The New Nature: “Breadcrumbs”


By Chelsea Catherine

I wake up to a vision of her sitting on the floor of my bedroom, her back pressed to the door. Her hair curls around her ears, the color of sunlight. She sits with her knees bent in an oversized grey sweater that pools around her naked thighs. Her hands are covered. I can’t see the engagement ring her fiancé gave her.

“Come here,” I tell her.

A cool breeze flutters in from the open window, fluttering the curtain. I turn towards it. The last dredges of winter still linger on the glass, tiny trails of frost. When I look back at the door, she’s gone.

At work, she’s the same as in my vision, always there and then gone—flitting out to meetings, legislative sessions, and lunches with senators and lobbyists. She calls me “Rockstar” when I show her my completed tasks. She bellows when I tell her jokes, and wears heels that stab the tiled floor as she walks. Mornings, she slices apples and smears them with organic peanut butter, the smell of it wafting from her office so often I start associating it with her.

The office space seems larger when she’s gone. Quiet and dank and dark. One Friday, I cry after she leaves and can’t figure out why. In afternoons when she’s away, I place snack sized Snickers on her computer for her to eat when she returns. Like little breadcrumbs luring her back to me.

“We’re closing on the house August first,” she tells my coworker the day after my vision. They sit in her office, reviewing bills. It’s seventy degrees outside, much too hot for a spring day in Vermont. I pull at the collar of my blouse, sweat etching my neck.

“How far a drive?”

“Just fifteen minutes.”

Heat blazes. I shift, turning my music up louder so I can’t hear them talking. The noise quiets them, and I can feel when her gaze turns to me. She can always hear my music, who I’m speaking to, everything I’m doing. We sit ten feet apart five days a week, and there’s still so much distance between us.

After she leaves for the day, I wander into her office. Her heeled boots are at the door, wedged up against the black filing cabinet. I grab hold of the end of one and try it on, but halfway through my foot gets stuck. Too small.

Sunlight slips through the window, warming my back even though the grass outside is still yellow and the river clots with ice.I place the boot back on the floor. It feels like I keep picking up pieces of her and trying them on, but none stick. She already has her life—her fiancé, her new house, her fancy job. There’s no space left for me.

I linger a moment longer before making my way out.

Chelsea Catherine is a queer writer living in Vermont. She is a PEN Short Story Prize Nominee, winner of the Raymond Carver Fiction contest in 2016, a Sterling Watson fellow, and an Ann McKee grant recipient. Her short story collection Isabel was a finalist for the 2018 Katherine Ann Porter prize. Her novella, “Blindsided” won the Clay Reynolds novella competition and will be published in the fall of 2018.