Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and thirty-fifth piece in this series. This week’s is a 500-worder by Paula Acton. This story will be podcasted in episode 41 (with three other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 29th June.
She stood in the centre of the room. Devoid of furniture, it seemed cavernous, a stark contrast against the constriction of her stomach as reality set in.
The past few weeks had passed in a whirlwind. No, that wasn’t right; it had been a tornado, destructive, terrifying. It had left her stranded in a desolate no man’s land.
Three months before, she’d been blissfully unaware of what lay ahead, leafing through holiday brochures, debating the perfect location for the break they both needed. Their careers were taking off, long hours spent at the office leading to quality time rather than quantity, or so she’d believed.
When they’d met, he already owned the house so it made sense she give up her rented flat and move in. She’d redecorated, showing off his antique furniture; she’d fresh air to the place. When had it began to stagnate, she wondered? After a year, when he put a ring on her finger but refused to set a date? When he began taking business trips that her career prevented her from joining him on? Then the call.
Five years destroyed in less than five minutes. He’d been too cowardly to even face her as he ripped her world to pieces. He’d met someone… he was in love… moving in… selling the house… furniture in storage… the fragments of the conversation punctured the disbelief she felt. He was sorry of course, but she surely understood; they had drifted apart, no point in dragging it out. Then the second bombshell: he wanted her out in a month. She’d snapped at that point, launching her own tirade of his failures. She would go once she could afford to, she needed time to gather money. He owed it to her to give her time unless he was prepared to pay compensation. That had silenced him, and the phone had gone dead.
She couldn’t believe his naivety; that she’d go meekly, accepting his decision. She placed the envelope on the mantle, where they had once been immortalised, smiling at sunset on a far-flung beach. She took the knife from her bag and took off her jacket. She threw it where the chair had stood and watched as the jacket fell in a heap on the floor.
She had researched, prepared, after the first cut, she sat on the floor before making the second. As she made it, she fell back into the pose she’d calculated she would land in. As the blood flowed, she felt a strange peace, and the cold – she had read about that but not expected it to be so tangible. Her last thought, as a smile formed on her lips, was that he would have to live with this and it would destroy him.
It didn’t take long before she was truly empty, the crimson life-force spread around her, sinking into the floorboards she had so lovingly hand-sanded and varnished.
The house gave a sigh; she was home and it would never be completely empty again.
I asked Paula what prompted this piece and she said…
Last year my long-term partner and I separated and although in our case we remained friends and have since reconciled, I found that I began to become more interested in relationships between the living. This may sound a strange statement but as over the last couple of years most of my time has been spent writing ghost stories it was a departure for me. I work in retail so frequently overhear fragments of other people’s lives and one of the most emotive subjects is of course that of break ups. The story was not inspired by any one conversation but several where the theme seemed to be the way one partner found it much easier than the other to move on and a comment made by one person I overheard about some people forever remaining stuck in a single moment. When I started writing I had no idea how the story would end, my stories frequently come to me like that, it can almost be as if I am sat having a coffee with a character as they relate their story to me, which can be fun but also makes you sound slightly mad when you try to explain it to non writers.
Thank you, Paula. I loved it. Very dark, just how I write.
Paula Acton currently resides in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, with her son and a menagerie of demanding pets while awaiting her daughter’s University results. After a lifetime of procrastination she final decided to listen to the voices in her head and start writing at the age of forty. Her first book a collection of ghost stories entitled Voices Across the Void will be self published this summer. Paula can be found at:
- Blog: http://paulaacton.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Paula.Acton.Author
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paula_Acton
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