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She stood in the shaft of light that fell through the window and across the dining room. In her hand she held a duster, softly, as though it might fall any second from her fingers. The fingers of her other hand flexed open into the sunlight.

She had been dusting through the motions of a new cleaning regime: a new house to find the corners of, a new order of old possessions to lift and wipe beneath. Standing in the sunlight she mapped her route: she circled each room in her head, considered each shelf  in order. Mentally she moved across the rows of books and rows of books, each title disappearing and reappearing as her hand passed over it.

Then there was the kitchen and the bathroom but these were hard because the surfaces seemed to hold tight to old grime and she could never seen to scrape away – not as much as she wanted to – so she would leave them ’til last and, armed with sprays and scourers, try once again to find the clean underneath.

Next to her was a chimney breast that had been bricked and sealed. The cat, which had found its way into the house when they moved in, liked to sit there and rarely left. It shifted its position on the pile of papers it had found, stretched a paw out into the light and eyed the woman.

Move, Cat. She demanded. Move. I’m cleaning. And she brushed the cat away with a flick of her duster. She lifted the pile of papers and placed it behind her on the table before getting down to wipe around the alcove where the cat had been lying. When she had finished she reached around up to grab the papers. It was a pile of stories he had been writing. These ones had been to his class to be examined by his peers. She saw a title: ‘The end of something’ and rubbed her thumb across it. The end of something.

You shouldn’t read something someone has written without being invited to read it. You shouldn’t read it, not really, even if you know it’s probably about you. But these stories had already been read; other people had been invited to read them and she lifted the page. The story was of a relationship fractured and crumbling. It was her’s; the end of the story she shared with the man who lived in the house but wasn’t there because they weren’t talking so much anymore. And it was in a pile of many: the same story written over and over, each clipped with a staple and marked with a different person’s handwriting. Each noted, each unpicked by someone in his writing class whom she had never met.

Things were very bad in the house. When they were there, the man and the woman rattled about the empty rooms hopelessly and it was no longer worth pretending; no longer worth cleaning. She stood and then sat down heavily at the table, picked up each copy of her story, read each person’s marks and scratches over all of the words he had written. And could it be that she was relieved that things might have to change now; that finally they could come up for air? She felt each note and each scratch in her belly and each one released her further away.

Abruptly she stood up, the duster which was in her lap fell to the floor. She walked upstairs, sat on his side of the bed and picked up his notebook. This notebook, always there, where he penned his thoughts as he read stories; or scribbled notes half way through conversations; or marked as she fell asleep, were private. She turned the book over. And over again. She slid her finger underneath the elastic which kept it closed and pulled it back. Flicked the pages. Paused. And then snapped it shut. Closed it. Put it back and returned downstairs.

She considered walking out. Thought about scrawling a note across a copy of the story. She would accuse him of giving up their story, and how he felt about it, not to her but to a room full of strangers. She would accuse him of doing so before it had ended; he wrote the end: made it end by writing it. She bent down and retched. Empty retches because there was nothing inside her. And then she found her bag and removed a small wrap from her purse.

She knelt by the toilet. Crying and breathing in and retching. And then she stopped, her heart racing but her body still and the quiet curled in around her. It’s the easiest way not to think. At least, at least he had been thinking about it. She moved to lie down, head against the ceramic.

When she heard the door she stood up, walked to meet him. She felt her heart beat hard inside her and they walked passed each other, murmured empty greetings and, pretended not to notice absent kisses that neither wanted to give or receive. She began to clean again.


Written by elikafm

February 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Funny, I watched Stranger Than Fiction last night. Not such an amazing film, but I was taken with the idea of the writer controlling a real protagonist and potentially ending his life by writing it.


    February 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm

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