Rosewood Drive

3,838 words – approx. 13 minutes

The house at 12 Rosewood Drive had seen better days, but even those had been far from magnificent. ­­Its paint, though, had once been more evenly spread, and the wooden panels the peeling white coats covered had not always seemed to be folding in on themselves. The front yard, too, had once been subject to a measure of control, in contrast to the sprawling, spiked wilderness that now welcomed its few visitors.

It had, once, seemed to shine – with the slick sheen of a realtor’s suit, but shine nonetheless. Now unidentifiable green shoots sprouted between the cracks in its walls, and the second floor front window had been smashed and left unrepaired, the floor of the room it led to sagging into the bathroom below like a spider’s sac. Time and the misfortune of its neighbourhood, one without inhabitants whose money, or regard, or simple stable presence could maintain or improve the property, had taken their toll.

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Hasta la vista

The first time it was almost an accident. We were at dinner, overlooking Trafalgar Square while waiters hurried through too-narrow gaps between chairs like rats through a maze. You took out your wallet to pay, and a £20 note fluttered into my handbag, gaping below the table. I’d have said something but you were trying to speak French, and by the time I remembered you were asleep, naked and snoring. And then I told myself it had been too long, that you wouldn’t believe me.

I planned it next time. You, drunk on red wine and cigars in your lounge; me, slipping my hand into your coat pocket on the way to get another bottle. The time after that, when I went to the cloakroom at some corporate event I’d charged you double for (it was industry awards season; supply and demand, baby). Since then hardly an appointment has gone by without me checking for that tell-tale bulge, or the teasing tops of notes peeking out from their leather holder. I only did it to you; it’s our little secret. Don’t you feel special?

In case you were wondering, I sleep very well. I can justify it in lots of ways: socialist redistribution; objectivist rational self-interest; feminist assault on the impact of structural patriarchy on women’s pay.

But really, I just like the feel of the notes crisp between my fingers, the one-way ticket to Madrid in my pocket, and imagining the look on your face as you read this.

The art of war

We declare war over breakfast.

Hostilities have been building for some time, but today I have carefully positioned the salt shaker by my right elbow. For you to reach over and grab it would be an unprovoked invasion of my personal space, so instead you lower your cutlery.

“Could you pass the salt.”

I continue sawing at the stringy white fat of my bacon. There is a little tarry coffee left in the cafetiere that I bought three years ago, and that you refuse to use because you say it makes the coffee taste metallic.

“Jason. The salt.”

As though I have just woken up I startle, and I look at you with mild surprise. It’s a carefully-constructed look, balancing inquiry and hurt at your tone with just a little too much openness. Neither of us are in any doubt about what it means.

“Mm?” I ask.

“Oh for god’s sake.” Now you do lunge for the salt and pour it furiously over your hash browns. I study you doing this with a furrowed brow, then raise my eyebrows and slightly push out my lips in a quizzical expression. In the public relations battle for our unseen audience I have dealt a significant blow.

Now is the time for a tactical retreat, to thoughtfully give you some space. When you’ve finished your hash browns and the rubbery mass of scrambled eggs I reach a conciliatory hand to take your plate, but you sweep past me to the sink.

I am amiable, nonplussed, and in a strategically advantageous position.

There are no further skirmishes that week. We are biding our time. But on Friday you go to bed early, complaining of a headache, and I make appropriate sympathetic noises while keeping one eye on Jonathan Ross. It isn’t until I hear the rumble of the bin lorry the next morning that I realise, and rush downstairs to haul the bulging bag outside. You couldn’t, of course, have been expected to fulfil your duties with a bad head, so it was me who humiliatingly drag-carried the binbag outside wearing my pyjamas.

Never mind. I’ll not go back to bed now; I’ll drink half a mug of tea, being sure to scatter sugar on the counter by the kettle, and leave the rest on top of the half-empty dishwasher, teabag still in the mug, ready for when you come downstairs.

This is war, after all. And all is fair.

Originally posted on The Pygmy Giant.

The Gentleman’s Rest

1,855 words – approx. 6 minutes

Blood spattered onto the front of Mary’s habit. Splayed on the floor in front of her lay George Evans, his hands curled in a final attempt to grasp the stiletto in his neck.

For several moments Mary stood still, save for the heave and sink of her chest. She was hardly aware of the shoe still poised above her head. Somehow she expected a man as big as George to deflate, but he just leaked.

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