Monday, August 20, 2007

Story: Dear Sammie

She sat in the bedroom and read his letter. Or rather, she stared at it: stroking the vellum with her forefinger as she tried to focus on the words. She knew what it said, but she wanted the words and sentences to confirm the message, to set out the terms of his departure, the conditions to be met over the next few weeks and months – but each time she started to read her eyes tripped on the first line of his over-round, carefully drawn out handwriting. Sorry. Must. Go.

I don't know what to do. Scream? Is that what you want me to do, Bill? Shall I scream until my lungs are empty of life? What are these words you're screaming at me? Why didn't I see you screaming?

Shame, shame, shame. What to do? I need to do – something. Clean this room up; it's a fucking mess. Our mess, Bill. Your smells and my clutter. Yes, clean house. Clean you out. You want me to make a new start; well you tell me where to start. Where's the fucking instructions, Bill? They're not in your letter. You forgot to include the instructions, you stupid, stupid man.

She breathed out heavily, lifted her eyes from the paper and focussed on window. The muscles clenched around her shoulders bound her to the chair; she wanted to throw things, clear the dresser of its mess in one straight sweep of madness. She wanted to scream, but her lungs weren't responding to commands. She needed a mad rage like she craved for caffeine, but her body denied her such pleasures.

You always leave instructions. This isn't your letter, is it, Bill. Someone told you what to write, what words to put in, what words to keep out. You like instructions. Who helped you write this letter? Who gave you the paper – nice paper, too. Who gave you the idea that buggering off like this would sort things out?

Shit, shit, shit. Sun's glaring on Mary's window across the street straight into here. Shrivel me up like an ant, like that poor ant you burned for Barney with the magnifying glass – come here, son: this is what we do to ants who don't follow instructions. Burn them. Burn them with light and letters. Shall I scream as you burn me, Bill? Is that what you want me to do?

Beyond the closed door, Charlotte watched her mother through the keyhole, like a spy. She knew something was wrong from the moment she had handed over the letter, but what? Dad had said that Mum might not be happy for a few days, and to take special care of her – clearing up toys without being asked, making sure her brother was quieter than normal. He told her not to worry, that Mum would cope – she was a 'coper', was Sammie. Apparently, Charlotte thought, being a coper meant shutting yourself in bedrooms for five hours in the middle of the day.

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