In the second winner of our My Biggest Secret flash fiction competition, Oliver Giles uncovers a destructive obsession. The competition is part of our latest Book Club, for Ben Fergusson’s thrilling debut The Spring of Kasper Meier. You can find out more about the Book Club, and Ben Fergusson, here.
If I’m honest with you, it was months ago that I started hoarding pieces of him.
It began at the end of spring with his hair: the golden mane that shone in the sunlight and glowed on my pillow. I couldn’t resist. It felt like straw in my hands waiting to be harvested. Two quick snips and I had it: a couple of curls, just for me. He slept so deeply that he didn’t even stir when I rose to hide the blonde locks, his soft snores filled our tiny attic room and his leathery man’s hands rested sunburned and still against the sheets.
But I couldn’t stop there. They say once you’ve got a taste for theft, you can’t help yourself. It’s a bit like an addiction, you see. The next thing I stole from him was a tooth that was knocked loose after a bar fight in Vauxhall. I don’t know what set him off that summer night, but I turned back from the bar and he was sculpting a new kink into some man’s nose with all the naïve ferocity of a bored toddler with Play-Doh. He was always an angry drunk. After the police caution and the hefty fine, all we had left for that week was the blood-stained molar that he spat into our yellowing sink. As he slept, I secretly hid it behind a bottle of his shaving gel like a tooth fairy too tired to fly back up to the clouds.
I was stuck for a while after that. Until autumn arrived he was sulking and suspicious, guarded and resentful, so our bed grew cold and my small collection stalled. Then, on the last sunny day of the year, he finally opened up again, so I took his laugh. It’s not as satisfying as the others – I can’t wrap it around my fingers or roll it in my palm – but I’ve still got it. It’s bottled in my phone, in a video I recorded on the Tube after an afternoon on Primrose Hill: he’s sun drunk and smiling, woozy and glowing, and his laugh is flooding the empty train. That night his lips tasted of sweet cider and bubbled against my body.
Those three things are all that I stole. In fact, I’d told myself that I would stop, that I should be satisfied with my small stash of him. But he pushed my hand. He suddenly declared that he was leaving and started packing up the scraps of himself that I’d come to call my own. You understand, don’t you? He was shouting with that tongue that started each morning between my lips. He was drilling holes in our walls with those fists that so quickly turned violent. He was pacing around on the feet that brushed cold against mine in the dead of night.
“Can I get past?” He snarled, clasping a suitcase to his chest, shaking with anger and sweaty with booze.
“No,” I told him, desperately clutching a small pair of scissors more tightly in my hands.
“I know this is complicated,” he began, but I can’t remember his excuses.
You see, it actually wasn’t very complicated at all: I just wanted to hoard all of him.