In the flash / Stories

Byron’s fascination for the letter B comes to life.

Byron had more than an inkling of who she was, even before the introduction, but her tongue engaged faster than his.

‘I’m Luella, your barber for today,’ she said, lowering the chair.

‘Luella?’ Briony! That was the name. He recalled her as a blonde. That was ten years ago. But she had the same green eyes, the same saw-toothed scar under her chin.

‘That’s right. Luella.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘I think I know my own name.’

The last thing he wanted to do was to make her defensive, especially in the enclosed space of a backroom barbershop. If this was the Briony he knew, her diamond-tipped fingernails were killer, let alone the razor they held. And, if this was the barbershop he was thinking of, the meshed door would lead to an alleyway that would be gated in each direction.

‘Sorry. I felt like we’d met before.’

‘In another lifetime, perhaps.’

In an alternate universe, he thought, and he mirrored her grin with an uneasy smile.

She sharpened the blade with an uncommon focus and dexterity. Luella suited her. So did the leather attire, the piercings down one ear. He marvelled at all of this, and he marvelled that she was here at all—because she was a character from a manuscript he’d never completed. And she was no crazed fan. She seemed ignorant to his identity, and the only way she would have access to the details of his incomplete work, stored on an offline server, would be if she was in fact Briony, here with him in Beaconsfield, as she was written.

Yes. Briony the blonde from Beaconsfield. With a boyfriend called Brigham. And she owned a beagle. Named Bellamy. No wonder the novel had petered into oblivion.

‘You look good as a redhead,’ he said.

She stopped. ‘What did you say?’

‘You– used to be blonde, didn’t you?’

‘In another lifetime.’

‘Perhaps,’ he said. He couldn’t shake the feeling of being in a dream. In spite of the danger, he wanted to see how far he could push.

He soon found out.

‘What do you know?’ hissed into his right ear. The cold blade rested on the skin above his left carotid artery. Left-handed. Just like Briony.

‘I know you’re good for information,’ he said, suddenly awake inside his own thriller. ‘So tell me. How is Bellamy?’

She dropped the blade and flipped his chair upright. Then her hips were grinding into him, her lips pressed to his. The cigarette ash and iced tea of her turned to rust in his mouth with the slap.

‘Nice to see you too, Briony.’ He rubbed at his cheek, realising his last written act for his heroine was to leave her abandoned in a sealed shipping container. It was a miracle she’d made it back.

‘You’ve let yourself go,’ she said. This time it was her hand at his throat.

‘So how does this end?’

‘Brigham, you bastard.’ Her eyes pierced his. ‘You tell me.’


[Written to the Plotto prompt: “{A}, a novelist, meets personally in real life a fictitious character from one of his/her stories.” on Tin House’s Open Bar.]

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