Tuesday 9 December 2014

Day 9: How it Begins by Sarah Evans

The bell rings early morning and when I open the door I see the flower. A single rose, a white one. Only for a second do I falter.
I do not scour the surroundings with rabbit-twitching eyes.
I do not go rushing out, engaging in a futile game of seek and hide.
I simply crouch to pick it up before retreating. Door closed, I press my spine against the wall and I tighten every muscle to be strong. Then something entirely different washes over and I start to laugh, swept through by the headiness of relief. It’s happened. The wait is over.
It is day one and I need to plan.

It always starts with flowers, with a colourless, fragrance-free rose. I place it in a large vase; after all, the flower is blameless. Each day I open the door with false verve and a numb sense of inevitability. Each day, the roses accumulate, following the spectrum from pastel-pale pink through to shocking.

On day seven, the rose is dead, its petals brittle and smelling sweetly of decay. But it retains its pigment – carmine – the colour of dried blood.
I do not go to the police, pleading harassment. I do not cower and hide and refuse to answer the door. I do not visit my doctor and ask for pills to dissolve away the fretting and allow sleep.
I have learned by now, none of these things help.
* * *
It is day eight. Returning home, I find a card sitting on my doormat. There is no stamp or postmark. The envelope is white and the handwriting – dearest Liz – is as familiar as my own.

Inside is a Valentine’s card, even though it’s April. An embossed heart springs out from the surface, its texture fuzzy and soft. The printed verse comes with curlicues and florid declarations of devotion. It is headed my darling girl and ends with, all my love, always, your Drusilla.
Each day another card awaits me when I get back from somewhere, a sequence of pink tinted envelopes. The phrasing varies, the exact words, but always expressing the same things. She loves me. She knows that I love her. She dreams of the day we will be together.
Soon, my love, she writes, very soon.
She is full of understanding.
I know why you have done the things you’ve done, she says. I forgive you.
And all the while, I go about my daily purpose, keeping outward appearances normal. I do not look behind me on the street or keep the curtains closed. I do not wear sunglasses, or slink into the shadows.
I start to wind down my life, as unobtrusively as possible. The practicalities have become easier, now I am unencumbered by trappings of permanency.
I give notice on the house and pay off the remaining rent. I reduce possessions down to what I can easily carry. There is no one in particular I need to say farewell to.
This is my life and these are the things I have learned to do.

About the author:
Sarah Evans has had dozens of stories published in magazines, competition anthologies and online, including by: the Bridport Prize, Unthank Books, Bridge House Publishing and Writers’ Forum. Recently her story Acclimatising won the inaugural Winston Fletcher prize. She has also had work performed in Faversham, Hong Kong and New York.

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