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.

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Salt and Caramel April

The man swaggered along the street, his dog pulling on a chain beside him. A crisp wind picked up the crushed leaf dust. I recognised the scent and sound and taste and instinct squeezed my eyes shut in preparation. The gutters, now relieved of organic material, displayed their usual wares of almost-mulch call-girl cards and the innards of a long-discarded cassette.

Disgust flares my nostrils – someone had left their stomach contents in the doorway to the electrical shop. I’ll never know how those businesses survive with their yellowing teasmaids and peeling manufacturer labels in the window. Probably due to the diligence of an old man who mops up student vomit each morning and likes to tinker with burnt-out toasters while whistling along to oddly current tunes on commercial radio.

I know the sort. They never go home. They married the first girl they met and fill their lives drinking first tea, then IPA, excelling at pub quizzes and working until they die. Those who retire barely survive the transition. I can’t decide if it’s tragic or honourable.

The street has changed since he opened shop. His view of the cars passing by is now obscured by a gaudy bus stop advertising some film he doesn’t want to see. Not that he gets to the pictures nowadays. It’s too dear, and besides, the missus would prattle on through all the good bits.

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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.

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She walked slowly up the long, winding driveway, her dress trailing in the mud.

This post is part of a series devoted to the Writers’ Workshop run by Lynn at Salt and Caramel. I must confess that I am unlikely to post any of these on time, but I will endeavour to get the writing done! I rather enjoyed the prompt, as it brought to mind a mix of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and a Style Me Pretty photoshoot…

Prompt: She walked slowly up the long, winding driveway, her dress trailing in the mud.

She did not bother to glance behind her, knowing full well that nobody would be following. A grease stain smeared her cheek and her feet still ached from long-discarded shoes. Her grey eyes had lost the very light that made everyone call her beautiful and yet the windows of the house fixed upon her like she was all they could see.

Everything was grey now. The ominous sky bulged and rumbled. The sandstone hung sallow and wan. The silver satin and lace sagged under the weight of moisture rising from the ground and hanging in the air. Only a few hours earlier had been blue and white and green, but she had sensed change coming.

How naïve she’d been to think that it could’ve carried on forever. A girl like her didn’t belong with a nice man in a nice family. She belonged to the house. It kept her soul in a box under the stairs where nobody would ever find it, and she would always have to return. Her eyes caught a movement in an upstairs window. A pale figure clad in black was watching, with the tranquillity that comes with having been right, having always known. She was coming home.