International Writers Magazine: True Fiction
shivered, the coldness of the wall seeping through her thin t-shirt
and making her neck chilly and arms goose pimpled. It was an unpleasant
contrast to the warmth smothering her bare legs which were sealed
inside wave after wave of thick green duvet.
His toes were touching
She hadn't drawn the curtains properly and trespassing through their
unchecked off-centre gap were incongruous streams of moonlight, delicate
silver beams that spilled onto the double bed as if in some divine bid
to create a romantic air in the cramped bedroom. She placed her palms
down either side of her and slowly shunted her body further upwards
so that she was sitting up even straighter, and so that her lower limbs
would move and be untouched. His heat ebbed away from Ellen almost instantly.
She wished she'd pulled those stupid drapes together right so that she
could just stare into the nothingness of night and be lost in the black,
halt her stampeding thought processes, maybe even get close to sleepiness
if she was really lucky. She hadn't slept properly in days, not since
he'd harpooned her with his announcement of "being in love".
He moved his lower leg back against hers so slowly and deliberately
that Ellen thought he must be awake, he must be looking up at her through
the gloom, sensing her insomnia and assuming arrogantly that just his
touch could comfort her. A flash of almost-hate streaked through Ellen
but then simultaneously she twinged and thought his simple gesture would
make her heart crack. I have never known this kind of fear, she realised.
I've never had any reason to be this scared of anything in all my life.
His breathing had, in one exhalation, completely altered and Ellen knew
he was definitely not asleep. She pressed her eyelids shut. She thought
that damned moonlight would be enough to display her red-rimmed eyes
and the tightness of her mouth caused by the continuous suppression
of her tears. She actually felt sure that those lunar shards might just
be bright enough to dispel all the strength of her exterior and spotlight
her pessimism, highlight finally for him her absolute fear, stripping
her of her midnight veneer and brandishing the truth nakedly before
him without any hope of him mistaking it for a dream.
"Hey," he coughed, trying to clear his whispers of the slurs
of sleep, "Ccmmm...mmm. You're still awake?"
"I didn't mean to wake you up, sorry."
"No, no problem..." He coughed again and shifted downwards.
Ellen could sense him lifting himself off his front and kneeling, sinking
awkwardly into the softness beneath him. As he groggily manoeuvred into
a more comfortable position, Ellen rolled her eyes and coughed herself,
irritated. Why did he have to join her in the darkness, distracting
her further, making her have to keep thinking? She felt like the night
was the only space she had to herself now, now that he had decided to
"You don't have to..."
"Go back to sleep, please."
"You didn't wake me I don't think, I'm just...stirring."
"No it was me, I'm sorry..."
"Ellen," he spoke more forcefully, low and smoother now, "I'm
He had backed into the moonlight, and it draped flirtatiously across
his shoulders as he sat in the corner of the big bed, the covers now
in uncomfortable disarray. As Ellen pulled them back over her cold body,
he realised what his position was doing and began moving again.
"Oh for God's sake can't you just lie back where you were!?"
She lost patience with him like she always did and her tone became like
that of someone who wanted to be anywhere other than where she was there
and then, and it wasn't lost on him.
"Can't you just go to sleep, Ellen, for once, for one of these
nights when we stay together can't you just rest and lay and be at peace
for Christ's sake..."
"I didn't ask you to come round tonight did I!? Bloody hell, you're
such a selfish guest!"
"Guest is what I am to you? So I should have rung and fucking booked
the night's accommodation in advance, should I?"
"Oh don't be so fucking facetious."
"What..." He gave up, his question or exclamation or whatever
it was going to be fading into the black.
Ellen gripped the top of the duvet as it curved round her belly, finding
it harder and harder not to openly cry. She couldn't see his face, which
made her feel relieved because then she had confirmation that he couldn't
see hers, but she could see the majority of his broad bare shoulders
in the moonlight, slumped and motionless. She heard him inhale and then
exhale in a sigh so unforced and so...so sad, that her chest tightened
and one rebellious tear burst its way from its weak duct and slid past
"Why have we been like this for so long now?" She heard him
ask the shadows.
"Its just...its just been a few days."
"Days? Since what? What are you counting from? Is it the same point
"Probably. No. I don't know. We're just having a bad few days."
"Right. Right. I'll go back to sleep then, and hopefully tomorrow
will be the start of some better days, huh?"
He slid back into the exact position he had been in before waking, except
this time he remained on top of the covers, and had his head turned
away from her.
Ellen despised herself for making him feel as alone as she wished she
could be, but she was not a tactile person (he knew that, he'd known
that since he met her) and she didn't know what to do. She just didn't
know what to do, she was too afraid and angry. Minutes passed in the
darkness and both of them remained still as corpses. Ellen had re-steeled
herself and there was no longer any burning behind her eyeballs. She
never asked him to be here, after all. She never asked him for anything,
ever. He couldn't blame her for how he felt.
But she blamed him. Ellen poured responsibility over her boyfriend's
head, wanted it to wash him away sometimes and solve the entire problem.
If he hadn't said what he'd said, she wouldn't be feeling how she felt,
and she wouldn't be here, in her own bed, shivering despite its' warmth
and telling her him he was being facetious whilst he was trying to cocoon
her back in the sheets.
A faint, alien noise beside her made her look down at his shape, his
feet and calves now lit up in pale sections by the moonbeams. Curious,
and slowly more and more horrified, Ellen bent closer, and realised
he was crying. She had never, ever seen him cry in all the time they'd
known each other. Not when the football in that Sunday game had been
hoofed into his nether regions, not when his grandmother had died, not
when his older sister had moved to Denmark with her fiance, and not
when he and Ellen had broken up that first time. She had seen every
other emotion dance or flash across his breath-taking face but never
a sorrow enough to do this to him.
It was her. And her inability to tell him she loved him back.
"I'm sorry..." She said pleadingly towards his ear, "I'm
so sorry, I know you only wanted to check I was alright, its not your
fault I can't sleep I am so, so sorry..." Now it was her turn for
the voice to fade.
"I don't want you to say you love me if you don't, but if all this
is going to be is you pushing me further and further away until I leave,
then I'd rather cut out the middle man and just leave. It's not what
I want to do, but I also don't want to do this anymore."
He had only sounded so final and conclusive once before, and that had
been almost a month ago, when he had cupped her hot cheek in his ludicrous,
enormous, wonderful hand and told her he loved her. Maybe I should tell
him to go, Ellen thought, maybe that really would be for the best after
She stared back at the particles of dust visible in the early morning
air, and just didn't know how to answer him. She didn't want him here
because he was in love with her and that made her afraid, but she didn't
want him to leave either, because then her true fear would be realised.
It hit her, in awful simplicity, that either way, she was going to end
up on her own.
"I don't want...I don't want..." she began, knowing she owed
him more than her evening's behaviour had allowed. "I don't mean
to be, well, mean..."
At her softly spoken words, he began moving again, she noticed his toes
rotate towards her and the blonde hairs on his legs glint in the fading
moonlight. But he didn't say anything, meaning that Ellen had to continue.
"I don't mean to be cruel...but I suppose I know now that I have
Silence. He's said all he can say, I suppose.
"I just don't think that I'm going to give you what you want. I'm
not...where you are."
"You're afraid," there came the truth, stark and inescapable,
uttered from the wrong mouth, shaming her, "You're afraid and I'm
not. I'm just not. What's the point?"
"No. I'm not."
"No. I'm not where you are. Please listen to what I'm trying to
tell you, instead of assuming you know just because..."
"Just because what!?"
"You can't make me rush things just because you decided to."
"I love you."
"I'm in love with you, that's all."
"Oh don't...stop trying to...you're a bully, you can't bully me
"I'm not trying to make you do anything or say anything or feel
anything, I'm just telling you I love you, its up to you what you do
"Oh...fucking...what am I supposed to do with it!? Say it back,
yeah, say it like it's so fucking flippant and easy, and it doesn't
matter that you can't take it back?"
"I won't take it back, Ellen."
"Like it doesn't mean everything's going to mean something totally
different because of what you've said!"
"I won't take it back."
His voice was almost a whisper compared to her hysterical cry. Ellen
could feel the warmth of his breath on her cheek and then the kindness
and sincerity of his hand, fumbling in the dark to find hers. He grazed
her thigh, then her elbow, then her wrist, and then finally clutched
her tense hands, and with each misplacement Ellen heard her insides
screaming because she believed him, because she wanted it to be forever,
because she loved him back.
"I'm so sorry," she gulped, refusing to sob even in the shadows,
"I think you should leave."
The night thickened and the dust seemed to freeze, as if caught in it.
The ghostly rays had shrunk away from the pair of them, rejected, their
ambience denied, not even catching him as he clambered out of the bed,
searched the bedroom for his top and shoes and then left, just as she
Ellen blinked. She pushed herself fully under the duvet and spread her
limbs wide and freely. Her feet kicked nothing but sheets, and the hot
patch where'd he'd been lying faded before she'd even gotten herself
into her old, favourite, single-person position.
Now I'm without him, she thought. Which is what I was terrified of in
the first place.
Ellen tugged the covers up over her head, and loudly began to sob.
© Lauren Almey September 2006
Lauren is a graduate of the University of Portsmouth
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
Stories in Dreamscapes
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