by Nikki Crutchley
The heart that beats in my chest is not mine. I swear it has a different rhythm. Feather soft when I’m relaxed, on the edge of wake and sleep; violent hammering when I’m scared or nervous; a pleasant yet foreign flutter when I’m excited. I had never noticed what my heart beat felt like before it was cut from my body, a wasted, useless muscle.
I donated that part of my body to the research centre I pass every day on the way to work. It’s a concrete building, staid and serious, as if its exterior needs to protect the important work that goes on inside. As I pass I feel the heart inside me beat faster and wonder how it knows I’m anxious. How does it know that every day I feel homesick for my heart?
How can I trust that when this heart beats for a man, that it’s going to be someone who truly is for me? What if this heart and I don’t belong?
We’d had our problems, my first heart and I, from the very beginning, in utero. For those nine months the secret was ours. But for twenty-seven years we lived life. While it had not broken it had certainly suffered fissures at the hands of Bobby Lake in year five and again with Jackson Smith in year eleven. It swelled with pride when I graduated. It ached, dull and deep, when I buried my mother.
The car slowed almost on its own as I passed the building. The heart inside me began to beat faster. I placed one hand on my chest, feeling the scar through my silk shirt, a rigid seam that holds me together. I wonder if it, too, feels displaced. Homesick for the person it once kept alive.
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Nikki lives in Cambridge, New Zealand with her husband and two girls. She works as a freelance copy editor and proofreader and squeezes in writing time when she can. Nikki has been published in Flash Frontier and Mayhem Literary Journal. Her flash piece was commended in last year’s National Flash Fiction Day competition.