Friday, March 1

Very Early Sketch Of A New Story (Continuation of previously posted story)

DAVID CLIMBED THE stairs and, pausing, listened for the sound of her. He thought that she might be emitting gentle sobbing sounds that could be heard down the hall. He could not be certain he heard anything. He went to the room and opened the door. The lights were off but in the darkness he could see that she was on top of the quilt, outstretched, straight, still dressed in her evening gown. He walked round to the other side of the bed and sat next to her, carefully, so as not to disturb anything.
He could hear her sniffing.
The scent of her perfume was around him, settling in the air. His hand on her bare shoulder felt the warm edges of bone underneath, shifting slightly. The curtains were drawn. His hand was only on her shoulder so very softly.
When everything had slowed down there were hot plumes reverberating off the pillow brushing over his wrist. He asked – ‘Are you okay?’
She made a sound. David knew that she wasn’t okay. Although he didn’t need to say so, – ‘They’ve gone. They left. Elaine says she’s very sorry, Madeline, she really is.’ Throughout their marriage he had not once abbreviated her name. He thought that doing so would border on blasphemy. She, in return, noticed that he had never abbreviated her name.
Madeline had needed something to snap; she saw it coming for some time; the sadness building. Her old friend Elaine and her husband Robert had come over for dinner. It had been an evening of drink and fine food, with expensive chocolates, expensive wine leading to cheap wine to whatever they could find, music that didn’t interrupt chatter, stories and memories, candles burning on, burning out and being replaced, much laughter and Madeline looking over it all, feeling uneasy. What she had expected to calm her did not, so she just drank, listened and did her best to smile. During her friendship with Elaine she had witnessed her friend sour, but her husband and Elaine’s remained very good friends so, by default, she still kept in touch. She could do without it and no longer cared for Elaine. At the end of the evening Madeline’s friend gave a big laugh and rocked a decanter full of whiskey. The decanter was an antique, something Madeline was proud of. It rocked for a short moment, then fell and smashed. The cut glass gave birth to thousands of tiny flecks of light. The whiskey rejoiced and ran all over the floor.
That was when Madeline broke.
‘At least the smash didn’t wake the children up,’ said David. She was fond of him, she put her hand on to his, David’s hand that was on her shoulder. Like a hallucination, his silhouette could barely be made out against the cool light from the summer window. She sighed and gave a mighty sniff to clear her nose. He laughed at her clearing his nose. She smiled, wondering if his eyes were good enough to see her smile.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong.’
‘That’s okay, I think. Sometimes you don’t know what’s wrong, you just know that it is.’
‘And what makes it worse is I don’t even care if I upset Elaine.’
He squeezed his hand on her flesh, echoing a squeeze in her fingers over his.
‘I don’t like being like this, especially in summer, with the kids off.’
There were still dirty dishes and glasses in the kitchen, waiting to be washed. The table had not been cleaned. In the morning the downstairs would smell exactly as it had that evening, the new day not forgiving any freshness. The music switched off, the guests taken leave; Madeline relished in the silence of the house. The silk gown on her body – though no longer freshly dry-cleaned – felt very good. She wiggled herself in it. She giggled and sobbed. She felt a little foolish. She sat up, and the silk and her hot skin caught the small fractions of light from the hallway.
‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’
Erect in the bed, her heels still on her feet, she considered – ‘Let’s go to the beach.’
‘The beach?’
‘Yeah, the beach. What’s wrong with the beach?’
‘Nothing.’
‘No, let’s go to the beach. We’ll take the kids and just sit on the sand and look at the sea.’
‘And get ice cream.’
‘And get ice cream.’
In the morning the eager sun broke in through the thin curtains. The windows, open all night, had allowed a breeze to fill the room. Madeline thought of the night before, then dismissed it from her mind. Warm, she lifted the sheets off her and lay there, waiting for David to finish in the shower. Sam and Gemma were arguing downstairs. Mark was, no doubt, tucking into the leftovers as they lay, staling, in the hot kitchen. In the morning the sun heaved itself on to the conservatory and the whole place turned into an oven unless the back door was opened. She imagined walking through the hot kitchen to open the back door. David’s water stopped splashing and two minutes later he was in front of her, naked, slim, flowered in black hairs changing their minds into grey – ‘You still wanna go to the beach?’
‘Yes, of course.’ The sand tunneling between her toes; the sea writing a blue book without a last page. ‘ It’s a good enough day for it.’
‘It really is. You looked out? … Not a cloud in the sky.’
‘Good,’ she rolled over and sighed under the weight of her spine. David admired her at that moment, separate from all other moments he had admired her.
Sam and Gemma had stopped arguing, though Mark was probably still deavouring the leftovers. One ear tuned to the down of the pillow, the other to the sounds of her family.

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