By Claire Hart

In the end, we just don’t fit.

Like my favourite jumper, too many times through the wash, we restrict my movements and itch my skin.

The first morning I notice, the excuses come: the weather too warm, my breakfast too large. It’s me―not it. Not us.

Nothing has changed, we say; the love, the memories, the home we made together.

We try to ignore the snags, keep on going. We follow the care label, but the damage is already done. I remember the newness, the soft, tactile fabric. The pattern suits me well.

Suited me well.

I wear the jumper, ignoring the feel of the hardened wool, turned in parts to immobile felt. Its tightness around my chest hampers my breathing. We both see it, but you don’t comment.

We go out to lunch. We are back within the hour. Our conversation is done.

“Tired,” you say.

I tug at the cuffs.

Distraction helps. Evening drinks in the pub where the music is too loud. Nod, smile, look around.

“Let’s try a different way home,” I say, but you shake your head.

The path we’re on feels narrow.

“You’re taking up too much space,” you say, but in this darkness I can’t stop my arms from branching out.

The jumper chafes my skin. I fidget, making noises of restless irritation.

You stop walking, turn towards me, loop your finger into the woollen collar and pull, widening the opening, allowing me a taste of space.

“Take it off if you’ve had enough.”

“But I’ll miss it,”

You shrug. “So will I.”

This is all I will get.

In the distance we hear the pub bell ring. It’s time.

You release your hook­― one finger cannot be called a hold.

“Choose.” You say. “You’re holding us up.”

So I do, clawing at the familiar old wool, frantically pulling the jumper up my back and over my head. I don’t want to hurt you but it’s inevitable and I feel the point of my elbow jab into the soft flesh of your side, pushing you away.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

You step back, silent with your pain.

The cool air soothes my skin. I take a deep breath, feel my chest expand with relief. I am already a different shape; bigger, more.

I look down at my empty hands. The jumper has vanished, and without looking up I know you have too.

I stand alone. Where you have gone is no longer my business.

I don’t call for you, not now, anyway. Later I howl like a dog as friends tell me that room is needed for things to grow.

The moon steps out and throws a little light on my path. I walk forward, hearing my feet heavy on the gravel; a reminder that I can carry myself just fine.

Our fit was good, until it wasn’t.

I tell myself that sadness is not regret.

Claire Hart loves to read, write and walk on the beach, though not all at the same time. Born and grown in Essex, she studied and worked in London before escaping to the Sussex coast. Intrigued by what makes us human, and the cornucopia of emotions within relationships, Claire writes flash fiction, short stories and is working on her first novel. Her short story, Dragons, was published in the Pure Slush Books anthology, Envy. Claire is inspired by writers such as Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Strout and the wonder women of her writing circle. She enjoys family dog walks on the Downs, SUP boarding and writing about herself in the third person.

You can find Claire on twitter: @Claire_L_Hart