Celeste is Best

Celeste is Best

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I’m the best. These words keep my hopes up. Silly, I see that, but I’m someone who easily feels lost without encouragement. I suppose that’s a weakness. I’m not proud though. Competitive mostlike, but you know, I don’t mean it in a bad way.

Real bad is working your way into a corner. That’s what I’ve done. Here I am on the wrong side of the room. I can’t get out unless I tread on the wet-washed floor. Well, I mean the floor is your life. You don’t want to spoil it. Don’t want your filthy footmarks turning polish to mud. So, I’m hemmed in. Not that there is a room, is there. Not anymore. Just rows and rows of trees. Because this is Hampstead Heath you’re looking at. The trees are bare, because it’s winter now.

Funny that all my important thoughts hark on about a room. Maybe because I used to be a cleaner before I did my back in I think of a newly washed floor, me the opposite side from the door. Stuck! I wish I’d acted differently in my life as I can’t help getting the feeling that everything I’ve done has led to this moment, the floor around me getting wetter and wetter. Not sure it will ever dry. I’m marooned forever by tackling my life the wrong way round. If only I’d thought things through before I started out. Except that, at the time, it never seemed as though there was any other choice.

So perhaps it’s not me, perhaps it’s the universe that has brought me here to this dripping bench. Hampstead Heath in winter. Alright for a nice afternoon walk when you’re on your way back to your cosy house but that’s as much as can be said. So why am I here? Well, there’s something I’m looking for if you must know. Something I lost a long time ago. A charm-bracelet. There, I’ve told you. I lost it very close to where I’m sitting now, at least I think so. But, you’ll say, it won’t be there any longer. Somebody might have found it or else it will have got buried in the earth. Grass and weeds must have grown over it. And anyway, maybe this isn’t even the spot where you lost it. It’s easy to be sceptical. But I’m not about giving up. Because, don’t you see, finding the bracelet is something to hope for. ‘CELESTE IS BEST’ Each letter is a tiny diamante hanging from the silver chain. I love those words and long to see their shine and glitter again very soon.

And how do I feel about coming here today and not finding the precious item? Don’t I feel like a failure, an absolute loser? Well, to tell truth, feelings like that wash right over me. I don’t notice them any more. So used to feeling that way about myself that they don’t count. No pride left. You could argue I must have had my hopes destroyed a million times too so why keep on hoping? You’re getting a bit closer to where I’m at, when you bring that up.

A couple of dog-walkers pass close to where I’m sitting. They pretend not to see me and my lumpy bags, as people do when they come across a rough sleeper. But the dogs bark, then start sniffing on the ground a little way off, and I think, What if? I imagine the unearthing of my bracelet; have to press my hand to my chest to try and quiet myself. Then the dog-walkers call the dogs off and they go racing on across the mounds of grass. When they’re all out of sight I go and look at the patch they were so excited about. I scrape at the surface earth, find only flinty stones underneath. So, am I disappointed? Yes because I haven’t found the bracelet yet and no because I have my faith intact. It’s out there somewhere, my most cherished thing, let someone try and prove me wrong.

There’s a saying, isn’t there: Hope is where the heart is. I think that’s how it goes.

Jay is published in Brilliant Flash Fiction, CHEAP POP Lit, Crack the Spine, Ellipsis Zine, Fictive Dream, Jellyfish Review, The Literateur, matchbook, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spelk, Trafika Europe and Wigleaf. She is a 2017 Write Well Award nominee, a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Salt Prize. Her short-story collections (both Salt), are ‘God of the Pigeons’ and ‘Astral Bodies’. Jay is Writer in Residence at Women in Publishing.

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