The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes Fiction
is in the dark, in the kitchen, at the sink. Her hands are in
hot water. She plunges shredded tights in and out of bubbles that
reek of tea-tree and peppermint.
Her outline is hazy
through the shadows but I know she has her back to me. Her knees are
squeezed hard together, so hard that her whole body is shivering with
the effort, and with the cold, and with the denial.
Her feet are bare in the dark. Her toes are pointing inwards, one set
on top of the other, clutching at thin skin. Long, gawky, hairless legs
pressed together. She is in the dark as she washes tattered tights in
steaming water. The bubbles plop and pop, blissfully unaware, bubbles
that stink of tea-tree and peppermint.
This is the image that lingers on. It pushes down on my shoulders and
swings on my neck when I wake, as I eat, when I work, when I close my
eyes. It blocks the others out, so that this is my only memory of it,
this picture-ghost is all that remains.
Sometimes I still smell peppermint, and see bubbles silently caressing
panes of glass, only to disappear in vulgar spurts.
She is in the dark, and that has taken the sun from me.
Diana steeled herself, and looked up. Her father stood in the doorway.
Years ago, he would stand there and loom over her, almost filling the
frame with his absurd shoulders and thick waist and intimidation. His
colossal green eyes would be fixed upon her as his black hair would
flap in a perpetually cold breeze. He would have smiled an incredible
smile down at his awestruck daughter and she would have filled with
This day, her father stood shrivelled, reduced, at the top of the steps
which led into the house Diana had grown up in. He had lost stones in
weight, an un-ironed shirt hanging off his figure, haggard skin draping
from cheekbones. He was wizened and vacant. Diana was stunned to feel
her heart cracking like rocks from a chasm.
She watched as her fathers eyes went red and filled with tears.
He kept repeating her name quietly. She knew he didnt know what
else to do.
"Im not sure why Im here," She told him, and he
nodded, "I dont know why I felt compelled to visit you, I
know I swore to myself that I wouldnt again
care if youre miserable, or broke, or if no-one speaks to you
from one day to the next. I dont care if youre lonely or
Her father stood silent, accepting, unsurprised, a shattered shell.
"I want to make sure that you are." Diana told him. He kept
nodding at her.
She must have been terrified. Fear heightened because she was old enough
to understand what he was going to do, just old enough to be able to
conceive it. Time can be so cruel. She was my age, and I knew, I understood
from the minute I walked in.
I think that must have been the worst part, as it dawned on her slowly,
like some twisted sunrise. That second of awful realisation just before
it began. Knowing the intention, seeing the capability, acknowledging
Her blood must have frozen. Her limbs must have crystallised and her
eyelids must have pushed themselves so far back that her eyeballs must
have almost rolled out of her skull. This is unstoppable, she must have
had to admit to herself, I am so completely out of control, so helpless,
so utterly devoid of power in all and every sense.
I spend my adulthood trying to tap into some sense of that kind of terror,
as if it is has been my duty ever since to feel it after her. Now that
my conscience has fully formed, and he isnt shaping my morals,
and he isnt crafting my concepts of right and wrong, I can be
punished. I can and will pay for what happened to her, in equal measure
to his penance. His crime is my crime. His suffering is my suffering.
Together we will imprison ourselves in her fear.
Her father hadnt altered the house at all since the last time
she had been there. As she followed him into the large living-room,
she kept her eyes on the drab floor. He shuffled when he moved now instead
of taking the ludicrous, testosterone strides he always had done when
chasing after his daughter in the back garden or walking into the working
mens club or leaving the house for the site early every morning
of Dianas childhood. He went to his deflated, worn armchair and
was camouflaged against it.
Diana positioned herself purposefully in front of him, in the rooms
centre, so that she could look down at him enough to satisfy herself.
Although he looked small and meek, he looked into her eyes as long as
she looked into his.
"You kept the house the same, like I said." She commented,
careful not to sound grateful in any way.
"It seems right to keep it how it was then." He concurred
in a tight, passive voice. Diana remembered how he used to boom.
"And do you still work at the site every day, full-time?"
"Yes, I keep the same shifts, theres not much call for people
to change around much."
"The pay-rise wasnt much this time around, but takes care
of all the bills, and lets me keep this place alright."
Diana allowed herself to glance around, noting the empty cabinets and
dusty television and unused mantelpiece. No signs of pleasure, even
of living. She was appeased.
Her father cleared his throat with some effort, rasping and moving liquid
in a nauseating fashion, and then asked, "How are you, Diana?"
She felt his stare eating away at the dry skin of her cheek and in order
to deflect it she met his gaze. "Living in Preston still. My car
barely made the journey down here."
"Yes alone." She snapped back as if he had insulted her, "And
yes, at the same job with the same people. I daresay our routines are
not that dissimilar Dad." He felt the venom in that final syllable
and visibly winced, his daughter an ice-berg bearing down on him, determined
to see him flounder. She folded her arms.
"Did you go to your mothers grave?"
"It was the first thing I did when I got into town. Those flowers,
they were yours?"
"No, I er
I dont tend to get down there as often as
I used to when you were younger
You know your mother had a lot
of friends in this town, whenever I do go theres always some beautiful
blooms left by somebody who loved her."
"Somebody who loved her." Diana repeated quietly, in a sarcastic
hiss. She had her arms folded, and was clutching at the flabby flesh
of her arms as if it were a line to a boat, keeping her at the surface
of an ocean.
Her fathers wife was someone she had never known, this man as
a husband was a person she could never have any memories of. She knew
him only as her sole parent, her one guardian, her only keeper. In him,
she had invested all the things that small girls invest into their parents,
all her love, all her pure, innocent trust. He had been a god.
And she had kept the faith even after she had opened the kitchen door,
after the screams and panic and redressing, after he had marched his
daughter into the hall and had a good long chat to her about other peoples
privacy and her being too young to understand grown-up things, after
he had gone upstairs to shower and Diana had then watched her pick herself
up off the kitchen floor and start filling the sink with water to wash
her mutilated white tights. Because hed explained. Because he
had told Diana he was sorry but he hadnt hurt her friend. Look,
shes fine, she can go back to playing outside in a minute, and
that if anyone found out it would get her poor daddy into lots of trouble
with all kinds of people and Diana didnt want that did she? Theres
a good girl. Theres a good, stupid, trusting, unfathomably loyal
"Ingrid! Ingrid! I can see you!"
"Diana, youre supposed to sneak up on her and tag her, not
yell out from where you were counting!"
"Ingrid I can see you, thats the worst hiding place ever!"
"Oh, I always leave my coat sticking out
"Girls you really arent very good at this game are you!?"
"I dont want to play anymore."
"Oh Ingrid please I like it, I promise Ill count for longer
"No, I dont want to anymore."
"Dad, tell her, please, she cant stop the game!"
"Yes I can, we can play something else tomorrow Diana."
"Dad! Shes just being a bad loser!"
Close to tears.
"Now, now girls, dont fall out. Why dont I fix Ingrid
some orange juice or something, and then Ill help her hide in
the house somewhere and then the gamell be really good, a real
challenge for you Diana dont you think?"
"Yeahhhhh, Im thirsty!"
"Shall I count to fifty million this time Daddy?"
"Yeah, you keep counting sweetie. Come on, Ingrid."
"Youll never find me Dianaaaaaaaaa!"
Tea-tree and peppermint bubbles. Hiding her shamed face. Hiding what
he had done. Haunting my dreams.
© Lauren Almey March 2006
after a Rainfall
headed in her direction...
Lauren Almey at the empty fairground
had longed to believe in monsters...
Lauren Almey on lovers torn apart
Fiction in Dreamscapes
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