That Time of Year, and What it Elicits

Well, it’s TDF! Which means I don’t sleep, forget to eat at the normal times, stay up all night to watch the lycra legs and mountains and pretty landscapes – the Tour de France!

So, in a nutshell, what you get is what there already is – a third scene from the WIP (the Ghost one without a title).

Scene 5

If there was ever going to be a woman stamped with the word ‘sexy’ it was this one. She was beautiful. Auburn hair that fell halfway down her back, a svelte figure that clothes clung to as if their life depended on her, and a sultry lilt to her voice that would have dragged the males in from all directions. In the city.

“I’m absolutely sure he didn’t introduce himself properly,” she purred. “I’m Sylvina Harrihan – call me Sylv – and this is my husband, Robert – but everyone calls him Bud. Don’t know why.” Her fingers danced in the air in front of Anna’s hand, but didn’t touch.

“I’ll go get it happening. You two get to know each other, and I’ll be right back.” Bud disappeared, followed by clanks and clatters and a loud and slightly out of tune whistle.

The front room was warm and bright, even lit only by the fire and candles. Dark hollows muffled and softened the corners and edges, but Sylv had a shine all of her own. Her conversations were intellectual, and concentrated on world issues. Except when it came to hairdressers, masseurs, the things women always wanted to help them look beautiful.

“Why don’t you move to a town?” Anna asked, after Sylv had complained for the third time about the lack of facilities.

“Oh, no, my dear. This is my home. This is where my Bud lives. This is where we met and where we’ll die. It’s home. I love my home.” Her hands flourished to show the room with damask curtains in shades of silver and dusky pink. The complementary colours in the big, soft chairs glowed with warmth from the open fire and the row of candles on the mantle. “This is my home.” The arm dropped.

A chill ran down Anna’s back. Hackles of hair rose to attention on her neck and scalp. Had she imagined a purple tinge to Sylv’s skin? Was that eczema? The scaly, upraised section showed when the sleeve of silk slid up. It was ugly, red and inflamed, and at the same time grey and old. A scar? No, not a scar. It looked like dead skin. Really dead. Like the bodies in the morgue dead. The same colour, the same flaccidity, the same sense.

Anna sniffed. She looked up into Sylve’s eyes. The bright blue had changed to a black glare. Sylv’s eyes glanced at the offending arm, and slid a hand over the pleats in the sleeve. A dark shadow seeped into the air as Sylv stepped up close to Anna.

“We don’t speak of our problems, my dear. We deal with them. In our own way. In our own time.”

The door swished open and Bud waltzed in with the tray. He chatted about the food, the butter beans he’d grown himself, the tiny pea-sized aubergines, the crispy potatoes.

“She doesn’t need a rundown of your farming skills, dear – do you, young lady?” Sylv leaned over the tray he’d placed on the table. “Is there any meat?”

When Bud shook his head, the lines on Sylv’s face deepened, darkened. She turned and stomped out through the swing door towards the kitchen. Bud seemed to ignore her.

“Come and sit, Anna. We’ll get started; we’ll get the best bits. She’ll be sorry when she comes back.” He looked up as Anna came to the table. “She always does that. Doesn’t mean anything. She just doesn’t like to eat in front of people. A thing about her teeth. Something. Doesn’t matter. Let’s just eat, shall we?”

The chat was impersonal. No questions about her past life or where she’d come from. A general outline of the history of the town. Why the trains didn’t run anymore – nothing left to mine, apparently. Nothing about Bud and Sylv. Nothing about people who lived in the region now.

“What were you saying about ghosts on this side of the tracks?” Anna asked.

“Oh, well, maybe this isn’t the time to be speaking of ghosts,” Bud said. “You still have to sleep in the haunted house tonight. Can’t go and give you nightmares, can we?”

“Did I offend Sylv?” Anna asked as she stared at Bud with direct eye contact. What is going on here?

“No. It’s like I said. She’s a bit touchy about what people see. Doesn’t like to looked at.” He shovelled food into his mouth. “Got funny teeth,” he said around the mess in his mouth.

Anna picked at the food. Wondered. What had she seen? Was it scarring? Was it a skin disease? In her gut she knew it wasn’t, but she didn’t want to consider the other options. Whatever it was, it was none of Anna’s business. And nor was Bud. Not this time.

Tomorrow, she’d find someone else to help her with the renovations.

Copyright Rose Brimson & Cage Dunn 2017

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