"Under Covers" by Carys Bray (2012, 5 pages)
Carys Bray writes short fiction and co-edits Paraxis with Claire Massey and Andy Hedgecock. I've had stories published in New Fairy Tales, Black Market Review, Flash Mob: Flax026, The Pygmy Giant, Mslexia, The Front View, The Delinquent, Dialogue, The Ranfurly Review, The Yellow Room and PoemMemoirStory. Several stories are available for download via Ether Books and Goggle Publishing. She won the 2010 Edge Hill Short Story MA Prize and the Strictly Writing Award. Her Scott Prize winning collection Sweet Home will be published in November 2012. She is from Liverpool, England and is currently completing her PhD.
I really like "Under Covers". It is beautifully written and brings the people in the story very to life. The central character is Carol. an older woman, many years a widow In just a few pages Bray takes us deeply inside Carol's marriage and in a brilliant stroke midterm in the story we are shown Carol from the point of view of two teenage girls, neighbors of Carol. There is a lot to admire in this story and I will explain as I can why I admire it so much without spoiling the plot for future readers. (At the end of the post I will provide a link to the author's very well done webpage where you can read this and other stories.)
The story starts with Carol in her yard, getting her laundry in from the clothes line. Her bra has somehow gotten blown off the clothes line and is spread out on the hedge "like a monstous, albino bat". Carol wants to retrieve it as it would be embarrassing for her to have an undergarment out where all her neighbors could see it.
Next door young Sophia and Lousia look out the window and see the bra. They are shocked at the size of it. One of them says she bets Carol has never had sex, the girls are at the giggling about what it would be like to kiss boys stage, and the other says no she has two children so she must have done something at least a couple of times.
Carol thinks back to long ago. She remembers her husband and ponders their sex life. Her husband loved her deeply and had a passion for her that never passed as the years went by. There is a very poignant moment in her reflections on the past that shows the shallowness and vapidity in the remarks of her teenage auditors.
I love this story for its account of the romantic life of the couple. It deals very sensitively with one of the issues the young have world wide, accepting and respecting the sexual passions and love for each other of those much older than themselves. You can easily visualize the neighborhood girls peering out the window and having a good time laughing at Carol. They are not mean or malicious at all, just teenagers, if they are lucky someone will love them as much as Carol's husband did her.
You can learn more about Carys Bray's work and read some of her short stories on her webpage
I will be posting on her wonderful collection, Sweet Home, in October.