written by Jennifer Moore | illustrated by Mitucami Mituca
Paula’s got it down to a fine art now — an entire relationship, from first kiss to last, packed away in less time than it takes to boil an egg. Admittedly, she’s always been a solid, hard-boiled kind of girl (no runny whites for her, thank you very much), which gives her a few extra minutes to play with, but still, credit where credit’s due. Not many people are blessed with her skill and speed when it comes to bundling up a love affair.
She steals a quick glance at the timer as she wrestles with the empty rioja bottle from their first drunken night together. Mark’s proving surprisingly speedy for a ten-monther, even by her standards. She might be looking at a new personal best.
There, that ought to do it, neatly tucked away behind his painful attempts at poetry: Your eyes are two jewels gleaming / your mouth a rich red sun . . . . The wine wasn’t much better than his verses, come to think of it, with its musty undertones of rotting cork, but they’d glugged it down anyway. Even the most spontaneous night of passion with a new partner needs something in the way of preparation. Especially on a knackered old futon like Mark’s. Three glasses at the very least.
What else? One homemade Valentine’s card (romantic or just plain cheap, depending on your point of view); a framed photo of the two of them in Paris (exciting birthday surprise or pointlessly extravagant, depending on whether you think the money would have been better spent on a proper grown-up bed); and, last but not least, the cold cup of tea that sat there, untouched, on the kitchen counter, while she scrolled through his call history and counted up seventy-four from one Lola-Anne Cookson. Lola-Anne! What kind of a name is that anyway? (Pleasingly original, or conniving and sluttish, depending on who’s wearing it.) Oops! There goes the cold tea, all over his handwritten poems. Oh well.
Right, that’s it. All done. Five minutes and twenty-three seconds.
Paula closes the suitcase lid down over the top and threads the straps through the waiting buckles. So long, Mark, and thanks for all the memories.
“What are you doing with that case?”
Oh dear. She’s quick but not quick enough.
“It’s over. Goodbye, Mark.”
“What? No.” He looks pale. Hardly surprising, really. “Please, Paula. I can explain. It was a mistake, that’s all. A stupid mistake.”
Hmm, seventy-four calls worth of mistake.
“Nothing happened,” he whimpers. “It won’t happen again.”
He doesn’t seem to have noticed the cold tea dripping through the bottom of the case onto the carpet below.
“Give me another chance. Let me make it up to you.”
Oh great, he’s on his knees now. Literally begging. Endearing or desperate, depending on your point of view.
About the artists:
Yolanda Oreiro aka Mitucami Mituca is an Spanish illustrator, currently based in Barcelona. She is actively involved with the Zines culture and currently collaborates with different magazines like proyecto-kahlo and Shameless Magazine.
Jennifer Moore’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Guardian, Mslexia and The First Line. She is a previous winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.