Hi all! I know the hiatus ran on longer than predicted, but I hope the wait was worth it. This week, I wanted to attempt a change of tone in my normal writing style so I wrote a short vignette concerning my latest Call of Cthulhu character.
Any feedback is appreciated!
The record span in silence, the music long since finished. She sat in the room, her fingertips resting gently on the photograph in front of her.
A handsome man, his uniform smartly pressed and an infectious smile on his lips stared out at her, his youthful good looks belying his age. The ornate golden frame was worn beneath the pads of her fingers, the grain of the carved wood as familiar as the matched pair of rings hanging from a chain around her neck.
A single tear rolled down her cheek, falling onto the glass, and she wiped it off with a rapid, jerking movement, a slight frown creasing her brow.
The pain was as fresh now as it had been all those years ago. She remembered when she had said goodbye the first time, as he left for Europe, and she remembered the brief moments of happiness they had snatched when he was sent back for convalescence.
Her hand drifted to her stomach as she remembered the news she had so desired to tell him. Another tear fell for the life that had faded when she said goodbye the second time, when he lay feverish on the hospital bed, his right leg a ragged mess and blood on his lips.
The hand on her stomach clenched as a spike of hunger shot through her and she looked away from the photograph to the plate on the low table in front of her. Her breakfast lay there, a single bite taken from it. She had intended to eat it, but the food had turned to ash in her mouth. Not even the sweetened mint tea, purchased through her contacts, had tasted of anything and remained undrunk in its cup next to the plate.
A sob forced its way from her throat and she hunched forwards, rocking slightly as more tears fell. Her chest felt as if it were wrapped in a vice made of ice-cold iron, a slow, cold pressure that made her feel as if her ribs would break at any moment. The tears, salty on her lips, brought a gentle warmth to her face.
The fire in the hearth had been lit before the maid had left for the day, but it had done nothing to drive the sluggish numbness from her body. The embers glowed dimly, a dull orange light in the bright room.
It was days like this that she felt like the fire, a muted glow surrounded by the life of this great, bustling city. She frequently walked the streets of London, the crowds not only serving to remind her of the humanity that she frequently struggled to feel a part of, but also making her feel adrift in a strange ocean, floundering for meaning and life. She rarely felt so alone or insignificant as she did when she was lost in the mass of people around her.
Helena, the maid, had asked her to remember to eat today. Her rebelliousness was what attracted Amina, but sometimes she was too perceptive. She wondered how much the maid really saw, and whether or not she realised that every day she had off, her mistress spent the day wrapped up in her own pain. The pressure of remaining positive for the rest of the week was almost too much to bear with so much grief and anger straining against her chest.
A letter from Winifred lay nearby, discarded after reading. Her dearest friend was the only person she had confided in and the elderly woman had reacted with her usual grace and poise, offering a handkerchief and a warm pastry from the café near her apartment. Amina suspected that Winifred had known a pain like this, the wisdom in her kind eyes had spoken of hard-won experience.
The tears gradually faded and the still, quiet air of the room returned as she stopped sobbing. She closed her eyes slowly and drew a long, heavy breath into her lungs. She had given the maid her word that she would eat and Amina Farah Atan kept her promises.
She sat down again, minutes later, a trembling hand lifting small pieces of fruit to her mouth. She had hesitated in the pantry, her eyes on the plate of halal meat resting under the fly net but the sight of it had turned her stomach over, reminding her too much of what she had seen in that hospital ward.
Her eyes stared unblinkingly at the wall opposite as she ate, the sweet fruit barely registering on her tongue or full lips. The only thing she really felt was the cool china of the plate as it slowly warmed against her skin.
She reached for another slice of fruit and blinked as her fingernails scraped the plate. She looked down slowly and took in the pattern on the now empty china. She lost herself in the design as half-remembered sensations of being held and late-night conversations filled her mind. She felt her throat closing again and forced herself back to the present, blinking away the tears welling in her eyes.
She stood and carried her plate to the sink in the kitchen before returning to the sitting room where she mechanically turned off the record player and put the disk away. That done she stood still, her eyes on the floor, for a few minutes before shuddering and walking to the mirror where she stared at her reflection and forced a smile. She held the expression for a few minutes until it felt natural and turned back to the room, taking in the orderliness of it.
The fire was the only thing that really needed tending to and as she was brushing her hands clean of coal dust, there was a knock at the door. She straightened, glanced at the clock, made sure her smile was fixed firmly in place and that her eyes weren’t red from crying with a quick glance in the mirror, and then walked to the house’s door. She drew a steadying breath as she reached for the handle and opened it.
“Rahim, please, be welcome.”