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Image courtesy of www.stokpic.com/about/ "Girl-looking-at-the-sun" by Ed Gregory

Short Stories

Empty

Stella’s finger traces the rim of the glass. She sighs as the elixir cools her throat. Thank Christ for that. Checks the time on her phone: 5:27 pm. Not bad, she thinks, better than yesterday.

  Poppy calls from the lounge. ‘Mumma!’

  Stella closes her eyes, annoyed at the interruption. ‘Yes, darling.’

  ‘My tummy’s growling.’

  Stella shakes her head, slides off the kitchen stool and opens the fridge. Glances over the meagre contents. Hmmm … Picks through the veggie draw pulling out carrots and broccoli. Figures she can cobble something together before Dave gets home. Could ask him to get a chook from the supermarket on his way back.

  ‘Roast chook and veggies,’ Stella calls back.

  ‘Yuk! I hate veggies.’

 

  Stella imagines Poppy’s scrunched face, tongue poking out. Resigns herself to an overdue shopping trip in the morning. Texts Dave to ask for the chook.

 

  Stella chops veg with determined strikes. Wants to get it over with and indulge in another glass of SSB—she’s earned it.

 

  Dillon appears by her side. ‘My finger’s bleeding.’ Thrusts his finger up to her face.

  

  ‘Go get a Band-Aid from the bathroom,’ Stella says, kissing it better.

 

  ‘But it stings.’ Dillon’s face sours.

 

  ‘Let me finish doing this first,’ she says, frowning.

 

  Stella opens the fridge to grab tomatoes. Spies the bottle and pours the dregs into her now empty glass just as her phone pings.

  *Just a chook?*

  Stella pauses, her mind swirling, fingers poised over her phone keys. *Bottle of SSB. Cheap shit is fine.* Presses send.

 

  *But it’s a school night!* Dave’s reply says.

 

  *Long day*

 

  ‘Mum!’ Dillon tugs at her blouse as she’s taking a glug.

 

  ‘What?’

 

  ‘My finger—’

 

  ‘Oh … sorry Dill.’ Stella sighs and places the glass on the bench. ‘Come on, then.’

* * *

Stella drums her fingers on the benchtop. Checks her phone: 6:13 pm. Hurry up, Dave!

  Poppy and Dillon sit at the table playing Uno, giggles and yells resounding. Stella rolls her neck, aches for the heady release she craves. Hears the door slam shut. Thank god. Rushes to greet Dave.

  ‘Hi darling!’ She flashes a wide smile, kisses his cheek. ‘Good day?’

 

  ‘Yeah,’ he says passing over the brown paper bag and hot chook.

 

  Stella grabs both and skips back to the kitchen. ‘Dinner’s ready in 5.’ Feels proud that she’s again pulled off a decent meal. Plops the chook on the bench and pulls out the bottle, discarding the paper in the recycle bin. Feels the bottle—it’s not chilled. Huffs, and puts the bottle in the freezer.

  ‘It wasn’t cold,’ Stella says whining when Dave walks in.

 

  ‘You didn’t ask for a chilled one.’ Dave’s eyes roll.

 

  ‘Fuck’s sake, Dave.’

 

  ‘Watch your language—the kids can hear!’ Dave says, tutting.

 

  Stella busies herself with setting out plates and cutlery. Bangs them down on the table.

 

  ‘What’s put you in such a bad mood?’

 

  ‘Nothing.’ Stella can’t be bothered arguing. Unpacks the chook and starts slicing. ‘Kids … dinner!’ Knows Dave won’t pursue it in front of them.

* * *

Stella’s head feels lighter, nothing can rile her now.

  ‘I’m off to bed,’ Dave says rising from the sofa. ‘You going to be able to do the school run in the morning?’

 

  ‘Of course I am!’ Stella tuts. Whispers, ‘Fuckwit,’ and reaches for her bottle. Pours out the remainder and skulls it until she’s empty.