For a change I thought I’d give you a sample of my fiction.
This is one of a series of 20 stories in my Short Story Cycle The accidental wife and other stories. Please feel free to share it and pass it on- I don’t post much fiction. I am actively seeking a publisher for this story-cycle so I can’t let too much of it out into the web-world yet.
If you enjoy it, feel free to set up a publishing house and I will be your writer!
The doorbell rings, one long, one short, three long. Not my signal. This new man has come for Bianca, sent here by our friend Julia. Julia is leaving town to spend three weeks at home with her children and her parents. I envy her. My children are at my flat five miles away, with a baby-sitter. I am tired, so very, very tired. Maybe I should send my own children back home, back to Wroclow, but my mother is old now, and weary.
I should just go home to my kids, but the unpaid bills on the tea-stained table in the flat in Stranmillis make me stay; my client will come in another thirty minutes or so. It is too quiet here today, a waste of my time. It is a chance to file my nails, to glue on the pretty, new, silver stars I had sent over from home, but I would rather be earning. Or pounding down the promenade in Bangor, with my new special friend, sweat pouring from us as we get closer and closer to her big house on the seafront.
A rattle on the doorhandle. Bianca’s client opens my door—I have forgotten to lock it—and I jump from the low stool with my metal nail file gripped tightly in my hand. If I need to, I know what to do. A firm grip, a short stab, plant the metal blade right through his eye, into his brain. No, officer, I did not intend to hurt him, it was an instinct. It was self-defence. Who could imagine a nail file could do such damage?
The new client has pushed past Bianca; no manners at all in this country, I see them every day ignoring bent, old men and pregnant women on the buses and trains. Do these Irish men think I don’t see the way they look at me, like butchers about to wield their cleavers, calculating the best way to carve up the carcass?
I have just a few seconds to assess him as the door swings open. I prefer the expensive post-codes in which I work now; the high fees I charge keep out the riff-raff. The sweat-and-beer-stinking, unshaved Irish men I meet in Centra cannot afford my rates. This man is okay. Short, bald, expensively dressed and full of his own importance, but that’s okay. Not violent. I know violence. This man kills by registered letter, by final demand, by twisting the financial screw. He will not hit me, or mark me so I miss tomorrow and the next day from work. This man is a piece of cake.
They all come here, these little men. They pay generously for what they could get in any bar in town, for the price of a few drinks. I have a regular, Matthew, I like him. Why you come here, Mattchik? I asked him once. Handsome man like you? Why not find little friend in nightclub? His round belly wobbled, like a pale pink ham that has been lain on by a loose-haired black cat. His chins trembled as he laughed in my arms. What? An Irish girl? I don’t want some fat, half-dressed Irish chick, stinking of cheese-and-onion crisps and falling off her platforms in the middle of the street. Feck that. I deserve better.
Yes, Mattchik. I stroked his arm. You deserve a woman like me.
This new man has stopped in my doorway. He looks sick. He looks like he will vomit on the white, woollen carpet. The landlord has charged us for cleaning the carpet several times already. That is why I use no oils now, no wax, nothing these clumsy Irish oafs can spill or tip over as they flop around.
I look at him properly and I know him. I flip through the filing cabinet of fools’ faces in my mind, to find a context. I have never seen that face from below, or from above, or groaning, or twisting, but I have seen it. It is Frank. Alice’s husband. He has found me. Life is either ending or just starting, in a few minutes I will know which.
“So you know? You know. About Alice and me? Well is true, she doesn’t love you. Is me she wants.” What joy. My heart sings. The worst thing that can happen has happened and I am full of joy. I did not do this. I did not bring this man here. I think Alice has told him…she is leaving him. Bliss.
“So you know about Alice? You know she’s bi now?”
“What? Buy now? Buy now? Alice has always been buy-now! It’s practically her religion.”
What are you talking about, crazy man?
He is speaking again. He has found me, he has tracked me down. Alice does not know that he knows. Alice must not know. He does not care about our love, as long as it is a secret, a little shameful secret. He will arrest me and deport me if I tell. The fool. The fool to threaten me. He is a lawyer. Well, there is no law against two young ladies entertaining men at home.
He lopes off, smirking. He thinks he has won, screw him, I will not let him win. I will tell Alice myself.
“Alice, Aletta, my love, my Irish swan—”
“Olga, what the hell do you think you’re doing? I told you never to phone here after three pm. The house is full of kids. I’m doing the bloody homework.”
“But Alice,” my face cracks, my voice is a whisper. “But, Alice, he knows. Frank knows. He was here and he knows and he doesn’t care. He says we can stay together, as long as it’s a secret. That’s how much he loves you. He doesn’t love you, Alice. Now you’re free. Free to be yourself, with me, together.”
“Christ’s sake, Olga, get off the phone. Have you gone completely mental? Leave Frank? For crying-out-loud, catch yourself on, woman. Leave Frank and spend the rest of my life scrimping, and saving, and telling the kids no pony-riding today, no holiday to France? We can’t all make a living on our backs. Get a grip, Olga. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
The phone is dead in my hand and I think he won. A tear disturbs my mascara and I think I have lost. A silver star falls to the floor and I think I am alone again in this dark, strange country. I should have pushed the nail file into his brain. Or hers. Or mine.