I have forgotten the taste of my birthday cake. It had pink icing with yellow meringue swirls on top. I leaned over to blow out the candles, and my chin burnt on the flames. I kept smiling as everyone sang, even though it hurt. My knife touched the plate when I cut into it, so I had to kiss the closest boy on the cheek, which was you. You grimaced and I blushed, and all the adults said “awh” and all my friends laughed. My mum took the knife from me after that, and cut me the biggest slice as I rubbed my chin with the back of my hand. Everyone said the cake was delicious, that it melted on their tongues and that I was a very lucky little girl. I ate so much that I had a pink rim of frosting around my lips and sugar in my hair when I was done. We stored the leftovers in the fridge, which I ate for breakfast the next morning, and had in my lunchbox at school the day after. All of my friends were jealous that I got cake at morning tea. They asked if they could have a bite, and I said no because it was mine and it was delicious. I can’t remember what it tasted like. I just can’t.
I have forgotten what the sky looked like that day. I was walking home with my socks bunched around my ankles and my sleeves rolled up to my elbows. It was hot, I was tired, and my backpack felt heavier than usual. Girls in the grade above me walked in groups up ahead, laughing with their heads thrown back. Their ponytails swung from side to side as they walked, gaining momentum with every step. My ponytail didn’t swing. You must have been running, because your chest was heaving, and your forehead was dripping when you reached me. We talked about our days, you asked about the science exam and if I had gotten B for question 4. I stared at my shoelaces as I answered you, wondering when my double knot had come undone. You commented on how it was such a nice day, and I thought that was an odd thing for a boy to say. I stopped and you stopped too, and I said I had to turn right now, and you said okay. You’ll see me tomorrow. I can’t remember what the sky looked like. I just can’t.
I have forgotten the smell of your cologne. My dad made me get it for you as a gift, because ‘he got you a corsage’, he said, ‘it was very expensive’, he said, ‘it’s the least you can do’, he said. My dress was navy blue, which I regretted later because it was the same shade as the school dress I wore every day for twelve years. You arrived an hour before you were supposed to, and I had to fan my eyes to stop my mascara from running when I saw you standing in the kitchen, because my hair was curling the wrong way and my dress wasn’t sitting right on my shoulders. Despite the false eyelashes blurring my vision, you looked tidy and athletic in your suit. When I emerged from my room, mum gasped and said I was ‘a vision’ and you looked down at your hands which were rotating the corsage box so that the flowers kept falling on the lid. When you took it out to put on my wrist, and we stood very close, the petals were creased. I gave you the cologne and my dad encouraged you to put some on. You held open the front door for me when it was time for us to go. The scent of the cologne filled the car on our way. I can’t remember what it smelled like. I just can’t.
I have forgotten the feeling of your sheets. They were grey and still had fold lines in them. I sat down on the bed and crossed my legs one way, then another way, unsure which way I usually did it. You sat at your desk and for a while, it was quiet, until you made a joke which made me laugh abnormally loud. Soon an hour had passed, then two, in which we talked about things that gave me goosebumps, things that made me snort, things that made me sit very still and stare at your face. I lay my head down on the singular pillow and told you to come to lie next to me. You looked silly lying down without a pillow so I told you to share mine, and our hands were so close together that it was inevitable that they held. ‘I like being here with you’ you whispered, and I asked you why you were whispering, if it was a secret. Then I said, ‘kiss me please’ and you did, and it was very, very warm. It was dark but you reached over to turn on a lamp so you could see me. We made a mess on the sheets after that. I can’t remember what they felt like. I just can’t.
I have forgotten the sound of your voice. The last time I heard it was sometime in May of one particular year, when it was the sort of weather to wear jumpers with shorts and I’d warm my legs under blankets. We hadn’t spoken in months, but I still found myself tracing your name with my finger on the back of my hand, and picturing your face at different angles when I couldn’t fall asleep. You called when I was on the last spoonful of a large tub of ice cream, which I left to melt on the spoon when I saw your name on my phone. You asked how university was going, and if I was excited to graduate, if I missed the town you still lived in. I answered quickly, hoping that the sooner we got the meaningless stuff out of the way, the sooner you’d say something important. But it meant that soon it was silent, and I was left to listen very closely for the sound of your breath. I stared at the ceiling and said that I missed you, that I missed the weird noise you made when you ate food and the way you pulled your socks too high and the hand squeezes you gave me that were meant to communicate some secret message. I missed laughing with you, and walking with you, and being close to you. You said you know, and that you’d give anything for things to be different, but that you were tired of thinking of me and needed it to stop. Then you said some more things that made me pinch the bridge of my nose. I concentrated very hard on the cadence of your voice, because it was all that was left. It went up and down, it dragged out syllables and said others fast. I listened to you say goodbye and say my name. I can’t remember what it sounded like. I wish I could, but I can’t. I just can’t.
Author: Hope is an aspiring writer who loves to explore what it means to be human and experiment with new formats and genres. She’s currently working on a collection of short stories about growing up as a female in a man’s world.
Artist: Elly-Grace Rinaldis is a model and creative writer located in Brisbane. When she is not backpacking or travelling internationally, Elly-Grace enjoys socialising over a bottle of pinot noir with her friends, family and beloved cat Vera. Elly-Grace is currently studying to complete her Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Creative Writing at QUT. Her debut poetry collection titled Five Summers: An Anthology is currently available for purchase on her website www.ellygrace.com.au or locally at Avid Reader in West End. You can find her at @ellygracewrites