“Short,” by Sarah Colwill-Brown
Mathew walked into the bathroom as Ivy trimmed her pubic hair over the toilet. She sat on the seat, legs splayed, cutting down between her thighs. Tight coils of hair fell silent into the bowl.
Could you buy an umbrella on your way home from work, she asked.
Mathew selected his toothbrush from the water-stained holder.
Because I don’t want to take my shit broken orange Walgreens umbrella that won’t cover us both.
She wasn’t looking at him, her head bent over, inspecting her work. Her words fell between her legs.
How do you know it will rain tomorrow?
My phone said so.
I’ll see what I can do.
His mouth was full of toothpaste foam, his voice thick with distortion.
Ivy finished her task, brushed strays into the water that had collected on the lip of the seat. She stood; she flushed, sending the hair up the U-bend. She leaned over Mathew to replace the curved nail scissors in the cabinet, next to his range of colognes, all a version of Ralph Lauren Polo. Everything in there rested on a layer of skin cells and ginger rust.
Ivy closed the bathroom door behind her; Mathew continued brushing.
As the bristles ran rhythmically along his front teeth, Mathew wondered when he last saw Ivy trimming her hair. Six months at least. They had long since stopped grooming for each other. This was how they always saw one another: in varying states of dishevelment and dress, on the way out to the office or the school where Ivy worked. Once, she promised she would always keep it short.
The wedding tomorrow would be attended by many lawyers and doctors, perhaps even a smattering of successful arty types—filmmakers, gallery owners, and the like. The couple to be were socialites of a sort.
Mathew switched to the bottom row of teeth, the brush head pounding into the soft flesh of his cheek. She didn’t do it for him. He spat into the sink and wiped his mouth.
The door clicked shut behind her. Ivy crossed the hall in bare feet and entered their bedroom. The air conditioning unit had lingered too long in the window; it was well into fall. Ivy’s legs hardened into goose-bumps, a legion of tiny hairs stood straight in their raised follicles.
She fixed the bedclothes and pulled on a lacy thong then black leggings. Her pubic hair, newly blunted, pushed through the lace. She felt the memory of prickly skin that always followed the trimming, exacerbated by a day of walking around, crossing her legs when she sat, her underwear an incubator for irritation. The prickly heat would be hers again by the time she got in from work that evening.
Each time she cut her hair, she was reminded of the sixteen-year-old she used to be who vowed she would never cut.
When had she begun to feel underdressed, un-finished, if she didn’t cut? The dark silk dress she’d picked out for the wedding would be a lie, a cover-up, if the hair between her legs was not bristly and short. The wild growth contained.
Ivy pulled her long blouse over her head as Mathew exited the bathroom, straightening his tie, checking his reflection in the hallway mirror. Ivy watched him leave, his suit jacket disappearing through the front door. Once, he said it turned his stomach to see it long.
About the Author:
Sarah Colwill-Brown is a British expat living in Boston and studying for a master’s in English at Boston College. She is also assistant managing editor at Post Road magazine. A student of the Novel Incubator program at Boston’s Grub Street Writing Center, she is currently working on a novel, Channeling, about a twenty-seven-year-old virgin living with his phony spiritualist mother in New Orleans.
This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Ashley Farmer.
Image Credit: © Andrii_Oliinyk / Dollar Photo Club