous. Tingling with remembered pleasure, she hugged her knees to her chest, hoping she hadn’t failed to meet expectations yet again.

She blamed the alcohol. Even as it blotted out the pain of countless rejections, it made her reckless; risking her own safety to chase that elusive connection. Sometimes she passed out. Often there were bruises. And afterwards, humiliation. Shivering at another unfamiliar bus stop in the early light; unwashed, unfed, with the odours of the night clinging to her body. Swearing it would never happen again.

Tempting aromas of coffee and bacon wafted in. She opened her eyes and sat up as hands bearing a tray appeared around the door. Not one of those men had ever brought her breakfast in bed. Maybe, in spite of herself,  she’d finally got lucky. Or maybe it was because this man was a woman.

First Place: Someone to Hold

Third Place: Words