The Northville Review
an online literary journal
From Gdansk, yours

Martin Reed

I know what it is before I open the envelope. The postmark gives it away. Who else would be sending from Gdansk? After Alapayevsk and Keiem and Quero and a handful of other obscure European corners that I don’t recall.

And it’s the stiffness of the envelope, so I know it’s another photograph.

But mostly, it’s the scent that tells me it’s her. Same old, same old. CK One. Her way of making her point. Another twist of the knife.

Nice try, Rosie. The blade went blunt weeks ago. It doesn’t even scratch now.

Every picture she sends is the same. She’s dressed up, ready to party, striking some magazine pose. There’s always a guy, a different one each time, who I’m meant to believe she shagged senseless after the photo was taken. She’s always in some odd location. In a junk yard, then in the car park of some derelict office building. In another, she stood at the end of a windy jetty, her hair near flaming the whiskers of some bloke wearing wide rimmed glasses and a party hat. He was stooping slightly, as though she told him not to be as tall as her, which would have been her spot on.

Ian? Nick shouts down the stairs. He’s heard my silence. Any post? he calls, which really means get your arse back up here to bed, ignore the bloody doormat.

Just bills, I reply. It comes out as a croak, so he knows.

Fucking bitch. I thought she was about due for another picture. She’s obsessed, Ian. Fucking bunny boiler.

Just leave it, would you, love.

Where is she in this one? On top of a wardrobe? Up her own arse?

I’m not opening it. Fuck off and go back to sleep would you. I’ll bring a coffee in a bit.

I take the unopened envelope to the kitchen. What’s she playing at? So desperate to tell me from a hundred different locations that she’s moved on. I’ve no way of letting her know that I’ve moved on too. If she knew by how much, maybe she could be glad.

I slip the envelope open, but I rip the fold. Damn. When I take it out, the photograph is face down. I see her note on the back first, but the words don’t register. I turn it over to look at the image. Maybe there are still feelings. Or at least curiosity.

It’s the running mascara I see first. I can’t miss it, the photograph in close up like this, the closest I’ve been to her face since she left. It’s just a portrait. Black background. No bloke. Just her and her tears, and a hint of strained smile. She looks older. Old. Twenty photographs might as well be twenty years. I flip it to read the note.

Forgive me Ian. I’m coming home. Always yours. R x.

About the author

Martin's debut novel, Second From the End, is due out in December from Grievous Jones Press. His short work can be found in numerous dark corners, both in print and online. He co-presents Tales of the Decongested and blogs badly at