Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Weekend: Chapter 4

                                    A Dish Best Served Cold

She had been awaiting the dawn light with anxious trepidation. The night had seemed never-ending, with sleep hard to come by and the butterflies remaining ever-present, a constant, nervy reminder of impending events. This day had been a long time coming and now here, Alicia's mind raced, uneasily flicking through the multitude of outcomes that lay ahead. Today, lives would be torn apart and new rules would soon apply: her rules.

Although the bolthole was generous in its opulence, the low Moroccan bed was not to her liking and it hadn’t helped her settle, in fact the gravity of the situation was shredding her nerves. Lying there, she cast her mind back, something that she did often. Her thoughts always gravitated to that sunny October morning last year, the images seared into her mind. Even now, she felt physically sick, remembering what she had seen. Everything had changed in that instant.

5 months pregnant with Archie, she felt that a rare opportunity to grab some free time to herself was too good to refuse, so decided to go to swimming early, the pool being only a leisurely 20 min walk away. Debs was always saying how lovely it was there, Rob was lying in after the long drive down the night before, so why not? It was Debs' birthday today too, so sleeping in before a heavy night was a good idea in Alicia's book, although her bump was proudly preventing her from indulging.

She had been there only a matter of minutes and had not even finished changing when the shrill tone of the fire alarm rang out. Muttering her disapproval, she grabbed her bag; stuffing her top, towel and purse inside, before making her way towards the corridor. A kindly, silver-haired man accompanied her towards the front fire exit, then outside.

"Annoying, aren't they, the alarms I mean?” the man said.

"Yes, very much so", Alicia replied, easing herself down on the low brick wall opposite the gym entrance.

Their conversation died away as she spotted a wispy grey haze escaping from what looked like an air vent on the roof, along with bustling activity by the entrance desk.

"There's smoke, up there...see?” she exclaimed to the benevolent stranger, pointing to the drifting fumes.

"Yes and none without fire. I'm not waiting around, are you local? I don't mind giving you a lift home, if you'd like?” he replied.

It was clear that the building would be closed for some time and the thought of two wasted walking trips didn't appeal to her.

"Thank you for the offer, that's very kind", Alicia replied, feeling slightly guilty, as the sun was threatening to burn through the early morning mist, perfect conditions for a stroll.

He dropped her outside Jack and Debs' house, where she thanked him for his assistance. She had found out en route that Derek was a widower, lived just 3 streets away and enjoyed playing badminton on Fridays. Walking up the driveway, she harboured thoughts of sliding back under the duvet but it was probably too late, Rob was no doubt up and about by now.

Entering through the back door, her "Hi, it's only me", met with no response. She walked through the reception room, down the wide hallway towards the stairs, calling once more, this time, slightly louder, again no reply. Shrugging her shoulders, she guessed that Rob had gone for his morning run and that Debs was out, perhaps shopping, as was her wont, spending Jack's gains...ill-gotten though they were, something that she was unaware of that bright morning. She stopped, hearing a muffled knocking noise. Listening closer, she heard the unusual sound again. She didn't recognise it but followed its dull, persistent beat, perturbed by the increase in volume as she approached the kitchen door.

It was the painted toes she noticed first, as she tentatively looked around the slightly ajar door, followed by the slim, toned leg, crooked and wrapped around a familiar stocky, masculine, naked frame. Frozen in horror, she watched spellbound as her sister’s clenched fists gripped the cupboard handles directly above, head thrown back, bare breasts shaking as he took her, frantically, there on the worktop, her guttural yearnings clearly spurring him on. She watched for what seemed like hours but was barely a few seconds in this disjointed reality, before recoiling in silent revulsion. Turning and fleeing, not closing the back door behind herself, she sprinted towards the road, hurtling for the sanctuary of South London normality, the images scalded in her vision.

Alicia didn't stop running until the final lamppost, where the road tailed off towards the common. Doubled over, hands over her face, her stomach retched and she didn’t hear the car pull up beside her, or the deep voice from inside.

”Alicia?…Alicia, are you ok?, It’s me, Jack.”

© Nigel Pamenter 2012

The right of Nigel Pamenter to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.