by Amy Barnes

Her hands fell off.

He looked at her and each hand dropped. Not triumphant Queen of England gestures or saying-goodbye-waves on a honeymoon cruise ship deck.

After two years apart—when he walked into the diner—one-by-one her hands fell to the ground and shattered into a million tiny little pieces. Shards of fingers bloodied with her favorite red-for-dates-only nail polish contrasted against summer-tanned palms and broken lifelines.

Her ring finger stood out with its faded supposed-to-be-eternity outline visible, familiar marriage finger-waist still present. Hand bits scattered across her apron, below the fake name tag she wore to hide from him in another town, another life.

Did he notice her missing hands?

She guessed no as he gripped her diner cardigan cuffs like her hands were there. He drug her like a toddler, to a booth and food that was already waiting somehow, ordered without her asking. His defiant fists double-pounded the yellowed Formica, demanding fresh coffee.

How did he find me?

It wasn’t a chance encounter. It was planned with a familiar short glass of flash-brought alcohol sitting next to steak and eggs, a disruption to her third double shift in a week. Sober for six months, she remembered her throat burning and her soul numbing as he poured it forcefully, holding down her invisible fingers.

Can I fight him without hands?

She tried making phantom fists but failed. He cut her steak like they were dating or she was his babyish new bride doll needing her meat cut and her hair brushed, first gently and then with too much force.

On their wedding day, he pushed the chocolate cake—that she didn’t like and hadn’t chosen—hard into her face, laughing when he smeared frosting on her nose, wiping it off like she was a dirty-faced toddler. Their own dirty-faced toddler waited at home, chubby-fingered and smiley. When her shift ended, she wiped the toddler’s face gently and brought him home hashbrowns and pancakes.

How can I find another job?

The eating portion was public, easier even without hands. She felt safe with Robert watching from the order window, a mustached scowl and Popeye arms at the ready.

“Kiss me.”

Her ears fell with his demand. She smelled brandy the drink and Brandy his new wife on his breath before her nose hit the counter. He grabbed her face in his hands, not like on her mother’s porch or for kissing under a rain-splashed Eiffel Tower. She felt cracks growing but couldn’t reach to steady it.


Before her lips could shatter, she turned her head and denied him a kiss. Katie scooped up her hand bits in a Joe’s Diner napkin.

She walked to her next table without a wave.

Amy Barnes has words at a variety of sites including The New Southern Fugitives, FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, X-Ray Lit, Anti-Heroin Chic, Museum of Americana, Penny Fiction, Elephants Never, Re-side, Lucent Dreaming, Lunate Fiction, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit, Penny Fiction, National Flash Flood Day and others. Her work has been long-listed at Reflex Press, Bath Flash Fiction, Retreat West and TSS Publishing. She’s a reader for Fractured Lit, Taco Bell Quarterly, CRAFT and Narratively and Associate CNF Editor for Barren Magazine.
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