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Swept under the rug, part I

February 01 2023
A surreal, untitled artwork by Marius Samavicius. © Marius Samavicius A surreal, untitled artwork by Marius Samavicius. © Marius Samavicius

The first instalment in an absorbing, emotional story. We meet our protagonist as her new life is set to be disrupted by her past. Story by Rosie Healey.

Kathy didn’t wake up to the melody of birds. Instead, she was alerted by the rain, hammering onto the roof. The dew had made her duvet slightly damp. She crawled out of bed, reaching to the floor for an extra cardigan. Kathy tied her long, wispy hair into a bun. Grey streaks fell in front of her face, draping over her cutting cheekbones. Pulling the curtain along its string, she glanced out of the window to watch the downpour. Still half awake, a loud knock on the door brought her to full awareness. A hoarse voice echoed from outside.

“Morning Kathy.” Her shoulders shrunk down in alignment.

“Morning Byron, hang on I’m just undoing the wire.” She unhooked it and opened the door to a frail man. His face was hidden by his colossal, army green mack. Only the prune-like lines around his lips were visible.

“Have you ever thought about putting an actual lock on the door? Or do cables do the trick?” he asked. Kathy sensed his sarcasm, “sure, but this way I can choke the intruder with the cable. Do you want to come in? Or are you just going to stand there?” “Sure,” he replied somewhat nervously.

He sat on the hard-cushioned sofa that dominated one side of the room. The bed took up the other. A strip in between was covered with a plain rug that was covered in mud stains. Beyond was a small kitchenette, with just enough space for a kettle and sink.

“So, I spoke to Nate this morning, you know from the pub, the one that knows your husband. Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard.” Byron paused to clear the mucous from his throat. “Heard what? That James is out?” Kathy replied.

“I guess you have then.” Kathy came to sit on the sofa and handed him tea. Byron had a softness about him. His eyes, a gentle brown, often made him look on the verge of tears, yet his laughter lines were contradictory. His two front teeth were missing but he never hid his smile. Kathy found this endearing, though she would never admit it. Before taking a sip of tea, Byron pulled out a bottle from under his coat to add some flavour. “I know what you’re doing, I don’t need the pep talk. James chose his path and now he must lie with dogs,” said Kathy, folding her arms excessively tight.

“Ok, but isn’t he your husband?” Byron didn’t look directly into Kathy’s eyes. They always made him uncomfortable. “I don’t think that title is necessary, we haven’t spoken in years.” Kathy got up to put on her boots. She picked up her coat and walked out of the caravan, stepping onto the patchy grass, almost forgetting her friend was still inside.

“Byron, help yourself to whatever, I’m going for a walk,” she said, trying to salvage some manners. “Do you want me to come?” he replied. “No, I’m good. Just save me some wine – I know what you’re like.”

The sun was beaming into the sky. It had struck division between the thick, grey clouds. The striking light had made the tips of the grass twinkle. The surrounding fir trees cuddled the field. Far away from the noise, the chaos. Kathy often told Byron she felt wrapped up in a blanket here. She bought the caravan, living on Byron’s land. Watching her stress levels fall a considerable amount, he too decided to buy a caravan. He sold the house and kept the land. But unlike Byron, Kathy wasn’t exchanging one adventure for another.

The sky was crying again, and Kathy’s jeans had become a shade darker. She sought shelter in the woods. As she approached, the sound of thrilling wings took flight. She listened to the rustling in the bushes, the squirrels scattering up the trees, and studied the brown, orange leaves embedded into the earth. No sirens were deafening her eardrums. No messes to clean.

  • To be continued in the next issue...