Apron

The knives were sharpened. Not out yet. Still in their canvas roll, tied tight around with cord. Sharp, though. Ready.

The kitchen was clean. Wiped down. All surfaces disinfected. Not that it mattered. This butchering job wasn’t about food. Nobody was going to dine on the fillets and cuts I’d be preparing tonight.

I waited. The tungsten bulbs cast a harsh light across the blond wood surfaces and white tiled walls. A clean kitchen is my favourite workspace. Clinical. Sterile. Calm.

I waited. Time passed. I leant against a work bench, my arms folded, the roll of knives on another work bench before me. I mentally prepared, deciding on which knife for which cut.

On arrival, she was drugged but still conscious. She was gagged but not blindfolded. Her eyes cast around the room, the tops flattened like a cat under threat. They looked squared off, like a character in an anime film. I liked that.

With the first cut, she flinched, but then she realised that her body was numb. She was still after that. Fatally so, eventually.

When I’d done, I had to wipe my hands on the legs of my jeans.

I forgot to bring an apron.


In response to a Past Postcards tweet.

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Orangery

I sheltered in the Orangery.

Neither wind nor rain could stop what I’d begun.

She was everything. My desire to possess her, all consuming.

Wife to another, I cared not for convention or the opinion of others. She was everything.

The turn of her head. Her profile in the half light through a window. The way her eyes reflected the light. The coils of her chestnut brown hair. The way I would unfasten the parade of buttons at the back of her dress, given the opportunity.

I sheltered in the Orangery and tried to control my breathing.

The click of a door catch. The creak of the hinge. The stiffening of the hairs on the back of my neck as I anticipated her approach. I knew it was she. I sensed her scent on the air.

She walked slowly, trailing her hands across the leaves of exotic plants. I heard her footsteps bringing her closer. I pictured her eyes, now grey, now green, now blue, always frank, and suddenly she was upon me.

I rose from the wooden seat on which I effected my repose.

“Mrs Grey,” I began, but her mouth found mine, hot and urgent, and I ceased.


In response to a Past Postcards tweet.

Off the earth

She lies in bed in this cathedral of a room. High ceilinged with roof lights letting in the sun. White walled, wood floored, the archetype of boutique living. She lies in bed and listens to the distant sound of surf crashing on the shore.

Shoreline noises aside, there is perfect silence. No traffic, no tv, no tinny music playing from anyone’s phone. This is off the earth.

Behind the whitewashed croft, a cliff. The land falls sheer away to the sea. At the foot of that cliff, the surf booms. Last night she stood at the edge and watched the foamy sea, wrapping solitude around herself like a shawl.

She knows she has run away. She knows and doesn’t care. She has run away from things legally binding. She has run from her moral obligations. She has run to the end of that major island and taken a boat to land on this minor one.

In this cathedral of a room, on this altar of a bed, she sacrifices the last vestige of her complicity. She takes the bottle from the bedside cabinet, the strap from the drawer. She pushes the needle into the vein and falls off the earth.


Inspired by a PastPostcards tweet.

Even Dorothy and her friend have gone

I don’t like skiing. That’s the thing. I have a pathological fear of broken bones. When he invited me, I said no. I said, “I have a pathological fear of broken bones.” He laughed and told me, “That doesn’t exist.” But it does. I can still hear the splintering crack of a schoolmate’s leg breaking when she fell from the top of the climbing rope in PE.

He persuaded me. He always persuades me. Now here I am, sleeping in a chalet by night, wearing salopettes by day. Resolutely not skiing.

My lack of interest in his favourite winter pastime has encouraged new friendships. In the chalet next to ours are two women. Dorothy, one of them is called. We socialise almost every night, but I can’t recall the name of Dorothy’s friend. She’s the quiet type. Dorothy is louder.

She doesn’t say much, the friend. She watches. Her face is mostly eyes, with a wry little mouth that doesn’t speak. I catch her staring sometimes. At me. At him. Mostly him. We have nothing in common.

He’s out on a double black diamond today. Even Dorothy and her friend have gone.

Or perhaps only Dorothy’s friend went with him.


Written in response to a Past Postcards tweet

09-09-16

There’s a day for everything, it seems. Today is National Teddy Bear Day in the UK. Who knew? I didn’t until Twitter told me.

This is my bear.

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In my family my parents created a mini tradition of buying a bear for the first birthday of each of their children. It had to be a specific kind of bear. This bear was bought for my brother in 1965. By the time my first birthday came around in 1971, teddy bears were mostly a bit soft and weird looking. My parents couldn’t find a bear with the traditional articulated limbs and chest squeak, so my brother decided he would give his bear to me.

He’s a practical bear. As well as his dungarees and fisherman’s knit (made for him by me), he used to have a duffle coat and wellies for when he was out and about. He’s not that practical though, because he lost a boot and gave his coat to another of my bears without a second thought for what he’d do in case of rain. Like me, he grew up in Chadderton, so should know better.

His name is Teddy. Although, on nights out, he likes to go by Simon.

Game

“Let’s play a game,” he said.

“Okay,” I replied, thinking Game? What game? I hate games. What’s wrong with him?

“Turner, Hiddleston, Fassbender?”

Oh, I thought, an insecurity game. An ego game. I see where this is headed.

I played along. “Fassbender.”

He looked mildly surprised. Like he thought I’d go Turner.

“Turner’s vapid. Hiddleston’s scrawny. Fassbender’s game.”

He pondered for a moment.

“Fassbender, Clooney, Firth?”

I didn’t have to think. “Firth.”

“Really?”

“Yes.” The finality in my tone stopped him asking any more questions about that choice.

I watched him, and saw the crafty look flicker across his face. Here we go, I thought. Here’s what he’s building up to. The momentous question. I sighed inwardly at his transparency. At least I’d played the second round right. At least he knew I could answer quickly and resolutely.

He smirked as he began the next trio of names.

“Firth, Theroux,”

I stopped him. “Which one?”

He blinked. “What do you mean, which one?”

“Louis, Justin, or Marcel?”

He frowned. Illiterate in the Theroux clan.

“Louis.”

“Okay,” I said. “Continue.”

“Firth, Theroux,” he paused, “or me?”

I reached out a hand and gripped his wrist.

“Darling,” I said. “You, of course.”

Secret

“Tell me a secret,” he says.

She lets a heartbeat pass before responding.

“If I told you a secret, I’d have to kill you.”

He laughs. It’s a clichéd response. She even says it as though it’s a cliché.

“No, go on. Tell me a secret. Something you’ve never told anyone else.”

She knows he thinks he’s flirting. He’s making occasional eye contact, stirring his coffee for slightly too long, looking up through dark eyelashes.

She smiles at him. He’s good looking in a cautious way. His features don’t shout too loud, but they work. She appraises him. He shifts in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable under her gaze. She remembers herself and injects some warmth into the North Sea grey of her eyes.

“I’ll tell you a secret, then,” he says.

Please don’t, she thinks. I need to get through today unscathed.

Platform announcements echo vaguely in the background. Cups and saucers chink together. Other people’s voices murmur, fractured by the occasional laugh. He says something and laughs. She doesn’t hear him until the words, “Your turn.”

She sighs and looks towards the central departure board.

“I killed a man once.”

So easy, when you put your mind to it.

 

Memory

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I am thinking about memory. This is a picture of my family in 1974. My dad’s cousin’s daughter got married. Because I was a cute three year old, she wanted me as a bridesmaid. I only did it because I got a pair of silver shoes out of it. Fuck, yeah. My brother was ten, my sister fourteen. I don’t know what they got out of it.

This picture is the only picture from my childhood that I’m aware of having survived my mum’s dementia. When you don’t recognise people in a photograph, the logical thing is to destroy it. Apparently.

Photographs don’t really matter, and I have dodged a humiliation bullet in no longer having photos of my teen fashion mistakes in existence, but it makes me sad that mum didn’t know who the people were in the accumulated family photographs she kept in an old Milady chocolate tin.

My childhood is in my head for the time being. Come the day when it’s no longer accessible, photos won’t make a difference. I enjoy looking at photographs, though. It’s like peering through time. I still pull that face. It means I’m ready to be bad. Want to take me on?

Romance

You know when you listen to a song and it irks you? I listened to a bullshit song today. Some paean to the notion of what women want in a man. Or a particular type of woman. It was full of guff about open arms, holding doors, knights hidden inside shabby suits. I wasn’t angry at the songwriter for putting this guff in a song. He’s a canny man. He knows his audience. It’s a nonsense, though. Nobody, man or woman, can be all the things in that song.

What men and women should be is adult enough to cope with the parallel flaws of another adult. You can’t write a song about that, though.

I’m not saying that people don’t want to be held, to have their insecurities assuaged, to be freed by the knowledge that someone loves them. I’m saying don’t expect another person to validate you, or give you things you should be able to give yourself. We should be our own validation. Confirmation from someone else of how amazing we are is a bonus.

Just for the record, I am romantic. Rapunzel is my favourite fairytale. I like the bit where the prince goes blind.