The Moon Shell Curse (By Cat Matchuk)
The moon cannot shine without the sun. This is how they are with each other, these two women. Although it’s hard to tell who’s the sun and who’s the moon sometimes. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, as long as they both rotate, they both keep swimming through the stars.
The daylight shines against the window of a crowded café, illuminating the two women who sit at separate tables. Back to back, their chairs positioned just inches away from each other. Daisy, her long, blond hair pulled into a bun at the base of her neck, blows on the surface of her tea. She stares out the window. Her eyes don’t land on anything or anyone. She averts her gaze from the outside world and sips her drink. Jo runs her fingers through her thick brown hair, almost getting consumed by the curls. Daisy leans back in her chair, leaning closer to Jo.
“You good?” She asks without turning her head. Jo sighs.
“Are you sure this can’t work out?” Jo flicks at a packet of sugar. She rips it open and places it on the table, not bothering to pour it into her coffee.
“Trust me,” she begins. This doesn’t need to be said, Daisy trusts her with her life. “Boring. He’s not an exciting man as it is, but you feel like you’re not growing with him.” Daisy brings the tea up to her lips once more. “That and you’ve been faking your orgasms.”
Daisy sputters and chokes on her tea. She takes a napkin and dabs at her chin, fully aware of the piercing stares of other café patrons. She brushes off her lap. She brushes off the stares.
Jo sticks a spoon in her coffee and stirs the dark liquid, just to watch it swirl. A mesmerizing display that almost takes her away from where she’s sitting. It almost takes her away from Daisy, but Daisy’s leaning back so far now that Jo can feel her hair on the back of her exposed neck. She feels a brief flash of excitement begin to grow in her stomach.
“Is it because he’s older? Is that my problem? I don’t seek out older men, they just seem to never show their age.” Jo scoffs at this before finally dumping the contents of the sugar packet into her drink. She stirs her coffee again and savours the aroma.
“That doesn’t matter,” Jo reassures her, then she slams her hand on the table, causing it to shake and causing her coffee to slosh over the sides. Eyes turn once more into the girl’s direction. Daisy raises her eyebrows slightly, not frightened or curious, but a mechanical motion. Something she feels she has to do.
“Goddamn, Daisy. Give me a break here, you’re getting frustrated.” Jo says, almost pleading. Daisy smiles softly and nods.
“Sure, Jo. I’ll do my best.” A reassurance, but a sad one at that. Daisy will not know. She will not feel. She can’t help but make empty promises. Jo is struck with a sense of guilt, and feels like apologizing. To scream, I am sorry, and hope the words lift the weight from her chest. Some of it isn’t even her own guilt.
Jo dabs up the spilt coffee and watches the brown liquid consume the napkin. For a moment, she wants something to consume her. Something to eat her up until she’s unrecognizable. Gone.
“He’s here.” Daisy points out. A man enters the café, and lets his worried blue eyes scan the faces at the table. He spots Daisy who is scurrying over to him, a worried smile plastered on her face. She stops in front of him and hesitates, before reaching around his neck to pull him into a quick hug.
Without a word, she grabs his hand and leads him over to her table.
“A public place, Daisy. What do you want to talk about?” Daisy bites her lip, unable to speak. She slides a drink menu in front of him.
“They have some pretty good speciality coffees.”
“Daisy.” He says her name again, with a bit more fierceness. “What’s going on?” At that she reaches out to grab his hands, which are surprisingly warm. She feels the sensation through her fingertips and smiles. If only emotions could come to her as easily as physical sensations.
Like little pockets of sunshine that make their way through the dense clouds.
“Mark, listen. I feel-” she pauses; she feels what? She pushes her chair backwards, bumping into Jo, and throws a glance over her shoulder. “Oh, excuse me!” Daisy exclaims.
“No worries, they have to put these tables a little further apart.” Daisy turns back around, allowing Jo to focus once more on her coffee.
“Mark, I feel like we’re growing apart.” He blinks rapidly in response. As if her words we’re nothing but an eyelash in his eye. Something he could blink away. Get rid of.
“What,” he sighs, “what do you mean? Everything was going so great.” Jo sighs heavily and heaves her shoulders in a dramatic movement.
“I’m sorry Mark. I feel tense and frustrated.” Jo coughs and stirs her coffee. “Sick even.”
“No,” Jo mutters, just loud enough for Daisy to hear, “suffocating, he’s suffocating you. Can’t breathe.” she adds, a little too loudly. Mark leans around Daisy and directs his frustration towards Jo.
“If you don’t mind, I’m trying to have a conversation with my girlfriend here.”
“Ex,” Daisy corrects.
“Yeah, ex, so why don’t you-” he pauses, shifting his gaze from the back of Jo’s head to Daisy, who is staring right back at him with unwavering intensity. “What do you mean?” At this moment Daisy lets her mind drift. How dense is this man? More importantly, what did she see in him? Daisy’s mind only drifts so far before she is brought back to the present by the noise of tumbling chairs and the scraping of wood. Mark is in the face of Jo, pushing his shoulders backward, trying to appear stronger. “I get it, you’re leaving me for this bitch, who knew you liked pussy, eh? And you didn’t want to watch me fuck another –” Mark’s words disappear into a sickeningly wet sound as Jo’s fist collides with his mouth. A cacophony of lips, and teeth, and tongue, and blood. She takes a few stumbling steps backwards and hisses at the pain in her hand.
* * *
“It’s not like in the movies, is it?” Daisy says as she examines Jo’s fractured finger, now wound tightly. “He got jealous of you quickly, what did I ever see in him?” Jo laughs.
“You have to date a couple pricks to appreciate your better half, when they finally find you that is,” Jo says confidently. A confidence and fierceness that suggests that she knows what she’s talking about. That she’s been through it. Jo suddenly frowns, struck by a sudden sense of sadness. “But what if you found them, and they don’t want you?” Jo’s voice, but not her sadness. Not her emotions pouring through the cracks. Daisy raises an eyebrow in confusion.
“I don’t follow…” Daisy says. Jo shakes her head, smiling sadly.
“Don’t worry about it. Nevermind.” Jo turns away from her friend to grasp whatever is in her reach. She straightens out a line of already straight seashells on Daisy’s kitchen window. A vacation Jo and Daisy took together in the wake of a tragedy that Daisy can’t remember. Jo made sure she wouldn’t remember, but didn’t think about the possible consequences.
As her eyes take in the textures of the seashells she thinks back to what Daisy said two years ago while intoxicated from multiple shots of flavoured vodka.
“I stopped feeling emotions that day that I took the seashells from the ocean. I try to offer them back to the moon. He doesn’t take them. He doesn’t want them.” The overwhelming sense of dread and confusion from that statement confirmed Jo’s suspicions, she was feeling Daisy’s emotions for her.
Her life, her existence, was to feel her friend’s emotions forever. Or until she died, whatever happened to come first. Jo glanced back at Daisy, who was bent over in front of the fridge, her body half hidden behind the door. She watches Daisy’s back tense as she reaches in to grab some eggs. She examines the trail of curves and bites her lip before turning away, embarrassed. She curses her friend’s feelings of arousal before realizing they might not be Daisy’s feelings after all. They couldn’t be, could they?
The lines are unfortunately blurred. Sometimes, it’s hard to know for sure.
Jo’s hand shakes as she places the seashell she was holding back onto the windowsill. She imagines Daisy coming up behind her and taking Jo’s hand in hers. Holding it gently, but firm enough to stop the shaking. As she tucks Jo’s unruly hair behind her ear, she leans in to whisper-
“Do you want an omelette?” Daisy asks, suddenly appearing beside Jo at the kitchen sink. Jo jolts abruptly, shaking off the sense of shock.
Daisy walks over to the stove and places the frying pan down.
“So why did Mark get in your face anyway?” Jo is struck by a sense of curiosity, innocent wonder, and the urge to know everything. She feels like she has a workable theory but needs proof. What is Daisy thinking?
“I may or may not have flipped him off while you were staring at the wall.” Daisy laughs, and it fills Jo’s heart with warmth. Although Daisy’s smile doesn’t reach her eyes. It’s a bittersweet moment that has Jo wishing Daisy could feel again. Maybe if Jo isn’t around, isn’t on this earth. Somewhere, somewhere else, so that Daisy can be Daisy again.
She tries to hold on to the warm feeling, but as Daisy’s smile fades, so does the warmth, and she is plunged into dark waters once again.
* * *
The next morning, Daisy wakes up to an empty apartment. She knocks on Jo’s door and whispers good morning as it slowly creaks open. Her words do not reach anyone, they bounce off the empty walls. The bed is not slept in, the closet is open and emptied. She shakes her head in disbelief.
She stomps through the apartment, through the kitchen and stops when her eyes notice something is missing. Something that would normally greet her above the kitchen sink. She looks closely and notices that the row of seashells are gone. In their place is a piece of paper.
On the crowded street, Jo feels pain.