Thursday, June 12, 2014

Grazia First Chapter Competition 2014 Entry

I didn't have any luck with this entry, but I quite liked the piece, and thought it was high time that I had some work displayed on Black Words Blue Verbs.  So here it is. :) 

We lay calm in our beds that night. Even the baby, for once, slept soundly; even the dog, out in its kennel. And perhaps that was the odd thing, after all: how trustingly we slumbered.  As if fate had gifted us a few last wholly innocent hours, before innocence fell away for ever. For when I woke, in the early morning – what was it? A difference in the quality of the light? Some new texture to the silence? But I opened my eyes, and I knew it. Something had changed. Something was wrong.

I rolled over slowly, and found myself in the cool stretch of Tom’s side of the bed.  A soft sniff, and I caught the familiar scent of his cologne, some wonderful fragrance that reminded me of vanilla and secret kisses.  I rubbed my face against the white sheets before the thought rolled through my mind, sharp and succinct: He’s still not back.

My eyes focused on the clock on the bedside table, following the minute hand’s progress as if entranced.  It was twelve minutes past seven.

After three days of my husband’s absence, I was starting to feel the final peaks of exasperation.  His precarious vocation as an antiques dealer spirited him away every few days.  We communicated through emails, and our two boys made do with Sunday afternoon football games.  Every few weeks he’d bring home some new ‘find’, which would often be some archaic relic that diminished our modest décor.  My appreciation of antiques was generally exiguous; Tom would chirp on about a stunning albarello that he just had to acquire, or a rare escritoire he’d found whilst visiting Corse.  Meanwhile I’d balance our eight-month daughter on my lap, and ask him if he could fetch the nappy bag as she yanked at my split ends.

Emma’s so quiet... she usually wants her morning feed-

I sat up abruptly.  She’s probably been crying and I’ve slept right through...

I slipped out of our bedroom and thundered down the hallway, my dressing gown billowing behind me like a sail.   I swept into Emma’s room and looked into her cot.  Her baby blanket was bundled in the corner, the sheets pulled taut across her tiny mattress.  Occasionally I’d find her curled up in the corner, her brown curls peeking out of her white beddings.

The cot was empty.

I stared at it mute, my eyes marching across the room.  Her toys were still in their box.  The window was closed, the curtain still drawn.

And Emma was gone.

I spun like a dervish, out of Emma’s room, down the flight of stairs, and almost fell onto the first floor landing.


The door to their room stood ajar, wide like a toothless grin.  The curtains were also still drawn, and the morning light peered into the darkness like an angry eye.  Both twin beds were made, sheets and covers strained tight.  Their beds usually told the story of the previous night’s turmoil- the mattresses’ creaking complaints, their fussy adolescent slumber.  The room was cold and empty. My hands snaked up to my neck, nails clawing.

Something in me was starting to hammer; something in me was shutting down.  The house was so silent, and yet outside the world continued without fault.  I could hear our next-door neighbour, an elderly gentlemen named Michael mowing his front lawn.  He knew how often Tom was away from home, and liked to help out from time to time.  He’d even babysat the boys for us a few times although this was long before Emma was born.  For a moment I considered that the boys were with him, and had taken Emma. 

I turned tail, inspired, already relieved, purposefully ignoring the voice that questioned why the children would have made their beds and taken their baby sister downstairs, let alone out of the house.  I was about to descend the last flight of stairs when I noticed my reflection in the mirror at the end of the hallway. 

Tom had brought it home three days ago.  An ‘amazing find’ from a Hungarian dealer he had met in Normandy.  It sat at the far end of the first landing, a six-foot monstrosity of iron and glass. 

As I regarded my reflection, my panic was temporarily diverted.  For a moment I fancied that the mirror was furtively observing me.  I knew it hadn’t been to my taste the moment Tom had wedged it through the front door.  Its gilded edge gleamed in the dark, and the decorative curlicues at its base almost imitated feet.  Last night I had been convinced that it was squatting at the end of my hallway, its oversized mass engulfing the comfortable beige tones of our interior.  I knew it was impossible, but the silver façade seemed to cloud and shift, as if it were ruminating. 

I grimaced, sheepishly at my reflection, and glanced down the stairs.

“Boys?” the sound of my terrified voice alarmed me; I sounded as if I were drowning.  My eyes kept flickering back to the mirror, as if we were engaged in a standoff. 

The sound of the lawnmower suddenly cut off, and I was reminded of our neighbour Michael, and I immediately made for the last flight of stairs. 

They’re with Michael.  I thought desperately as I moved through the kitchen, the living room, peeking into the downstairs bathroom.  They’re not in the house, because they’re next door...with Michael.

I ran for the front door, and as I attempted to open it, realised the internal latch was still fastened. 

The choked sob in my throat wouldn’t come.

“Emma?!  BOYS?!”  

Frantic paranoia began to riddle my thoughts, as I pictured the tabloid words: Abducted. Kidnapped.  Missing.

A distinct noise rose through the house.  I turned slowly, the balls of my feet pushing against the wooden floorboards.  It was a baby’s cry. 

The sound was coming from upstairs.   It was coming from the landing.

I moved as if possessed, barely breathing. In my mind’s eye I saw the mirror’s iron feet flex mechanically. 
The crying got louder. With it came a banging, and I realised it was the blood roaring through my ears. I reached the final step of the landing and turned violently.  The crying stopped suddenly, and I was greeted with my own reflection. 

The mirror had never seemed so beastly; it dominated the end of my hallway, almost inviting me with an unwavering eye.  I decided I had lost any vestige of sanity, because now, I was certain.

The crying had come from the mirror.  


No comments

Post a Comment

Blogger Template Created by pipdig