As I mentioned in my previous post, I had asked for permission to post the winning short story here on my blog & the lovely Chrissy (the winner, in case you wonder who that is) has kindly agreed that I could post her story here. So, for your reading pleasure, I present to you the winning entry of the 2009 Book Club Forum Short Story Contest.
Well done, Chrissy!!! It was a great story!
In Perpetuity – by Chrissy
She watched the spider makes its way across the windowsill, the dance delicate in the rainbow colours cast by the hanging in the window. Before it had quite reached the end a shadow moved into view and a loud “Thunk!” sounded the spider’s death. He had crushed it under her favourite book. He grinned down at her, turned and marched from the room, his whistling alleging nonchalance.
In that moment, in that rainbow tinted, dancing, shadowy, crushing, whistling moment, she knew that it was the end of more than just the spider. This was just one of many ‘incidents’ that he had perpetrated, purely out of spite and animosity toward her. He knew how she felt about spiders, dancing or otherwise.
* * * * * *
He had come into her life the way all things seemed to, without fanfare or forethought, just arriving and settling down with her effortlessly. There had been others, but none had meant so much to her.
It had started so well with a mutual enjoyment and joy in the pleasure of each others company. They touched and stroked and nuzzled for hours at a time with her lounging either across him or merely near him, just revelling in their togetherness. She had once run to him the moment he had arrived home, throwing herself into his arms. He’d once welcomed such gestures. All his celebrations held her at the centre, all heartache equally brought to her in the cottage they shared so she could ease his spirit, lift his mood. He used to do all the cooking, saving the best of his delicately flavoured morsels just for her, his fingers dripping with their flavours as he had hand fed her, to the amusement of them both.
A while ago however, his focus shifted elsewhere, and with a creeping neglect she had been relegated to a minor role in his life. Now he would be gone for days at a time, arriving home unexpectedly without a word of explanation, his expectation being that she would remain faithful and constant to him, as though she had no right to any kind of a life of her own. Dismay had long left her heart, allowing contempt to enter with a vengeful plan at its core.
* * * * * *
She was a patient spirit, and she was sure that the correct moment would arrive when she could make him see how he had made her feel, he would know that she was so much more than he had imagined, and was worth his attention, worthy of his continued love.
* * * * * *
The morning after the spider, she took the long walk into the village. She planned on getting a bite to eat and catching up with one or two friends and acquaintances. It was just what she needed, although she hated leaving the house without knowing when he would be there. One definite was that the cottage was hers. People may visit, even stay for a time but this little haven was hers ‘in perpetuity’, as she would claim.
Lunch was had, and she had made a few arrangements with friends for later on in the week. The afternoon was warm and the walk back to the cottage was fragrant and startlingly pretty, a perfect day. Even the soundtrack to the afternoon was an orchestral arrangement of birdsong, animal rustlings and a gentle breeze stirring the leaves along the path. Her mood was lifted.
She went in the back gate, skirting the hole created by a major project he’d undertaken.
“A swimming pool! Can you imagine how good it will feel at the end of a long hot day to come home and throw yourself in there? “
Admittedly his enthusiasm was invigorating,
“Yeah, yeah I know it’s not your thing, but I’d be here more often perhaps if I had more to interest me”
The hole had been dug, and partial foundations and coverings had been laid. More had yet to be done, but until the latest layers had been sorted, the professionals wouldn’t be brought in to finish the rest.
She headed in through the back door, and could hear him talking on the ‘phone,
“….yeah, I just have to get the foundations straightened out and then we can get on with rest of it, ready to get it on the market…”
Get….get it on the market? What the hell? Is he talking about my cottage?
Her heart almost came to a halt, her thoughts scattered. The betrayal, the utter lowlife, using, evil manipulative piece of….
She had thought her heart had been broken already, but the last fragment, the little parcel of hope for their relationship gave a final whisper as it fell apart. She was done.
She ran into the garden, blindly needing to get far away from him. On the path she haphazardly bumped into one of the friends she’d shared lunch with. He was immediately struck by her appearance and crazed demeanour. When she brought forward the arrangements they had made earlier in the day he readily agreed.
Calming herself she attempted a saunter back into the house. He had the temerity to cuff her gently under the chin with his finger, giving her a wry grin as he made his way into the kitchen. He slipped a jumpsuit over his jeans and tee shirt, tied a brightly coloured bandana around his head and headed out. She left him to get into a working rhythm around the top of the pool. He had only a few hours of good light left in the day.
* * * * * *
Evening crept in as his continued in his labours. Concrete had been mixed and poured, bits were pondered, levelled, mulled and muttered over. He took frequent breaks, with his fruit juices being replaced by bottles of beer.
To lull him, she had joined him outside. He had watched her for a time, his only comments being about “…necessary changes coming… new set up….” She let him ramble while keeping herself quiet and small to portray acquiescence.
As the evening drew closer in and the light lost is penetration, his work slowed. She caught movement in the garden perimeter. It was now or never.
* * * * * *
As he leaned over the edge of the pool to check his work in the fading light she leapt forward. She side swiped his legs with her body and watched him flail his arms before he dropped into his sunken works. She followed gracefully, leaping onto his back, and was joined immediately by the two friends who’d been waiting for her signal. They silently edged forward along his body to push his head into the wet mixture, the drop and surprised having already winded him. His alcohol consumption made his response dulled and lacklustre. He was still in a short time.
It took a while to completely submerge the body into the hardening cement and level it out enough to pass a cursory inspection. Any errors would be put down to client incompetence, rather than the inclusion of a large object.
* * * * * *
Her friends departed, seeking out places where they could stop to clean themselves of the dust and debris the task had covered them with. She went indoors and spent a little time cleaning. She finished off the food that he had left on his plate, then settled on her favourite chair and contemplated what had taken place. She did feel sad as she had thought this one would be the one to last.
* * * * * *
MYSTERY COTTAGE – ANOTHER DISAPPEARANCE
Police were investigating another disappearance from the country cottage locals have dubbed ‘Bermuda Cottage’. This is the third owner to have mysteriously disappeared without a trace from the property. Pool workers had notified the authorities when they noticed that the doors stood open and the owners personal effects were on open display but without any sign of him.
Chief Inspector in charge of the investigation requested that all and any information be ‘phoned into to the Police hotline.
“We are frankly baffled. In each case the owner appears to have just walked away from their lives. Each one was contemplating moving from the area at the time of their disappearance, and the cottage was discovered with open doors and windows, nothing missing or disturbed, and no obvious signs of a struggle.”
The CI finished with
“The only possible witness to anything untoward is unable to tell us anything, as this is the cat that lives at the cottage, one that according to locals has lived at the cottage through all the years of these disappearances. If only it could speak, eh?”
* * * * * *
She snuggled deeper into the cushion. It was almost time to head on out for the night. The nice policeman had opened a tin of tuna for her for her earlier, and had then had carried her in his arms as he’d looked through the cottage.
One under the cellar floor, another had tumbled into the deep waters of the well, and now another under the exquisite pool floor. The pool men had done a lovely job of finishing.
She slowly stretched out her limbs, splaying her claws for the full wake up effect. She trilled a meow of satisfaction.
It would safely remain her cottage, in perpetuity.