New prose by Padrika Tarrant


Miss Liddell was riding on the bus.  The one that came past her flat had been full of kids headed for their schools in the city; they’d jeered at her from the long seat at the back, called her names.  Rude names.  Miss Liddell endured this patiently, day after day; she sat calmly behind the driver’s booth, with her hands folded upon her lap, and her back perfectly straight.

The sun was vague, and the morning was pale, greyly opalescent and blessed with light drizzle.  This very morning, this one, was the perfect morning for a marriage, as was every morning before it.  Miss Liddell was a lady most favoured among women.  She smiled like an angel until the bus arrived at her stop.

Miss Liddell stood still at the kerbside, smoothing her nightdress straight, adjusting the lace at collar and cuff, and gazing with love upon the people of the earth.  She swept precisely through the shoppers, past Monsoon and onto Gentleman’s Walk.  She stopped at a shop window, and knelt before it to consider her reflection.  

Miss Liddell’s hair was long and straight and thin, and the ivory-white of bones.  A plastic alice-band kept it off her face; with her slender fingers, she plaited it all the way down her back, leaving the end untied.  Her eyes were clear but brown; the Creator’s gift of imperfection, that she might retain humility.

The people on the market knew her by sight; the man on the haberdasher’s called out a rough Good Morning.  He beckoned her over and placed an offcut of net curtain upon her head.  The woman at the meat stall shouted at him; with foul language, she called him cruel.  The butcher woman was jealous.  Miss Liddell secured her veil with her alice-band, and curtsied gravely.  The man on the haberdasher’s was destined for Heaven, but it wasn’t her place to tell him so.  

Instead, she turned right and began her beautiful journey through the city, gathering occasional scattered feathers from the tarmac.  These were left for her by night by the Groom and His entourage; the bouquet, renewed every dawn, that the Bride might be ever more exquisite than the day before.

She arranged them as they came, slateblue and white, and held them by their pointed stems in her left hand.  The right contained her Bible, with a ribbon for its bookmark, held forever at the Book of Revelations.  A white satin purse was looped over the crook of her elbow.  Two hours later, Miss Liddell had a lavish swathe of feathers; a fan behind which she might coyly hide.

Miss Liddell processed the length of Magdalen Street in memory of the purified whore; Miss Liddell, too, broke perfume jars, but her soul was already quite, quite pure.  She wept a little as she walked, shedding great round rolling tears of pity and compassion for the world.  Miss Liddell made no attempt to wipe them; she simply let them fall upon the pearl buttons of her wedding dress.  At the flyover, she turned again and retraced the way that she had come.

Between the river and the playground, the Groom had left His wedding ring for the Bride to find.  Miss Liddell placed her bouquet on the ground with care, and sat with her Bible upon her lap.  It was flattish, and not a comfortable fit; the ring for this day was from a Coke can.  It still bore the leaf-shaped piece that once had sealed the drink; Miss Liddell twisted the metal leaf in her hands until it came away.  The ring was a little sharp, and had drawn blood from Miss Liddell’s fingertip; this was as it should be.

It was almost noon before Miss Liddell returned to the city centre to meet her Beloved.  They didn’t let her in anymore at St Peter Mancroft, but even so, she stole inside the gate and placed a kiss upon the front door.  It was of no matter; she knew that her Groom was not within the church anyway.  He was waiting for her now, calling her to Him.

Miss Liddell’s heart was white and playful as a lamb as she skipped into the memorial garden.  The Holy Spirit burst around her in the form of pigeons as she danced in a circle between their perfect wings, singing, as there was no organ music.

• Padrika Tarrant's first short story collection is entitled Broken Things and will be released in September by SALT publishing.  For full details visit

One comment

  1. This is fantastic. I love the juxapositions between real and fantasy, Norwich, Wonderland, madness and perfect sense. The language is playful, a little archaic, and the tone is just right. I would believe anything this narrator told me!
    I am much looking forward to Broken Things!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *