It’s 12:30 am. Syd is sprawled out on her bed, naked apart from a wireless cotton bra,
sweating onto her freshly cleaned white linen bed covers. The blue-tinged glow of her laptop screen to her left casts a soft light across her bare stomach. On the screen, the tangled bodies of Adèle and Emma in Blue is The Warmest Colour are frozen. She reaches out for the crumpled muslin cloth on her bedside table and wipes the sticky lube from her hands before floating her fingers by her nostrils, curious about her own scent. It smells earthy sweet with a hint of citrus sour, like nothing else she can think of.
Lost questions rise to the forefront of her mind, demanding answers. Her chest starts
pounding and tightening. What does this mean, that she should lust over other women? She has asked herself many times before but hasn’t waited to hear the answer. She has a habit of banishing such questions from her mind as quickly as they come, though they never truly leave. She imagines them festering in a pitch-black room in the basement of her mind. They call to her often, a deafening chorus of whispers.
She studies the image paused on her MacBook screen. Two women, their naked bodies
entwined, faces pressed up against each other in a passionate embrace. She pictures her body there, in place of Adèle’s. Emma’s soft, dewy skin pressed against hers. How her lips might taste earthy sweet and salty. The heat of her breath. Closing her eyes, Syd runs her fingers through her own hair, imagining instead that she was caressing Emma’s tousled head of blue. Her body starts swelling with desire but is interrupted by a chastising voice in her mind. She feels like a dirty voyeur. The film is controversial, she knows, as the director was cruel whilst filming. He followed them everywhere, filming them even on their days off. Apparently, they spent ten days filming one sex scene. It must have been gruelling, she thinks. She can tell it was directed by a man. At the same time, she’s never seen anything quite like it. It’s the first feature length love story she’s seen between two women on screen. She’s watched it several times in secret. It shows her that she could fall in love with a woman instead of a man, a possibility that Syd finds dizzying. Questions whisper to her once more. She slams the laptop shut, shrouding herself in darkness.
Suddenly, she feels overwhelmingly hot. She climbs onto her feet and leans across to push the window open, pausing there whilst the crisp night air cools her flushed cheeks. As her eyes adjust to the dark, she starts to make out the shapes of the trees at the foot of her garden. They’re clustered together and dense with leaves, even in the daytime she can’t determine where one tree ends and the next begins.
Returning to her bed, she fumbles for her phone, unplugs it from its bedside charger and spends fifteen minutes in an Instagram daze, which temporarily quietens the relentless choir of questions in her mind. She’s not paying much attention to the images but notes several pearly white smiles and orange skied beaches. She stops scrolling at distant friend’s selfie on a bridge in Amsterdam, remembering when she was there last summer with Bobby who, until six months ago, was her boyfriend of five years. First, she thinks of the sugary cinnamon aftertaste of the Dutch pancakes from the small family run café at the end of the street where they were staying in their Airbnb. She thinks of how they walked hand in hand in the pink evening glow of the Red-Light District. She thinks of him turning to face her with his wide, toothy grin. She thinks of how she almost crashed their pedalo into an oncoming canal boat, how she had panicked and told him afterwards that the canal did not feel serene like she expected but more like a busy A-Road in rush hour. For a moment, she forgets that these cherry-picked memories are not an accurate portrayal of their relationship and feels a stab of sadness deep within her chest. She forgets how, on that same trip, he screamed at her for smashing his phone screen after she accidentally knocked it out his hand; how he stormed off, leaving her crying on the pavement alone, receiving bewildered looks from fellow tourists. She forgets how he dragged her to brewery after brewery even though she doesn’t drink beer, but she was not allowed to go to one art gallery because he doesn’t like art. She forgets what happened between them under the cover of the night. She wonders what Bobby would think of her now, of these creeping desires, and begins to feel a sickness stirring in her stomach.
She double taps the friend’s photo and a white heart pops up on the screen, bringing the total number of likes to 64. Eyes tired and strained by the unnatural phone light, she decides it’s time for sleep. When she exits Instagram, however, instead of switching off her phone, her thumb lingers over Tinder. She created a profile weeks ago, set her preferences to women and hasn’t used it since. She feels afraid, but she’s not sure what of.
In a moment of confidence, she taps on the app and is presented with the very first profile: Jo, 24, 9km away, a zoomed-in image of tits in a red lace bra. She swipes left. The next profile: Maddy, 27, 21km away, a selfie at the top of a nameless mountain. Clicking into the profile, Syd examines Maddy’s features: strawberry blonde hair, a face full of freckles, blue-grey eyes. She swipes right. She remembers she’s half-naked and feels exposed, as if the eyes behind the photographs are watching her, so she crawls to the end of her bed and hangs over the edge, feeling for the pyjamas she kicked off earlier. Dressed and tucked under the covers, her thumb continues to make sharp judgements about the subsequent profiles, deciding whether to drag them left or right before she’s even registered why. She’s particularly taken with the profile of Emily, 25, 12km away. Emily has golden hair cut short into a bob that hangs by her jawline, a silver nose ring and heart-shaped lips. Syd tries to imagine kissing them but struggles to inject life into the static image. They have a similar music taste, based on her Spotify top artists. She envisions of the two of them at a gig together, laughing and holding hands but she can’t quite hold on to Emily, who soon turns into a faceless blur. She swipes right. It's a match.
Megan Preston Elliott
“I am a poet, sculptor, writer and founder of Assemblage Magazine, an art magazine run by artists for artists. I have published online and in print in several magazines including Brenda Magazine and F*EMS Zine. My poem ‘New Skin’ was selected for inclusion in New River Press’ anthology ‘SMEAR: Expanded Reissue’. I have a degree in Fine Art from City & Guilds of London Art School, where I was awarded a prize for my writing by Art Monthly magazine. I am a queer, femme, cis-woman who also loves yoga, dogs, podcasts, gigs & going to therapy.”
This story is written as part of the Volume One series by brilliant writers working alongside The House of Revolution. Each author's story will be uploaded to Wattpad weekly, with their first instalment being available to read here on the website. You can keep up to date with Megan's story here.