I hear them giggle. I feel them wiggle. I smell an unknown scent. My wife is with another man and a rage I have suppressed for a decade surfaces.
Why I carry a knife I do not know, but I do and it feels good in my palm. I act before they stir.
I stab and thrust and slice and cut and power my way through the virgin white duvet cover that shimmers in the moonlight. The fact Helen has bought a new cover, replacing the green one I chose, only increases my rage. For five long minutes, I finally show her who’s boss.
When done, I am tired but glad. I reach for the light switch which slips into my wet fingers as it should. A swift flick and we have illumination.
The bed is red. The room is red. Everything, everywhere is a liquid crimson. I look down. My new shoes are splattered beyond repair. This is the final straw. I storm out of our bedroom, down the creaking stairs and out onto the crunching gravel and scream a scream to wake God himself.
There is a click from the adjacent house and an upstairs window opens.
“What are you doing, love?” says a woman who looks just like Helen.
“Just breaking in my new shoes,” I reply, as I wipe the knife on my trousers.
The landing has a familiar air that the other rooms have not. I know there’s a picture of Helen and myself looking right at me even if I can’t see it. The picture is yet another bane; it is of our wedding day, a constant reminder of my shackles.
I sneak towards our bedroom: first door on the left. At last, the moon has deigned to show its face and shines a weak light under the door, the first to be closed in the way I expect. This angers me as what’s the good of closing a bedroom door if every other is wide open? A riddle for when I’ve slept.
I open said door in silence. The hinges I regularly oil are as quiet as I wish the stairs had been. I shut it behind me with a slight click that sounds more like an explosion in the midnight morgue.
Our bedroom curtains are thin, although tonight they seem thinner than usual, the moon pouring in from a newly unveiled night. I hate thin curtains! They stop me sleeping. I am and always have been a terrible sleeper. I might as well not bother. The absence of darkness only furthers this issue and again I curse my wife. Everything I do is for her, nothing is for me. I grow angry as I trip on a pair of large, male shoes. I am wearing my only shoes?
To Be Continued…
I bumble my way across the dining room to the foot of the stairs. Here, I pause. I know full well the first three steps creak from shoddy workmanship. Even though our house is still new in the timespan of such things, the stairs are a constant noisy annoyance. I step to the right which negates said creaking, but creak it does and I curse again. I blame my new shoes. It must be them.
If I wake Helen, she’ll get cross. But if there’s someone here, an intruder, as I suspect there is, then time is of the essence. What to do? What to do?
In my usual way, I compromise. I’m a man who always compromises. From the house we live in to the shoes on my feet, I have made compromises. I moved here for Helen to be close to her mother, an ailing chicken of a woman who hates me. The shoes I wear are brogues; I hate brogues. I bought them because Helen liked them and now their stupid, unforgiving leather is slowing my climb to save a woman who, in turn, is a compromise. Hey-ho, what’s a man to do? I climb. I ascend.
To Be Continued…
I run my fingertips across our new kitchen doors; they seem less polished, more ragged than the lacquered finish that cost me a holiday and a year of moaning. I don’t know why this is because I bought them for Helen, or so I convince my obsequious self each new day that I fawn upon them. One… two… three doors to the left and I reach back to the light switch. The switch has gone!
More alarmed now, I manoeuvre myself into the open-plan dining room banging my foot on a chair that usually resides pressed back to the wall. My new shoes are going to hate me, they’ll be ruined before the day is through.
It is a relief to grab the patio curtains and fling them aside, but I’ve forgotten there’s no moon tonight and it’s still as dark as ever. I curse under my breath. Cursing is a frequent pastime.
I want to shout out, to hail my wife and receive an answer. I don’t though. Whether it’s because it’s close to midnight, or whether I fear the reply, instead, I shuffle to the stairs.
Where are you Helen? Where are you?
To Be continued…
The gravel driveway crackles in explosions of conflicting mass, tyres on stones. It’s impossible to see who wins this war as the security light isn’t on. But it should be on? It’s always on?
I skip from the car like a child of six just glad to be home from another remorseless evening, forget my briefcase, and stub my toe on returning. Scuffing my brand new shoes is a second little annoyance. Damn it’s dark!
I root for my key; it’s buried deep, deep, deep in my pocket next to something else. When I find it, the metal cold to my touch, it’s rendered redundant. The house is unlocked. It’s never unlocked?
The door opens to a whoosh of air as though I’m a sub-mariner decompressing from hours spent under water. There’s a stale smell like a rotting rat lying dead at the side of the road because nobody dares touch it for fear of catching the plague, or getting blood on their brand new shoes. Where is Helen? Where is my wife?
To Be Continued…
She came at me through a smog of cigarette smoke, her hair a sea of pooling ebony, back to the door, sitting cross-legged on a bar stool. Her red dress, crimson like blood, had risen up to expose one virginal white garter — it hinted a subtle lie. She sipped on a bourbon empress of all, the eyes of the whole lousy bar upon her, both sexes, and a few I was unsure of. Decisions, decisions, I pondered, as my heart skipped a beat and lips grew dry.
The old man had one of those weathered faces contoured from a life hard fought and often lost. I caught him out of the corner of my eye sat to one side, unassuming like a garden gnome that had always happened to be there. We locked eyes for a moment, nothing more, but long enough for me to see his pinky finger waggle a warning: don’t do it, son, you’ll end up like me. I turned tail and ran.
He saved me from that liquor-downing siren. He granted me a freedom he’d never attained. And for an instant, I even felt sorry for him as I inhaled a deep breath of backstreet air, but not for long.