Rebecca climbs back into bed, where her husband is winding an imaginary baby while snoring. Her desperate, aching body is awake, after hours of screaming. She wants to have a mad all-consuming fling with sleep, allow it to seduce her, take over her… for hours. The thought does the job.
‘Where’s the wipes? I thought you bought some yesterday on your way home?’
Steve is doing his tie in the mirror. ‘I did, didn’t I?’ he says, not looking away from his reflection.
Rebecca glares at him.
‘Oh yeah, I got petrol… paid at the pump… so forgot the wipes,’ he grimaces.
‘Now I’ll have to go to the shop with him,’ she looks at him, the baby. The sleep thief.
‘I‘ve got to go… bye,’ Steve walks out of the bedroom.
Rebecca doesn’t reply and continues to change the baby’s nappy.
It’s been months of two soldiers in battle, in the trenches, passing different weapons and getting shot by the enemy. Steve decides to take evasive action. He books tickets, a babysitter and convinces Rebecca to leave the house.
Now in the tent, at Reading Festival, they’re back where they started. In a field, surrounded by white cloth, ready to eat their way to glory. They met at the long table on stage as sweaty, red-faced, teary-eyed competitors. Panting and grimacing while clasping their Scotch Bonnets. Back then, Rebecca took the win. Afterwards, Steve watched her gulping from a massive cup. Milk dripping down her chin, breathing open-mouthed, trying to chat about her victory. Now, Rebecca had the same look about her.
‘Are you ready to eat right down to the stalk?’ Steve shouts, he’s transported to five years ago.
She makes her way to the stage, stomping her feet on the ground while chanting, ‘chilli, chilli, chilli!’
This is the moment. Rebecca’s hands are sweaty. She can hear the crowd. She can feel the energy. She can smell the spice. The starting whistle sounds.
Rebecca grabs the Dutch Long, the familiar friendly fire hits her.
Black Jalapeño smacks her in the chops.
Green Cayenne hits her sleep deprived stomach.
Red Cayenne is as shocking as the transition from no baby to baby.
Thai Green is like a surprise visit from an old friend.
Thai Red is emergency caesarean, sore nipples, night feeds, baby classes… it takes her down.
Rebecca puts out the volcano erupting in her mouth with a swig of the white stuff. She searches for Steve in the audience, waves, then leaves the stage. As she steps down people slap her on the back and congratulate her.
‘I’m out of practice! A Thai Red stopped me?!’
‘It’s been a while,’ Steve says, a huge smile taking over his chops.
He gives Rebecca a cuddle. She leans into him.
‘Let’s go get him, I can’t wait to press that little button nose, bop!’ she lightly taps Steve on the end of his nose.
‘Manchester Festival next month?’
Rebecca nods. ‘Let’s bring Archie next time.’
Kristina Thornton’s flash fiction has been published by Ellipsis Zine, National Flash Fiction Day’s The Write-In and is forthcoming in Janus Literary. She has been shortlisted and longlisted in Retreat West’s Monthly Micro Competition several times in 2021. Kristina is writing her first novel. Twitter - @KristinaT83