Short Fiction ~ Katie Holloway
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 18
Celia, who some called scrawny, but was really hungry-skinny, was lying on the pavement. Empty, head floating like a lost balloon, she’d fallen on her way home from school. Her 14-year-old body had flailed to the ground, scraping a bony elbow and bruising a jutting hip. There wasn’t enough of her to ground herself, to do the sway and rebalance she’d seen others accomplish. The pain stung, but not as much as the strangers walking straight past her had.
Limping home, Celia let herself in and called up the stairs, knowing she’d get no reply. The kitchen was empty of ice packs and sympathy, so she’d cleaned herself up, then hobbled to Mam’s room, where the telly was on and Mam stared at it, eyes like blown light bulbs. Celia leaned over the knee-high stack of magazines by the bed and placed a kiss on the side of Mam’s head. Brushing the place with the back of her hand, Mam said, ‘Home then?’ Celia nodded, knowing that Mam wouldn’t see without turning her head. She crept away.
Celia concocted a plan.
Loitering in the lunch hall, she began snaffling leftovers, gorging on sandwich crusts and rice scrapings ‘til she felt the yawn and stretch of her stomach, waking up at last. For the first time, she savoured fullness: steady as daily bread. She took on a paper round, spending her earnings on sandwiches and cakes and pastries and then - rejoice! - second hand clothes in bigger and bigger sizes.
Celia sank her teeth into the sugared mound of a doughnut; pierced the layers of a vanilla slice, licking shiny spilled custard from her fingers; and gloried in the intense density of a glossy chocolate fudge cake as she devoured wedge after wedge.
Beginning to take up more space, it required increasing effort to shift her substance up the hill to school. She relished the oniony sweat she gave off, glad to be tangible in the atmosphere. Found a thrill run down her spine when the day’s slice of gossip featured her name. Now Celia couldn’t slip by unseen. As she grew, she became so much more. She began to attract stares.
It took longer for Mam to notice. But one day, when Celia lifted a pile of Argos catalogues off her Mam’s bed and hefted herself onto the end, in front of the telly, Mam paused on the precipice of telling her to move. Mam’s eyes opened wide as she looked at all of Celia at once, and Celia felt her whole insides fill up.
Katie Holloway writes tiny stories in the south of England. She is often tempted to uproot her family to go and live in a tree. Katie has received a DYCP grant from the Arts Council England, a nomination for the Pushcart prize, and the first prize in the 2023 Retreat West prize (flash fiction category). Her stories have been published in Popshot Quarterly, Ellipsis Zine, Reflex Press and more. Katie tweets @KatieLHWrites