In the lights outside the bar she looked softer, prettier. In broad daylight she had an anaemic complexion and hard angular features, but outside in the metallic evening air, under those lights, she looked different. Softer somehow. She would grab your hand and run with you. Head back, laughing. You tasted blood in your mouth when she kissed you.
Somehow, she moved in, to the paint-clean box whose carpets you’d wallowed in on that first day. Whose balcony smiled down on the gleaming river. But you didn’t mind so much. She would lounge on the balcony smoking long thin cigarettes, her hair catching the evening sun. And she’d laugh at your jokes. And she had nowhere else to go, she said.
At parties, she’d pose in the corner like an angle-poise lamp. Never properly listening. This began to irritate you, and you started dropping hints that maybe she should think about moving out, and maybe you both should think about moving on. She’d say nothing. Squared-jawed and smiling.
One day you return from work to find her sitting, wrapped in a blanket, on the sofa. She has her back to you; silvery hair curtains her face. As you walk over you realise that she is holding something in her arms, cradling it. You peer over her shoulder, and she smiles up at you, her pallid face flushed, her eyes dancing. The bundle in her arms stirs, and in a dark, plummeting moment you realise that she holds a living thing. Someone else is here. To your horror, she beckons for you to sit next to her on the couch. She looks different somehow; the pointy features seem to have rounded, softened. This is no longer a trick of the light. She rocks her bundle to and fro, murmuring and cooing – softly and privately.
She tucks the blanket tightly around it in preparation. You still cannot see its face. Your skin creeps and crawls. In a dulcet voice, like waves kissing the moonlit shore, she invites you to hold out your arms. Your arms are made of lead, and are bound, by ropes, to your sides. She asks again, more softly, coaxing your limbs upwards.
Originally published on 25th August 2014 here