This is a short story I am very happy with; I’ve spent a good amount of time editing it, and I’m planning on entering it in a short story contest.
I lifted my head from the pillow. I had taken a nap on the sofa. The window had been left open, and the sea air was nipping my bare arms. I lifted myself to a sitting position and brushed the static stray hairs out of my face. I picked up my silk scarf from the coffee table and wrapped my hair back in it and stood to close the window. Too late I realized my legs had fallen asleep, and in surprise, I fell to the floor. Every time I slept that way my legs fell asleep. I sat on the worn carpet and waited to regain the feeling. Folding my hands in my lap, I admired my ring. It was only a simple gold band, but it was from Thomas, which made it the most beautiful item in my possession. I watched the ring catch the sunbeams streaming in through the open window as I ran my hand over the fraying fibers of the carpet. A loose thread caught my eye, just at my feet. It was a part of the mane of an ancient lion, sticking out as a faded yellow against the dark maroon background. I started tugging at it, trying to pull it loose. It isn’t that I minded it being out of place, but it clearly was unhappy where it was. The thread deserved to separate from the perfect unity of its brothers. It was a tricky little string, and it took me getting onto my elbows before the rug released it from the mane. I held it above my head like a trophy when it finally gave, and although the full feeling hadn’t returned to my legs, I stood and shakily walked over to my window. Holding the fiber out over the crashing slate waves, I ceremoniously released it to the whim of the tides. I watched it fall, and managed to trace its path between the bulging swells, following it for a brief second as it was lifted to the tip of a curl, riding along the foamy gray spray. Then it disappeared into the endless ocean.
After the string was swallowed up by the ashen water, I looked down and noticed a small pink flower on the sill. It was a delicate little thing, a bright fuchsia with bright yellow stamens. It must have blown in from a tree ashore. The petals seemed to be made of crepe paper, they were so thin and fragile looking.
I leaned back inside and pulled the heavy glass panes closed. As soon as the window was shut the billowing crash of the waves beyond sounded as if it was inside a conch shell. The window latch was freezing cold, and when I absently laid a hand on the sill, I realized it was covered in the saline ocean spray. I touched my fingers to my mouth and let the salt sit on my lips before licking it off. It woke up my mouth, and I let myself slowly slide down the wall to enjoy the awareness of the acrid taste. I smacked my lips together.
Curled into a ball, I ran my fingers up and down the indentations left by the carpet on my legs. From across the room I noticed my knitting basket was back. I was in no mood for knitting now, but from my spot against the far wall I enjoyed looking at the pleasant colors of yarn, Thomas left for me this time. I could see a green the same color as my vase. The vase sat on the floor, atop my stack of favorite books, where it held four sprigs of lavender, which gave the room a quite pleasant aroma. There was also a blue ball of yarn the color of my favorite silk cushions and a rose color that matched the linen curtains that were too long for the window but blew so beautifully in the summer wind. There could be more colors but they were buried in the basket. Thomas always hid a few tubes of acrylic in the bottom of my basket, and I was hoping today for some more pale yellow to finish painting my coffee table. I twisted the rose curtains around my wrists and held my arms out to let them slip back into their pools on the floor.
I heaved a heavy sigh and slipped further down the wall, still damp with brackish condensation, until my head rested on the floor. I hadn’t paid much attention to my ceiling in a few days, which I realized was a shame. It was a lovely ceiling, light blue to play off the goldenrod walls, and with a fascinating crown molding that I was fond of following around and around the room when I sat on my ruby red chair with the gold tassels. The afternoon sun, which looked so gray and dull outside, plopped in the middle of a cloudless pale sky, shone a rich yellow in my room and cast a silhouette of rectangular light across my painting on the opposite wall. I loved my new painting, Thomas got it a week or so ago and my favorite part was the texture. The artist had laid the paint on so thick that I could take the painting down and lay it across my lap and feel the ridges and depressions that created the summer landscape. I tended to pine for summer this time of year, when the sweet smell of roses and daisies drifted in on the warm winds, and bees came to visit me and pollinate the flowers I kept on every possible surface. My new painting reminded me of my summers. Not to mention it excellently complimented my cyan wardrobe that stood a foot or so to its right. I sighed and lifted myself to my feet.
I began to pace around my room. I did this often when I grew restless. I tended to become occupied by other activities, but it was always good exercise to get up and walk around a bit.
The sun had set and pulled its gilded rectangles of light along with it, across my wall, across my painting, and eventually across my floor until they vanished out my window. My room was dark by the time Thomas came in for dinner. He brought in a tray of something that smelled terrible, but I smiled anyway just by virtue of seeing him. On his way in, he swung the door open so that it hit my painting and knocked it onto the floor. He set the tray down on the coffee table and picked up the frame. It looked like the bottom part had come undone. Thomas said he would fix it after dinner, it would be no trouble, don’t worry. He picked up a box of matches from off the tray and gestured for me to get the candle out of my drawer. The drawer was in the end table next to my red chair, and there was a picturesque array of fascinating items inside it. Every time I opened the drawer I wanted nothing more than to take each of my little friends out and turn them over in my hands. I got the insatiable urge to make sure each item knew how valued it was and give them all a chance to roam free, outside the drawer. The only thing that can make me forget that urge is my dinners with Thomas. He must not know how I love my drawer, otherwise he wouldn’t insist I keep the candle in with all my things. It was a perfect dilemma every night when I had to leave them in there until after dinner, but for Thomas, it was a sacrifice I could make. I had to allow them just a peek of the cornflower blue ceiling for now, because I would always choose Thomas over my things. That he must know.
I took the candle out of the drawer and handed it to Thomas. He pulled out a match and lit it, and I stared at the flickering flame. Fire fascinated me, how it is a constant but forever changing, how it can appear from nowhere and disappear in the same fashion. Thomas set down his bowl and mine. They were both full to the brim with a helping of whatever tasteless brine we’d be drinking. In the candlelight it looked gray, but Thomas insisted it was tomato. He sipped and made talk about my new yarn, if I wanted a new painting. I loved the yarn and I liked my painting exactly as is, so long as he could fix the frame. Did I want a new sofa? This one is getting a little beat up. Or maybe a new rug? No, no, I like my furniture exactly as is. I replied vacantly, mesmerized by the tilting flame on its pillar of wax and thread. I watched as bead after bead led to drop after drop of lavender wax, collecting in the bronze cup at the base of the candle.
I began to allow my vision to blur, still keeping my eyes on the candle, but watching the lines become less and less crisp, until the flame looked like a tilting and twisting stain of neon watercolor. Thomas’ voice droned on, but I kept my focus on the fire. I rubbed my eyes, and when I opened them again, Thomas was gone and my candle was blown out. The room was significantly darker. I suppose I spaced out. The bowls were gone, and I was left looking at my coffee table, now almost entirely painted pale yellow. We must have finished dinner, but I still felt hungry. I took my candle out of its holder and marveled at how it never seemed to grow shorter. It was even cold to the touch, wax dried and all. I must have fallen asleep and Thomas had left a while ago. I picked up the candle and stood to notice my painting had not only been fixed, but hung again as well. Thomas must have done it before he left, like he said. Strange for me to not remember, but it isn’t unlike me to lose focus on things when the conversation begins to drag. I walked across the room and almost fell when I didn’t see my knitting basket had been moved next to my red chair. What was more, my green yarn that matched my vase was almost entirely gone. It was a ball the size of a grape now, and it would hardly be enough for even one row of anything. I couldn’t recall knitting, but perhaps I had begun while Thomas and I were finishing dinner. He must have taken whatever I knit with him.
I put the candle in its spot in the drawer, but I couldn’t resist my precious menagerie twice in one night. I pulled the drawer free from its track and darted to my windowsill. I lined up my items one by one, turning each to face away from the room and out over the stark nautic landscape. At the end of the windowsill lineup was the little pink flower, except it was a sour brown color. Its petals that had seemed so perky this morning had dropped and lay almost flat against the wooden sill. Who would have guessed it could wilt so fast.
The moon framed the scene like a painting, tipping its hat to me from the very top of the window. I stood when all my items were in place and unhooked the brass latch, letting the windows fly out into the black night air. My items looked out across the water. They like it just fine in here with me, but they do enjoy seeing out over the water every now and then. We sat there for a while, and I let the wind tousle my hair. I closed my eyes and just listened to the waves crash below me. The wind whipped my face, and I realized I had left my silk scarf on the chair. When had I taken it off? Perhaps after dinner. I stayed with my items, though. I wouldn’t leave them for even a second during our special time. I could tolerate my hair in my eyes to keep them this company. When the cold became too much for my bare skin to ignore, I picked the drawer up off the floor and began replacing my items in it. I became focused on my fingers, delicately dropping them back into their spots. My ring flashing in the moonlight, working quickly but diligently to replace each item carefully and properly. I became so mesmerized by my work of fitting each item exactly where it belonged, I neglected to look where I was reaching. My fingers grazed the tip of another item, and I felt it fall. My hand froze in the air. Suddenly the air seemed to leave my lungs, and I didn’t want to look up. It just fell over, it’s still on the ledge. I said it in my head until I was ready to look.
I turned my head to look at the sill, and when my friend wasn’t there I stood and examined the outside ledge. It was barren. Below, the icy black water crashed like shattering glass. It pounded into my ears, over and over. I held my eyes wide open looking for any sign of my little friend afloat. I saw nothing. My grip tightened on the wooden facade. I wasn’t breathing.
I flew across the room to the door. I had to find it. I had to find it. I could find it if I got outside. I just had to look around on the shore, wade a foot or two into the water. I still had time. My clammy hands wrenched the cold doorknob. It didn’t turn. If I could get outside, get out in the water. The door wouldn’t open. I still had a chance to find it. The door was firmly shut. I couldn’t go. I stepped away. My hands shook slightly by my sides, but I regained control of my breathing. The door wouldn’t open. I sat on the couch and laughed to myself. The door wouldn’t open. I didn’t need that one item so badly. At least he was outside now. I let my head fall back to stare up at the ceiling. I could put the rest of my items back tomorrow. I folded my hands in my lap and pictured my little friend on the ocean floor with the piece of string from the carpet. I giggled. I gazed at the ceiling as my eyelids drooped. I was quite tired. Such a busy day. I let my eyelids flutter and buried my feet below a cushion. Such a busy day.
Looking at the ceiling I noticed a large crack in the plaster I hadn’t seen before. How long had that been there?