Victoria Gemmell


I paint for hours, mixing colours that bleed across the page, wanting to be good enough, to be the best.

I’m attending your summer college class, hoping to enhance my portfolio for art school. Exquisite work. Such maturity. Every compliment, every smile, makes my heart leap to conclusions.

You lay the exhibition flyer beside me, our fingers touch. A secret communication I want to prolong.  “It’s about desire and temptation.” I circle the date.

My first glimpse of your exhibition is through a frosted window; I see the outline of you, standing in the middle of a crowd, your hand gestures always louder than your voice. From a distance, outside, your photographs and sculptures are blurs of mystery, alluring hints of brilliance.

The door swings open, bringing out smokers balancing cigarettes between their smiles, exposing the stark whiteness of the room. I step inside. You nod in my direction but your eyes don’t see me. I don’t know where to stand, where to look. The women circle around your laughter and you pretend to shrug off compliments. But tonight I see you lean in closer, top up the wine, drinking it in, so thirsty.

All around me the words Desire and Temptation light up, flashing white, gold, red. Their meaning is clear now – so obvious and crass. I turn away from you, realising there are no dark corners to hide in here. The words are in capital letters when all I wanted was whispers and complicated longing.  

Victoria Gemmell lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Her debut Young Adult mystery novel Follow Me was published by Strident Publishing Ltd. Victoria also writes contemporary flash fiction and short stories and has been published in a range of journals such as The Bohemyth literary journal, The Grind, and a Words with Jam anthology. Her short story collection, Exposure, was released in 2019.