Aishwarya Jha | fiction | Mod Love

Mod Love

Bonbon was going through a Schubert phase.  At precisely seven-fifteen every morning, he heaved his Rubenesque hindquarters to the vinyls stacked next to the dressmaker’s dummy—still draped with the opera cloak she had worn to a studio party the previous week—and brayed like a soprano squeezed in the solar plexus.

‘Quiet!’ she groaned, blindly reaching for an object to hurl at him.  These, ranging from a Rolodex to a lipstick case, bought her between three and five seconds, just long enough for the pins to start scuffing her scalp and for Bonbon to recalibrate his pitch.  He watched her struggle with herself, an impassive confidence tinting his scrutiny, and as her fingers fiddled ineffectually with the pins, synchronised his bark with the falling roller.  It whizzed across the chinoiserie rug, true to its name, her eyes following it to Bonbon’s feet before rising balefully to meet his gaze.  He let out another bark.

‘If only—’ she muttered, jerking her feet into her slippers, ‘you had cared as much—’ bending down ‘—about your reading skills!’  She tapped his nose and pulled out the record. ‘His Master’s Voice!  Comprenez?’ Bonbon, conspicuously unabashed, stamped his short legs impatiently.

She checked that the wire hadn’t come loose behind the dresser again and popped the Decca open, replacing the incumbent disc.  She left Bonbon with his jowls drooping fatuously as the adagio filled the room, and wrenched her arms through the inverted sleeves of her dressing gown.  The roller, decanted on a sepia-toned issue of Picturegoer, settled neatly over an incandescent blonde.  She wondered whether Grace—‘the new Queen of Hollywood’—possessed, in the medley of her graces, the ability to deftly tuck errant curls into a perfect coiffure.

The phone rang while she was putting on a pot of coffee and she froze, wrestling with herself.  There could only be one caller that early in the morning: Chrysanthemum.  The friend whose position had blurred between oldest and best.  She let it ring, watching the light play off the plastic sphere of the dial, before humane instincts took over.  Ah, Chrysanthemum.  Much had to be forgiven in a girl whose own parents had so egregiously betrayed her.

‘Darling!’ The springy tones were a fair match for Bonbon’s. ‘You’ll never believe what happened last night!’

Tucking the receiver between her neck and shoulder, she carried the phone to the foyer—all two square feet of it—and retrieved the milk and the mail, tossing the newspaper into a basket positioned expressly for that purpose next to the front door.  She paused for a daily moment of admiration for the mint lines running like piping along the pale florals on the walls.  She had spent a month obsessing over the perfect shade—not pistachio, just short of teal—and ruined a budding friendship with the paint store manager, but it was worth it.  The thrill of something beautiful never dulled.

‘Lola!  Are you even listening?’ Springiness was something that decidedly dulled.

‘Sorry, Chrys,’ she said, navigating the phone wire to the kitchen. ‘George was at the club?’

‘Not just George.’ She could hear her rolling her eyes. ‘Leo was there too.  With a date.’

She retrieved a dish of half-eaten salmon from the fridge and started shaving off the edge, schooling concentration to edge out other sensations like balloons.

‘So I went up to him,’ continued Chrys, ‘and obviously I wanted to ask him, like, what the f—’

‘Chrys,’ she said warningly. ‘You know Bonbon doesn’t like profanity first thing in the morning.’

‘Ugh, pfft, fine!  Anyway, so I was gonna, you know, rip into him—it’s only been three months, for God’s sake!—and I downed George’s Manhattan—which, by the way, tasted like my mother’s perfume—and I was just getting up when I realized that Amanda—’

‘Who’s Amanda?’

‘His date, her name was Amanda.’

‘You spoke to her?’

‘You’re getting ahead of the story!’

‘Sorry.’  She listened for the final notes of the concerto and moved quickly to position the velvet ottomon between the couch and the armchair.

‘So Amanda—’ Chrysanthemum elongated the last syllable like a slinky ‘—she lets out this fake, bucktoothed guffaw and licks the crumbs off her fingers and wipes them on her dress, and I realized, you know what?  She probably doesn’t give a damn about cutlery!  I mean, spoons and forks and knives and—’

‘I’m familiar with the concept.’

‘She probably doesn’t care about any of it!  Probably can’t tell silver from steel—or a butter knife from a bread knife or—or—’

‘Not the cerebral type, I gather.’

‘Not the crazy type!  Her hair was all mussed up and undone, half her nails were chipped—’ Lola glanced fleetingly at her own glossy manicure ‘—and you could tell she was just there to have a good time!’

‘What’s your point?’

Chrysanthemum blew heavily into the phone. ‘My point, darling, is that I’m worried about you!  I know you’re gonna pretend it doesn’t matter—’

‘He has a right to be happy.’  Bonbon had re-emerged, halting at the threshold of the sitting room and eyeing the angle of ottomon suspiciously.  She watched him from behind the island.  He lowered his gaze, she lowered hers; the tension rose to the pitch of a kettle—and he relented, squeezing past the ottomon, between the coffee table and sofa, to the kitchen.  She suppressed a sigh of relief; she didn’t always get the angle right.

‘He should’ve been happy with you!  Don’t pretend you don’t agree or that you don’t still have that cheesy Christmas photo pinned up!’

‘I don’t.’  She snapped it off the fridge, briefly remembering the nettled weaves of their coordinating sweaters and grins. 

‘You can’t live like this!  In your little bubble, with your movies and your music and that bonkers dog who thinks he’s the bloody Kaiser!’

‘Bonbon’s just quirky.’ She mixed the salmon shavings into the wet kibble and placed the Wedgewood bowl atop a napkin on the floor.

Chrysanthemum snorted. ‘As if you aren’t feeding him a breakfast of caviar or foie gras or something right now!’

‘As if.’ She poured herself some coffee, casting a quick glance under the lid of a pie dish and closing up the dog-eared recipe.  The floating head of the maniacally encouraging housewife was unnerving her.

‘Lola!’ Chrysanthemum was practically whining now. ‘I don’t know why I bother with you!  All you care about is your stuff and that stupid old antiques guy, you don’t care about anything I’m saying—’

‘I do care—’

‘—or how I worked in some backhanded flattery about his hairline—’

‘Mr. Gerber’s?’

‘Leo’s!  And you’re not even a little bit curious about her, about any of it—’

‘I am curious!  In fact, there’s a question I’ve been dying to ask you.’

‘What?’ Her eagerness spilled over the line.

‘When did you taste your mother’s perfume?’

It was too vile for whining.  She lapsed into a dangerous, fuming silence, capped by a dangerous, fuming whisper: ‘Cary Grant isn’t going to clean your bedpan, you know.’

The coffee singed Lola’s tongue. ‘What?’

‘Who’s going to do it, Lola?  Who?’ she demanded. ‘When you’re old and sick and you can’t thread a needle anymore or remember what Sylvia Plath said about Lady Chicory’s lover—’

‘Poor darling, how long has it been since you got some sleep?  Go to bed!  Everything will seem less bleak in the afternoon,’ she said soothingly.

Chrysanthemum wavered, dazzled by a blissful dream of dreams, and grudgingly agreed to hang up.  Lola put the phone back in the sitting room, the nettled texture lingering on her arms.  Her memories had always lived in textures: the starched warmth of a coat, a delicious sting of stubble, the phlegmy consistency of disappointment.  She shook it off, letting Bonbon out on the shoebox terrace to conduct his morning affairs and accoutring herself with soap and cold cream to face the world.  It was nearly nine; time to drop him off at the neighbouring apartment—no mean feat while also carrying the newspaper, an expertly-mended old bolero and the pie dish—where he dodged the attentions of a toddler grandson besotted by his picaresque peculiarities.  Mervin was fascinated by Bonbon, and Bonbon was fascinated by Mervin’s toys.  It was a daily, electric battle.  Mrs. Blansky, torn between the boy and the bolero, clung tightly to the newspaper, her veins bursting like sprigs under her thin skin and Crosby’s voice streaming from her husband’s study.

The sun was in absentia but the sky was a French grey, imbuing the melancholy weather with a pleasing elegance.  Lola balanced the dish while pulling on her gloves and straightening her hat.  She had promised Mr. Gerber she would stop by, armed with the tart and several ounces of hope.  He was her last hope.  The tart was perfect.  She re-checked the address on a slip inside her purse and marched on.

The crisp air ricocheted off her face.  The streets were so busy she had them all to herself, and she never tired of their charms.  Central Park might still be a sulky brown, like an adolescent caught the summer before his voice broke, but the iconic Ionics, guardians of the Vanderbilts’ erstwhile glory, were unfailingly gracious.  Her heels tapped gently on the pavement, her skirt swung gaily, its buoyancy a clandestine triumph of their own ‘New Look’ collection.  Somewhere, the song was still playing.  Somewhere, the world really was on a string.  And here she was, in the most wonderful city in the world!  She spared a smile for the Irish society building on the left, its oddly modest grandeur crammed between two gawky sisters; a dreamy sigh for Tiffany’s, up ahead, where she had her birthday breakfast every year; a clap of attention for the divinely shabby theatre staging an adaptation of Pygmalion that she was going to drag Chrysanthemum to…

‘Watch out!’

All the textures avalanched upon her together: the whoosh of the speeding taxi; the cold and heat of liquid; the heavy barrier of wool…

‘Are you all right?’

…the tinny cacophony of a ringing iPhone.


If it had happened to Grace, he would have been a prince.  Audrey would have tumbled into the arms of a dashing swindler.  Heck, even Eliza Doolittle got a scintillating—if somewhat insufferable—professor.

He was neither princely nor dashing nor scintillating.  He was somewhat insufferable, though.

‘Sweet Jesus, have you escaped from a fair?’  That was the first clue.

‘My dress!’  Her feet were steadied but the world was still carouseling.

‘My coffee,’ he said mournfully, his fingers easily flattening the empty paper cup. ‘You’d think they’d make these things stronger—there are more accidents with Starbucks’ coffees than with cars, you know.’

She looked up, still gaping, from the Pollock-shaped blotch on her clothes to his grizzly frame. ‘What?’

He shrugged. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised.’

‘I don’t care about your coffee!’ she snapped. ‘My dress is ruined!  And my tart, that I spent half the night baking—oh, Mr. Gerber—the spoon—oh no!’  She glanced around in distress, as though a rewind button might drop from the sky.

‘Hi,’ he said, stopping a tanned man with neon curls, ‘I’ll take this.’  The man scrunched his face in confusion, his frozen yoghurt suspended dumbly in the air. ‘Come on, bro—brother?  Comrade?  Look at her—’ he broke off ‘—what’s your name?’

‘Lola,’ she replied distractedly, trying to tip suds of coffee out of the tart.

‘Well, Lady Lola here, her time machine broke down and her nerves are waiting in queue, if you get my drift.  I’ll Venmo you the nickel, dude.’

The tanned man, glancing at his near-empty cup, goggled again.  Her insufferable rescuer reached out with a muttered ‘this’ll do’ and turned back to her.  ‘Here.’

‘What’re you doing?’ she asked.

‘A spoon.  That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?’  He was still holding it out.

She knocked it out of his hand. ‘I don’t want a used spoon—well, not that kind of used spoon—’

‘What kind do you want?  Bamboo?  Titanium?  Man, you gotta love this city,’ he said, watching the tanned man hail an acquaintance doing stunts on a hooverboard with a GoPro strapped to his shoulders. ‘The future is here.  I mean, right here.’

She let out an exasperated sigh. ‘Just what I needed.’

‘What you need, if I might be so bold,’ he ventured, ‘is a swing band and the bottom of a human pyramid.’

‘So Acid Pauli here is fine but I’m a freak?’ she demanded, jerking her head towards their erstwhile fro-yo friend.

He smiled, an uneven, curlicue of a smile. ‘Acid Pauli…to hear those words from the lips of Betty Draper.’

‘A colleague is a fan.  Anyway,’ she straightened her shoulders and the now-scurrilous pie dish, ‘thanks for—that—and I’m sorry about your coffee.  I better go explain myself to Mr. Gerber.’

‘You’re not gonna waltz down the streets like that?’

‘I’m not waltzing anywhere.’

‘Where is this famous Mr. Gerber?’

‘East 32nd and Madison.’

He whistled. ‘That’s, what, twelve blocks?  We should get a cab.’


‘My office is right there, next to the Korean barbeque.  Have you tried their bibimbap?  Food that rolls off the tongue like a drumbeat—putting the soul in Seoul, you know.’  He raised his hand to his heart and sighed plaintively.

She eyed him apprehensively. ‘Are you on something?’

‘Look, we both need to get to the same place.  This way we can split the cab fare.  I’m guessing you’ve lost enough time already.’

‘Well, I don’t know—’

‘And you know what they say: the only way to get over being hurt by one cab, is to get with another one.’

‘That’s cad.’

‘I’m pretty sure it’s cab.’ He took out his phone. ‘Hey, can you check?  Lars keeps appearing and disappearing like a DC plotline.  The app’s getting buggy.’

‘I don’t have a cellphone.’

‘Did you leave it at home?’

‘I don’t have one.’ He gazed at her blankly. ‘It is possible to live without being dependent on technology.  Although I suppose,’ she added, critically surveying his wispy ends, ‘some of us need all the help we can get.’

His screen flashed, causing his shoulders to almost detach from his body. ‘He’s here!’  The bumblebee hood screeched to a halt in front of them. ‘Quick, the next one’s ten minutes away!  Get in!’

‘I’m not getting into a cab with you!’

He sighed. ‘I’m not a serial killer or a rapist—I’m a staff engineer.  I spent a summer of college analysing crime stats with my uncle who’s a PD, and I can’t leave you cruising the streets of Manhattan without so much as a phone.  Call it chivalry or misogyny or whatever floats your boat, but I think that, after saving your life, I should get you to your destination.  Your immediate destination,’ he emphasized, ‘not your ultimate destination.  Our ultimate destination.  Where we’re all gonna end up one day—but not today—as far as I know—’

‘Good heavens!’ she exclaimed. ‘If I get in the cab, will you promise to shut up?’

‘For a whole three minutes,’ he vowed, opening the door. ‘After you.’

The taxi was a crucible of grease and leather, but he filled it with a more soapy solidity, reminding her somehow of the smell of shaving cream despite his shaggy demeanour.  She put the tart between them and took off her sticky gloves with a sigh.  He watched as she took a gold engraved compact out of her purse.

‘Can I—’ he started.

‘You promised!’ She waved the powder puff at him.

He put his hands up. ‘I won’t talk.  I just want to ask: if you’re not a time-traveler, what’s with all this?’

She put the compact down. ‘What’s your name?’


‘Well, Zach, I don’t expect you’ll understand but I wish I could travel back in time—that’s the one kind of technology I would jump at.  Until they invent it, I can only make my world the way I want.’

‘So you just pretend you’re in the fifties…?’

‘I try to avoid having anything around me that’s from later than the mid-sixties.  Except for food and stuff, of course.’

‘And the Mod Barbie clothes?’

She cast him a withering look. ‘Some of them are vintage, some I make using vintage fabrics.  My grandmother was a designer too; she worked with Givenchy in Paris and had a terribly exciting life.  I inherited some bits and bobs from her, along with her sewing skills.  Now I work with a vintage fashion studio, Charmaine, on 25th.  The owner is in her seventies and she likes doing things the old-fashioned way, conceptualised by hand, made by hand, so it’s perfect.’

‘Mhmm.  Can you turn that up?’ he asked the driver. ‘I’m sorry but this tune gets me every time.  City of Stars, hmmm…’  He tapped his thigh. ‘So, tell me, what made you like this?  What went wrong?’

‘You sound like a psychiatrist.’

‘Maybe not a terrible idea…?’ he suggested. ‘It can’t be healthy to live in the past, in a world of make-believe.’

She laughed. ‘Who doesn’t live in a world of make-believe?’

‘Fair point.’

‘This is where I feel at home.’

‘But what about medical science?  If you need a tooth extracted, do you make them bring out the medieval plungers?’

She rolled her eyes. ‘I may be eccentric, but I’m not an idiot.  Or a masochist.’

He scratched his cheek meditatively. ‘You know, there’s a great idea for a game in there: a 21st-century player stuck in the Civil War or Ancient Egypt, trying to make it back without being blown from a cannon or buried in a Pyramid or whatever.  My company designs games using AI,’ he explained. ‘At least, that’s my department.  We’ve also got a hardware and 3D printing department.’

‘You would.’

‘What about friends?  And lovers?’ he asked curiously. ‘Do you have, like, a dress-up community?’

‘As it happens,’ she replied, scrutinising the traffic, ‘my last boyfriend was an actor.’

‘What went wrong?  Did he take longer to do his hair than you?’

‘We broke up over a spoon.’


‘Stop here, please,’ she instructed the taxi driver. ‘I need to check something.’

She grabbed the tart and toppled onto the pavement, to the threshold of Freya Fisher, one of the East Side’s trendiest jewelry stores.  Pressing her nose to the glass, she peered past the sleek emerald display stands showcasing a selection of gold-plated confectionary.

‘Are we planning a heist?’ whispered Zach, peering above her.

‘I don’t know if she’s working today…ah, there she is!’ She waved at one of the sales assistants, who was putting away a tray of hoops of increasing girth.  The girl smiled back but shook her head. ‘I guess they’re not in yet,’ concluded Lola, moving away.

‘What’s not in yet?’

‘Their special edition ring boxes.  She’s promised to let me have some.’

‘You only want the boxes?’

‘They’re for Bonbon,’ she said, turning along the avenue.

‘The dessert?’ he asked.

‘No, my French Bulldog.  He won’t go on the street for walks because he’s a little self-conscious about his height so I’ve been trying to find shoes for him.  Baby sizes don’t work but I thought I could make him something, and Freya’s has the nicest, fattest ring boxes that fit his feet perfectly.’ 

‘So let me get this straight,’ he said, picking up a discarded bit of wrapping and tossing it into the trash, ‘you broke up with your boyfriend over a spoon and you’re making high-heeled shoes for your dog?’

‘You know, you can go now.  Mr. Gerber’s place is just around the corner.’

He shook his head vehemently. ‘There’s no going back now.’

They turned to the left, down a gloomy lane whose glamour seemed to have succumbed to cirrhosis.  Zach ducked his head below the iron grill of Gerber’s Antiques and suppressed a dust-induced coughing fit.

‘Hello?’ inquired Lola, taking in the sepia-toned artefacts.  She lightly touched a Tiffany lamp.

‘Oh my god,’ cried Zach, squinting at a timer in a rust-splotched box that had never seen better days. ‘Can you imagine relying on this thing to set off a bomb?  We’d all be in ashes!’

‘Anyone there?’

An old man appeared from deep inside the room, brown and wrinkled, the source of the sepia. ‘Yes?’

‘Mr. Gerber?’ she went forward. ‘I’m Lola.  We spoke on the phone yesterday, and a few times before.’

His frown lightened. ‘Miss Buchanan!  The charmer from Charmaine.’

She smiled and extended her hand. ‘I’m afraid I’ve been quite a bother.’

‘Nonsense,’ he said, and turned to Zach. ‘She could sell honey to a bee, this one.  Hang on to her.’

A loud snap announced the closure of a trinket box lid on his fingers.  Lola directed a glare at him.

‘My dear, I wish I had better tidings,’ said Mr. Gerber apologetically, ‘but I couldn’t find the ’63 Love’s Folly anywhere.  The closest I’ve got is this one from the ’72 American Empress.’ He opened a drawer in one of the many fraying cabinets and retrieved a cloudy spoon.

‘Hey, the spoon!’ cried Zach, but Lola wasn’t paying attention.  She thumbed the thin handle and faded illustration on top with quiet chagrin.

‘This one has the ship painted on but the other was carved into shape,’ said Mr. Gerber, his voice wobbly and worn. ‘I have a photograph of it from a lot I sold just a few months ago.  I haven’t seen any before or after.’

She forced herself to look at him, the familiar phlegm rising. ‘Thank you for trying.  I did so hope—anyway.  I made you a Bakewell tart,’ she said, suddenly remembering the dish, ‘the kind you said you used to have in Derbyshire—but there was a bit of an accident on the way.  It’s soaked in coffee.’  She gave it to him, defeated on all fronts.

‘But that’s perfect!’ he said. ‘It goes perfectly with coffee.’

‘The one in the last lot—it was definitely from the Love’s Folly?  And from the right year?’ He nodded. ‘And you sold it—just recently, you said?’

He pursed his lips. ‘Time is a cruel overlord, my dear.’

The sepia seemed to turn to rust around them.  Zach and Lola left the premises, plodding back to the main avenue.  He cast her a few searching glances, but she was pensive.  The streets had transformed, their grandeur hewing to the ravages of the years.

‘So you wanna tell me what that was about?’ he asked finally.

‘It was my grandmother’s,’ she said curtly, pulling on her gloves. ‘She travelled to London on the Love’s Folly in 1963 and met the man of her dreams.  They fell in love during the voyage but before they reached their destination, he received a telegram saying his father had gone bankrupt and his life changed overnight.  When they parted, they knew they would never see each other again.  The spoon was a souvenir from the ship, a memento of their love.’

‘What happened to it?’

A muscle convulsed near her mouth. ‘Leo’s friends thought it would be a fun prank to take it on a road trip to Philly.  They were packing a salad at my place and they knew where I kept some of my odds and ends, they were always teasing me about them, so they took it—and lost it on the way.  I was furious, and Leo—he didn’t understand.  He just couldn’t understand why I was making such a fuss; it wasn’t worth anything and I had other things that belonged to Nana.’

‘But not from that voyage?’

‘No.  “Nobody’s this attached to a spoon,” he said.  But it wasn’t about the spoon.  It never was.’

The gallop of human traffic had slowed to a trot.  A screech in the distance may have marked a celebration or an altercation.  An influencer twirling her hair was followed by a camera crew to a skyscraper rising like a stack of CD cases.  The city was ever-changing, ever-respiring, between the ebb and flow of epochs.

‘Lola, I think it may be—’ he began.

‘I know.  It’s time to move on.’ She lifted her eyes to his, a patchwork of sensations quilting inside her. ‘Goodbye, Zach.’


Bonbon was going through a rain phase.  He positioned himself at the window precisely twenty minutes before it began and emitted a deep sigh—one of his more palatable emissions—when the drops came, ruminating on friends, lovers and nameless crimes from a life well-lived.

‘It’s pouring buckets, Bonnie,’ she chided him. ‘Why aren’t you at your post?’

He glowered, unimpressed, but even the use of his least-favoured nickname didn’t move him from the front door.  She shrugged, with a murmured ‘as you wish’, and returned to the couch with her tattered copy of On the Road, moving the needle on the Decca.

His bark preceded the doorbell and nearly drowned it out.  It was only on the third ring that she got up.

‘Zach?’ It seemed impossible, but there was no mistaking the minaret dripping on the corridor.

‘Hello.’ Had he shaved?  Cut his hair?

‘What are you doing here?’ she asked. ‘How did you find me?’

‘I—uh—is he going to keep doing that?’ he inquired, maintaining a politeness Bonbon had discarded in his examination of the unknown visitor.

‘Bonbon, you forget yourself.’ She pulled him back.

‘I went to your studio,’ said Zach, ‘and got the address from someone there.  He wasn’t too stoked about it but when I told him I had something for you from Mr. Gerber he gave in.  Apparently everyone knows about the spoon.’

‘Mr. Gerber?  I don’t understand.’ Her pulse quickened, marching to the beat of a strange rhythm.

‘Although, thinking on, I could have picked out your building on Lennox Hill pretty easily; I mean, it clearly hasn’t been painted since VE Day—’ 

‘Zach,’ she interrupted him, ‘what are you doing here?’

‘I have something for you.’ He pulled out a box from his pocket, a slight rain-induced flush on his cheeks. ‘It isn’t from Mr. Gerber; it’s actually from the 3D printing department at my company.  But he helped get the shape right.’

She opened the box in a trance, the grainy cardboard giving way to a coolness tinged with warmth, a newness that was endearingly familiar.  The silvery ship gleamed in her palm, perfect from mast to tip. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said, a flush spreading through her own cheeks. ‘How did you—why—’

‘It’s only a reproduction but I thought it was better than nothing.’

She looked at him, a fresh, uncertain texture quivering between them like electricity.  Her tired old heart—older, it often felt, than any of her curios—was shocked out of slumber.

‘I don’t know what to say…’

‘Is that ‘City of Stars’?’ He peered behind her, as though expecting the song to materialise as a dinner guest. ‘It is!  But it’s new…?’

‘Yes.  Do you—’ she asked hesitatingly, ‘do you want to come in and listen?’

‘That depends.  I don’t have to leave all my tech outside, do I?’ he asked, following her through the doorway.

‘Of course not—oh, but wait.’ She stopped, catching sight of Bonbon glaring from the sitting room. ‘Could you maybe walk kind of sideways through the room, without making eye contact with him?  And approach the couch from behind the ottomon?  It’s this weird ritual he has; otherwise he’ll never accept you.  And maybe try not to look so tall, you know he’s sensitive about that—’

‘Lola,’ he said, moving closer to her, ‘I’m perfectly willing to pander to all your dog’s weird rituals, as long as he’s willing to pander to mine.’  He grabbed her waist, pushed a stray curl off her forehead and smiled with a certainty that sent all the currents in the building sparking.

Bonbon barked, but it was too late.  Under his watchful, outraged gaze, their lips met, and abandoning all concepts of time and space, they sailed away on a Love’s Folly all their own.

Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram

Aishwarya Jha (she/her) is a writer, designer and entrepreneur from New Delhi, India.  Her work recently appeared in a digital anthology by Oxford University and has previously been published in journals such as Atticus Review. Her award-winning one-act plays have been performed in cities around the world, in addition to being taught at workshops.  Her debut novel will be published in 2024 and she is drafting her second as part of the Asian Women Writers programme.