A wintry gush of air stole at the stillness of the stretching street, not disturbing the subtlety of the white sight that lay spread amongst her. The chilly calls of December’s weather crept up her calves as if to deter her from her motive, but she responded by lightly tugging the hem of her crimson piece, smoothing the fur of her own snowy jacket, and rubbing the tip of her nose – an irritating habit of hers. She was nervous. Ready. It was time.
Scrutinising the wrought iron gate that stood before her (in search of the sensor), ‘The Moore’s’ written in gold cursive lettering upon a black slab glistened in her peripheral, and she soon felt her blood begin to heat. Her freshly manicured nails dug around her jacket-pocket before she retrieved a small card, and waved it in front of the red detector.
The slow opening of the gates, before they rested upon either side of the brick wall, welcomed her inside of the manor and with the sudden sharp click of her stiletto heels, she felt herself gravitating towards the meandering steps.
With each small step that she took, memories of the past seven years struck her like a blizzard but they were quickly snatched and substituted for visions that only set her suspicions alight. Her heart was exhausted yet her adrenal continued to secrete the fuel to her own fire. There was no number in the world that she could count to as a way of putting out the flames that had erupted long before. Time was longer than rope. But time was ticking.
Foot on the last step, her hooded liquorice windows fixated on the manor’s very own and watched a woman and a small boy twirling about a tree that towered them both. A string of flickering lights encircled its green body and shone in their gleeful, merry faces. Her lips almost turned up into a smile, almost – but she saw it. She saw him. She saw him saunter into the living-room with that silly grin plastered to his face, one that she once loved but now only triggered a wave of nausea to rush over her.
Blinking several times, she soon realised the salty wetness that slid down her high cheeks. She sniffled, rubbing the tip of her nose, and strode past the front door – opting for the back of the manor instead. She wiped her soles on the doormat frenetically and ignored the specks of snow that splashed her ankle in the process. She paused. The door was slightly ajar. Too easy.
The strut from the back yard to the entrance of the kitchen seemed to go on forever. The wideness of the room swallowed her entirely, making her presence microscopic in comparison to the large, flashy appliances that surrounded her. Pots and pans that hung on a rack above the island furrowed their eyes at her, threatening to clash with one another to warn their owners of her intrusion, but her demeanour gave an apathetic sigh.
On her tip-toes, her hands reached up for the glass cabinet doors and took out the largest wine glass that she could find. Flat on the floor now, her feet shuffled along until she found the cabinet containing alcoholic beverages. She took the most expensive bottle amongst the array and tilted it into the – CRASH.
The glass fell.
The silence was almost deafening and bounced off each wall of the manor. She leaned forward and with her ears scanned for the slightest acknowledgment of her carelessness, but she soon heard the seasonal tunes and laughter from the other room once again. Picking up the bottle and extending her leg over the fragments, she scoffed and sashayed up the carpeted staircase in the hallway.
Family portraits hung on the wall beside her, but she made sure not to observe them too much. She didn’t come to get side-tracked. She’d come for one thing, and one thing only. Him.
The door of the first room that she saw was slightly open, and she allowed herself to slide in with ease. Her heels sunk comfortably into the velvety, grey runway rug and she perched herself on top of the high-mattress, throwing the bottle beside her on the four-poster bed. The thick quilt threaded with only the rarest and richest silks, provided an instant warmth beneath her – but she didn’t dare get too settled. The bed was not hers back home, and only provoked her visions to creep back into her mind.
Despite the rays of moonlight, that peeked through the blinds, being the master bedrooms only source of lighting, an unfastened watch upon the bed-side table grabbed her attention. She walked around the bed to look closer at it, as if to clarify her assumptions, but she already knew. It was the same colour. It was the same design. It was the Cartier watch that she’d gifted him on their anniversary earlier on in the year…
“I’ll have another look, but it’s not here!” a voice suddenly called before the bedroom lights were switched on, footsteps scurried in and hands begin to rummage through drawers.
She squinted through the drapes that hung from the posters.
The rose tint of the lampshade complimented his olive complexion albeit it did not conceal the smell of his deceit that diffused within the room. She slowly left her hidden spot beside the bed and stepped where she could clearly see herself in the mirror on the dressing table. Above the drawers he was searching.
“Where’s the damn ca-?” His voice broke and body paralysed when his eyes met with hers in the mirror.
She trudged towards him with folded arms and made a dumbstruck, then a smug expression as she pulled the card for the front gates out of her jacket-pocket – waving it in his stricken face.
“Looking for something?”
The festive cheer of the manor was slowly dying down as midnight approached, but fresh snowflakes falling outdoors were enough of a reminder of the special day. Taking off her rubber-gloves, she slammed the dishwasher shut and hummed in content at the peacefulness of the manor. A cold breeze tickled the hairs on her arms and she cast her view over to the back door. Though this wasn’t unusual, as she often left the door open, she didn’t remember leaving it at such a width. She hurried over to shut out the bitterness of the night but winced in the process. She looked down. Broken glass.
“Mummy, mummy, come and look!” a childish voice cut through the soundless room.
Her foot became the least of her priorities as she saw her son rush over to her – new toy car in hand.
“What’s the matter baby? I thought you were play-” Her heart sank. “Why is there blood on your face?”
Eagerly, the child grabbed his mother’s forefinger and pulled her into the living-room. He pointed upwards and that’s when she saw it. That’s when she breathed in its metallic scent. Between the wooden beams, a mulled-wine shade seeped through the ceiling, dripping onto the Christmas tree, dimming the twinkle of its lights.
Her feet tripped over one another as she scrambled into the hallway, shaky hands clasping the telephone on the wall. She dialed the emergency number and listened. Her heart became a bass drum and pounded its drumsticks against her ribcage. She waited and listened. Listened and waited.
Then a voice.
She gasped for air and expelled it just as quickly down the receiver.
“I need- help right now – something bad has happened-”
“Our emergency services are temporarily unavailable to residents of the Laverton area due to poor weather conditions. Your call has been logged and we will send out help as soon as possible.”
© COPYRIGHT NELLÉ 2019