Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Set of Robes

 Theo wakes up to Alice. 


She’s facing him, one arm tucked underneath her pillow and the other hand under her cheek. Her eyes are closed and she’s still breathing rhythmically, deep in the throes of sleep. There are some flecks of dried black mascara dotting her cheeks and the pillow. Theo grins wryly. She’ll hate that when she wakes up.


He shifts, trying to move lightly and without waking her up. Easier said than done, that. He uses his arms to push himself up into a sitting position and then leans back against the headboard. He didn’t go as hard as Alice did last night, but his head is still spinning a little this morning. He sighs. Getting up is the last thing he wants to do right now, but he’s got a schedule to keep. 


God. How he misses the days of getting pissed and just having a good lie-in the next day. He’s at the age where most of his mates complain about kids waking them on the weekends–which honestly sounds worse than having to wake up for his morning routine. At least he doesn’t also have to share the flat with anyone while nursing a hangover. 


Well. 


He shoves his side of the duvet back and tucks the excess snuggly around Alice. Then he uses his hands to move his legs out from underneath the covers and his arms to shift over to the waiting wheelchair. A jolt of pain shoots through his shoulder and he lands in the seat with a plop. 


He looks at Alice again, still soundly sleeping, despite the fact he’s dragging himself rather ungracefully out of bed this morning. A smile creeps over his face. The days of nursing hangovers alone are coming to an end.


It doesn’t take him long in the bathroom. Cath, shave, splash some water on his face, brush his teeth, done. He starts to grab the robe but as he reaches for it he envisions another one, blue and silky and elegant hanging right beside his own threadbare terry cloth one, and it gives him pause. They’ve taken this whole thing at a snail’s pace. It’s been years–a whole lifetime, really, since he got hurt only months after they started dating–but he’s finally ready to see a set of robes hanging in his bathroom, instead of just one.


He leaves the robe behind. 


“Let’s see,” he mutters, wheeling across the flat with smooth, practiced strokes.  He peers into the fridge. Some bananas with spots and a package of bangers nearing expiration. Sheer dumb luck he’s got more than protein powder, a carton of eggs, and coffee, but he’ll take it. Maybe making a good fry-up will make him feel better about how mucked up last night got. 


It was going to be a Big Thing. Perfect. Memorable–and in the best way possible. Dinner at Dishoom, then off to drinks at the pub where they’d first met. But what he’d forgotten is that the pub had closed last year. Some pizza chain had taken over the building. It was garish, red, very bright. Not at all the sentimental vibe he was going for. And with that, the entire night took a different turn. 


He should have done it anyway. But he didn’t. Instead, he suggested they duck into a different place. There they met up with friends. Drank far too much. Stumbled home. And the key and the ring stayed secure in the pocket of his coat. 


He sighs. If he could, he’d give something a swift kick right about now. Probably the fridge or cabinet. Get all of his frustration at his inaction out that way. Instead he just cracks half a dozen eggs into a bowl and whisks them furiously.  


From the bedroom, he hears Alice beginning to stir. Time to get the coffee going. He sets the well-whisked eggs aside and reaches for the pot. It’s gotten pushed too far back on the counter and now he has to contort his arm at an awkward angle to reach it.


“Ach,” he hisses as a pang shoots through his shoulder again, this time worse. It isn’t unusual for his body to hurt–aches and pains come with the territory–but this kind of pain is something different. And in his fucking shoulder, too.  


It all comes back to him as he searches the bathroom for extra-strength ibuprofen. Alice, looking down at him with a sly grin, then falling into his lap. She’d wrapped her arms around his shoulders, demanded to be carried the three blocks back to his flat, and promised quite the reward if he acquiesced. 


And she did deliver. 


“Here’s to more nights like those,” He throws his head back and swallows the pain pills. So last night wasn’t right. Perhaps this morning would be. The key and ring are still in his coat pocket. But not for long. He pauses in the doorway of the bathroom, smiling as he watches Alice sleep. “And more mornings like these.” 





Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Boy in the Garden — I

 THE BOY IN THE GARDEN


CHAPTER I.


I was seven when I was taken to Misselthwaite. As the car neared the castle through the gravel path between the tall, dry from winter trees, I’d been impressed, overwhelmed by the sight that looked so much like the beautifully illustrated books mother would read me not so long before she died, in worlds of princesses and dragons, and I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. A first impression, because then, after being dropped off with a single bag and a doll tightly pressed against my side, I thought it looked somehow cold, bare, with vines growing on the stone walls outside, uncared and untamed, just like I would be in the years I spent there.