I would like to share an old story with you for Book Tuesday. This three part drama was written last year and might have seen the light of day – I can’t remember to be honest! So, I’m dusting it off and adding it to the Tuesday menu. Hope you enjoy the series over the next couple of weeks.
A lonely bus splashed through a big puddle on the side of the deserted road and came to a slow stop. The lonely figure of a woman jumped out, avoiding the puddle between the pavement and the bus. Rain trickled down the back of her neck and she fumbled with a tiny umbrella, clicking it open as a mild protection against the dreary weather.
As the bus drove off, she crossed the black tarmac, flicking her head left and right to check for approaching cars. The buildings across from her were grey and uninviting, yet that was the direction she headed. Her footsteps slip slapped against the wet pavement and she shuddered as she looked up towards the third floor of the tallest building. It seemed to loom towards her, the foreboding façade of grey brick and dark, soulless windows staring back. With a big sigh, she pushed her reluctant body forward.
The foyer to Staines Court was dim and cold. The wind drew in from a broken window and a yellow stained bare light bulb flickered above her head. The lift button was caked in filth, forcing her to scrunch up her once pretty little nose. She pulled her long lacy sleeve over her fingers and pressed the offensive button, watching the lift numbers slowly descend to the ground floor. The dark brown doors opened and revealed a silver interior that looked like an ice box. She stepped in, glancing over her shoulder to make sure no-one was following her. The numbers ascended, pinging as third floor came into view.
She shuffled out onto the lonely corridor, listening to the muffled voices hidden behind brightly coloured doors. Avoiding parked bicycles and ride on toys, she made it to her destination, Flat No. 31. Her thin wrist clicked as she wrapped on the door. Her head turned to one side, listening for any sound from within. The dark blue door stared back at her, waiting. She sighed and knocked again, harder this time. Her thin lips turned down, pulling the skin over high cheek bones and making her look twice her age. Cold blue eyes watched the little keyhole for passing shadows, anything to show the occupant was there. Just as her shoulders slumped forward in resignation, a voice called out.
“You’ve come back” it muffled, croaking through the cracks.
“I always do,” she replied.
The latch clicked and the door slowly opened. A warm smell of musk hit her and she stepped into it, her body enthusiastic to leave the cold behind. The dark blue door shut behind her with a click, any memory of her being there forgotten in the silence.
The foul stench of mould led her through to the open lounge/dining area. Heavy brocade curtains kept the dull day out and in the semi-darkness, she made her way through to the kitchen. An old kettle stood on the hot plate stove, and after filling it halfway, she turned the hot plate on. Shuffling feet followed her progress around the small kitchen, moving a tango as her body side stepped to the cupboards, looking for the instant soup sachets.
“Whatcha making today?” the croaky voice asked.
“Soup and toast for a rainy day,” was her pleasant sing-song reply. Her face was pretty again, young and vibrant. She smiled at the odd shape mimicking her and took a moment to touch it gently.
It cowered back, as though expecting a ruthless blow instead of the gentle touch. Her face showed compassion as she removed her hand. It took time to build trust.
“Soup is ready.”
She pulled out a tray from under the sink and placed the mug of hot soup and little triangles of toast onto it. The body behind her scuttled past to the dining area and eagerly sat down at the table. As soon as the tray was laid in front, the slurping sounds of hunger filled the flat. She pulled the cushions on the sofa and fluffed them up, dusting off the dirty rags left there. The small coffee table was cleared of cups and plates. Before the last dregs of soup were finished, a clean smell permeated through the fog of musk and mould, fighting it back into the brown wallpapered walls.
“Good! You ate it all today. Would you like some more?”
She lifted the tray and went back to the kitchen, refreshing the mug and plate with soup and toast. The hunched body waited patiently at the table, a little burp of satisfaction escaping it. Once the tray was put in front of it, the slurping began again. She thought of tackling the bedroom but knew better. There were things in there better left untouched.
“Martha?” Croaky called from behind her.
“Huh? Yes Gerald?” she responded, immediately turning to pick up the empty tray.
“Will you come again tomorrow Martha? I…you…the soup was nice!” he croaked.
“I’ll come tomorrow then,” she smiled.
The shape huddled towards her. A gnarled hand reached out from under the mess of blanket and clothing stacked on the bent shape. It touched her cheek and traced the flush that appeared under the pale skin.
“You remind me of her, you know,” Gerald said.
She released the breath she had been holding. The hand touching her was cold and rough against her smooth skin. Dirty nails that had turned black over time were tinged with a ugly yellowing rim and she could smell them on her skin.
“Th…thank you Gerald,” she whispered.
Afraid to offend the odd shape in front of her, she stood still, waiting for him to move away first. Beady eyes watched her reaction from under the hoodie and seemed to understand. The hand retracted fully and the body shuffled away towards the front door. She followed, mesmerised.
“Come back tomorrow Martha,” pleaded Gerald.
“Yes, yes of course I will,” shaking herself, she opened the door and walked out. “Till tomorrow then…” The door slammed shut in her face.