3

Living in a Box

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Thanks so much for coming. It’s really lovely to see you. How are you? And your family? I do hope Aunt Celeste feels better soon.

Would you like a cup of tea? Oh, I’m sorry – that was silly of me. I don’t have a kettle. Nowhere to plug it in, you see. I remember you’ve got one of those lovely stovetop kettles. It gives a little whistle when the water’s hot. It took me a while to stop jumping out of my skin every time I made a brew.

There’s no stove here. It’s a bit of a fire risk of course, but even so, as you see, there simply isn’t the space.

You’ve a tickle in your throat? A glass of water, maybe? I’m afraid I’ll have to let you down again. I’d love to have running water in the place, but it’d get soggy.

It gets soggy anyway. We can’t stop the rain, after all! We couldn’t keep the clouds at bay when the day was ours to save, could we? And now, our home is gone and I live, well, here.

It’s cold at night, but I see you know that. Down jacket, woollen gloves. That stupid hat you bought after we laughed at every single one in the shop, then felt sorry for the shopkeeper.

Shopkeepers don’t look at me any more. They scowl somewhere on the floor nearby. Their eyes don’t want to be sullied by contact with mine. I’ve been dirty for such a long time, you see, that even my baby blues bear the filth of the streets. That’s the only explanation, surely?

I’m sorry. I totally understand you have to go, but before you do, could I ask you something? I hate to… Well, you know… But perhaps you have a little spare? No? I’ll spend it on drugs, you say? I was hoping to buy some waterproof trousers, but I’m sure you’ve heard that line before. You always were so clever. Maybe you wouldn’t mind leaving the hat, then. It always did make me smile.

5

He sat bolt upright in bed, as the scream of terror faded into the darkness

He sat bolt upright in bed, as the scream of terror faded into the darkness. Had he imagined it? No, the vibrations were all around him, as if the very furniture had been infused with the sound. He couldn’t go on like this. Naomi was gone, and she wouldn’t be back. Of that he was certain.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to focus on something besides her dark, swinging hair; her bright, laughing eyes and her wide, sensuous mouth. The power she’d had over him was almost tangible, but she had always been so carefree.

“Careless, carefree.” He rolled them silently over his tongue, wondering if there was even a difference. He supposed, bitterly, that it depended on how you felt about caring for other people. Still, his heart ached for her and he thought often of amputees and their phantom limbs. He sat back in his bed and allowed himself to wonder where she might be now.

It all depended which part of Naomi you were asking about, of course. Her head and hands were exactly where he had placed them in his freezer, somewhere between the peas and a ready meal for one. The look of surprise had been preserved on her beautiful face – she had thought him a little mouse, incapable of such brutality. The rest of her? Well, it all depended upon his calculations of the tides.

The thought made him calm again, and he lay down to go back to sleep.