The Deer

by Jennifer Harvey

Highly Commended in the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2016

Before the bend, where the road narrows, and the hedgerows rise to block your view, this is where you must brake. Reduce your speed on the straight before you lean into the curve.

Do this and you will not hit it. There will be no swerve. No empty blackness.

Slow down, and you will see the flash of eyes reflected back at you. Just in time. Time enough for there to be no thud. No squeal of tyres. No crush and grind of metal. No slowing, fading pulse somewhere. In your ears? In the distance?

No, there will be no sound, not even the sound of your own voice.

Or maybe that. A one word response, more reflex than speech.

‘Shit.’

Nothing more. You will stare at one another through the darkness. Eye to eye, breath to breath, then you will watch as a lightning twitch of muscle propels it into the hawthorn, and away. And you will think, ‘how beautiful,’ then smile and shift into gear, gently squeezing the accelerator. Moving on.

So keep your eyes on the road. Drive and do not think of him. Do not recall the words which have been said. Do not feel your throat tighten, your eyes water, the anger rise. Do not lean over and reach for the phone when it rings.

It isn’t him. He isn’t calling. There are no apologies. There is no concern. ‘Where have you gone to so late in the night?’ He hasn’t asked this. Not yet. Though when he does, the phone will ring and ring, then cut to voicemail. Over and over.

So before the bend, where the road narrows and the hedgerows rise to block your view, slow down and keep your eyes on the road.

Ready? Okay, now turn the car around and begin again. And know that this is the thing he will wish for too.

Jennifer Harvey

The Deer was Highly Commended in the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2016, as chosen by David Gaffney.