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If I Leave Him

Nora Nadjarian

Half-naked girls jump into the kidney-shaped pool. My head is submerged in the deep end, as

time twists and turns for one second too many. A clear plastic bag at the bottom becomes a

slow-motion jellyfish and my face gasps for breath. Pretend-smiles, almost-sympathy from

the other girls as I climb out of the pool, hair plastered to my neck, my eyes cold at the sight

of him. And the music pumps on. At the edge of his table a bowl of half-eaten, dark purple

grapes. Next to him, a group of boys watching me, a grape pip spat out, a cigarette lit. Two of

them are looking at a gallery of pictures on an iPhone with a cracked screen. They must be

completing a puzzle, parts of a body and a close-up of pouting lips the colour of cherry juice.

Two empty bottles of Absolut vodka roll back and forth on the wet pool-deck, my mouth a

cocktail of alcohol and chlorine. I tap my fingertips on the table to the rhythm of Señorita and

strangle a laugh when I remember the dance floor and how we met. A moth zig-zags on the

buzz of the fluorescent lights above the table and my stomach feels small, as crushed as an

empty beer can. The soggy chips stare at me, ice cubes crackle in my vodka-orange. Why

don’t you eat, baby? His voice millimetres from my face. I try to speak but my words are

muffled, dampened by a wet towel. Earlier, he kissed my shoulder, breathed in its Piz Buin

coconut scent. He found the diagonal scar on my lower left arm, ran his finger along its

wave-like stitching as if he owned it. 

Nora Nadjarian is a poet and writer from Cyprus. Her short fiction has appeared in, among

others, Sand JournalFRiGGMoonPark Review and Lunate and was chosen for

Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions of 2022 (selected by Kathy Fish).