After She’d Gone

Cath Barton

              He was here the next morning, my brother. Sitting at my kitchen table, spooning marmalade onto his toast.

              ‘That’s the last jar,’ I said. ‘I suppose Arnold let you in.’

              Tomos looked at me as he bit into the toast and butter dripped onto the table. He was never one to let on.

              The cat meowed and he smeared the butter onto his finger for her to lick.

              ‘She shouldn’t have that,’ I said.

              ‘Pretty pussy,’ he said, ruffling the cat’s fur.

              ‘She’s anyone’s,’ I said, turning away.

              Arnold came through the back door with a gust of November and banged his boots on the mat. He took off his cap and stood there, shuffling his feet.

              ‘You might as well sit down,’ I said. ‘There’s time enough.’

               I cut a slice of bread for him, thick, and put it into the toaster. Made coffee for the three of us.

              In the evening the woodsmoke curled as it had always done. I told Tomos he could stay. It seemed only reasonable, considering.

Cath Barton (she/her) is the author of three novellas: The Plankton Collector (2018, New Welsh Review), In the Sweep of the Bay (2020, Louise Walters Books), shortlisted for Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards 2021, and Between the Virgin and the Sea (forthcoming, Novella Express, Leamington Books). Find her online at or on Twitter @CathBarton1.