Flash Fiction: Water-stain


Fully dressed, Peter lay next to Malorie and looked up.

‘I’m leaving you,’ she said.

He might have laughed, except it wasn’t funny. Above him, on the ceiling, he saw a water-stain shaped like an arrow firing into a heart.

‘I’m hiring a nanny to look after the children,’ Malorie said. ‘No divorce; we have to keep up appearances.’

Actually, thought Peter, it was a sword.

A nurse came into the room. ‘Time to be turned, Mrs Gibbs.’

Peter stood, and as the nurse rotated Malorie’s body from her back onto her side, he looked up again and saw the heart, cleaved in two.


I said on Twitter that today I was too sick to write, too sick to do anything. But I am a writer. So, a sad story for a sad day. Picture by Sandra Crook. Join in or read others.


If anyone is thinking of buying a copy of Our Endless Numbered Days for a Christmas present (or for themselves), let me know and I’ll post you a personalised card to go with it. Offer is worldwide.

41 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Water-stain

  1. I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite understand this. It was the line about the divorce that threw me, as without it, the story made perfect and beautiful sense. Loved the way the shape on the ceiling was revisited, such rhythm to the piece. And yes, I share your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see how that line might might mess it up. It’s because I know these characters from something else, and there’s back story that I can’t explain here. She leaves him, but won’t divorce him (it’s the 1960s and still something that’s a bit shocking). Impossible to get that across in 100 words. Perhaps I should just delete the divorce bit…


  2. Like, Sandra, I didn’t get the divorce part (maybe it is just something she says regularly to have some control over her life?) yet loved what you did with the shape in the ceiling.
    I am also physically sick, so I feel your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely, tragic, heartrending. Love the use of the ceiling stain to reflect his changing perspective on the conversation. Fantastic. I got the divorce bit, but then my head is so often stuck in times past, it makes sense to me that people would wish to keep up appearances. Happened in my own family way back!
    Yes, indeed a sad day and let’s hope it’s only four years of orange tinted sadness we have to face.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hmm, I did worry that it wasn’t clear. A woman says she’s leaving her husband, but actually she’s paralysed, so can’t physically do any real ‘leaving’. He meanwhile goes through a range of emotions.


  4. Deeply moving story, Claire. After a second reading I thought she was suffering from dementia as well as paralysis. The ceiling stain made a perfect link from one sentence to the next.
    As I say in my own blog, Americans have my sincere sympathy. Personally, I am terrified.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I hope you’re feeling better soon, Claire. This story is lovely. I read it slowly so think I understood it the first time. I would say she’s suffering physical and mental problems. She’s built a little world for herself to escape the hard truth. The spot on the ceiling is an effective mirror of what’s happening between them. Heartrending and such good writing. —- Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The stain and Peter’s different thoughts on it give us a glimpse about him, clearly he loves her. She is puzzling though. At first I thought she leaves him to set him free–but if they want to keep up appearances that can’t be it. Very intriguing, and I share your illness.


  7. I suppose it’s down to how the individual reads it but, I thought the divorce thing made it. She’s paralysed so can’t leave, he smiles knowing this and appears to be putting up with it because he understands her condition makes her feel she has to say such things. That was my reading, anyway

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You know I’m a massive fan, and this, like so many of your stories, played with my emotions perfectly. Feeling bleak and hopeless, Malorie’s cool resolve brought that sense of hopelessness (for Peter, for their future, for all of us…) right to the front. I didn’t lose you with divorce, so perhaps it’s in the reader’s perceptions. Great job!

    Hoping we can all feel better before 4 years, but doubt it–– scary, scary days ahead! (( hugs )) And now, I want a personalized card too! Perhaps I’ll buy another book! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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