Flash Fiction: Before We Sleep (460 words)

There had not been twenty-four hours in her day. Oliane swore it as she stamped her way through the chilling winter night on the way home. She passed in and out of the yellow street lights, the oil already visibly low. From the time she woke up and rushed down to the workshop, she felt as if time were thinner than it should have been. Hour by hour, she tried to stretch it, ignoring noon when it came and went; forgetting lunch, only to gobble toast and cheese down late in the afternoon; letting the sun set and keeping her hands on her tools.

It was nearly midnight now and, exhausted, she had forced herself to close up her kit and turn for home. She would have paid any currency for another half hour of good light and steady eyes.

Coming through the front door, she scrubbed the bottom of her boots against the mat and shut the door on a long breath.

Levin came from the kitchen, leaned his shoulder against the wall while he dried his hands on a towel. “You’re late,” he murmured, kindly.

She shook her head without really looking at him. “It was a long day.” Playing with the collar of her coat, she started to take it off, but her hands didn’t go through the motions quickly. She loosened it, but the collar got caught on her shoulders. “Didn’t get anything done. It just… just felt like a waste of a day.”

Levin nodded gently. “It’s not over yet,” he said.

Oliane laughed. “It’s nearly midnight. I think that’s close enough.”

“The day’s not over until we sleep,” he said. His tone was a little brighter, a little quicker.

She looked at him uncertainly and his mouth was starting to tilt into a smile.

“It’s what you always used to say,” he said and he shrugged.

Oliane looked down. Her coat was still on. Her toes were still warm and comfortable in her boots. Her hair was a knotted mess, but in the winter breeze, it felt sort of right. She pulled her coat tight again.

“Get your things?” she said.

Levin took his jacket off the racket and swung it around his shoulders. He shoved his feet into his boots by the door, then swung the door open for her again. Stepping out onto the porch, she bounced on her heels, waiting for him and feeling the bite of the cold. He shut the door behind them, and held his arm out for her. Looping her hands around his elbow, she tucked herself close to his side. Her fingers were warm bundled in his sleeve and he fisted his hands in his pockets.

“Where are we going?” she whispered.

He grinned at her.


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