Thursday, 18 February 2016

An Untitled Novel: Chapter 15: Christmas At Cheltenham

(A few years have passed since the last excerpt I posted and this one - Mallory has moved away to boarding school after a lot of things were exposed about the family. Last excerpt that I will post from the novel. Hope you enjoys the bits I got to share with you.)

The walls in Cheltenham School were thin so Mallory was quite aware of the emptiness in the rooms around her that morning. Most people had gone back for Christmas by this point bar a small few. She and Oliver were the only ones left on the floor so the loitering congregation would probably be confined to the canteen at this time.

Her room arranged itself around her, feeling more exposed than she in her cotton briefs as she sat on the edge of the bed. Her hands were grabbing the sides of her skinny waist, pushing her fingers under her rib cage, and pulling at the skin so the bones created long bulges on the surface of her body. A coral sleeve hung trapped between the wardrobe doors a foot in front of her. Noticing this, she leant forward making an attempt to poke the fabric back inside but it was persistent in its conspicuity. Trying to ignore the material’s frustrating tenacity, the old bed springs announced her movement from the bed. Oliver was sprawled across the bed, turned away from her with the sheet loosely covering him. Mallory felt indifferent to whether she had woken him up or not. She collected a few empty beer bottles that were lying around, screwing her face up from the smell, and put them in the bin.

The clock that hung above the bin on the wall was an antique owned by her grandmother. Her aunt gave it to her after she was late for dinner twice in a row. It was one of those old ones that are horribly loud so Mallory never kept any batteries in it; it was always stuck at twenty past one. She opened the wardrobe, pushing clothes and hangers to the sides then peered down below the clothes, bending over to get a closer look and grabbed some boots and the T shirt that was in the way of the door. Nerves warmed the blood in her veins, keeping her alert, as she sat on the floor getting her boots on. She had been dropping the laces a few times but didn’t change to slip-on’s. Thoughts of the last time she had worn the boots reflected off the corners of her mind. Michael was being taken away by police at the time.

She looked around under the bed, throwing a pair of socks out to get a better look underneath. It was hard to see as room was quite dim. Curtains in schools like this were usually quite thin but Mallory had tucked one of the sides into a crevice in the wall and the pressed the other against the wall with an unplugged lamp. She folded the blue and grey vertically striped curtains over each other where they met in the middle, so that no cracks of light came through from street lamps. Mallory hated any light to come through late at night; it reminded her of lights in the hallway being turned on when her father got home.

“Morning” Oliver had woken up.

Mallory continued walking around the room. “Oh gosh, you’re up. Don’t worry about leaving early. I’m just about to fit in a quick cup of coffee before I leave. Want one?” She had her hand on the key in the door.

“Like that?”

She looked down, frowning, and then looked back at the open wardrobe. She tried turning the key to the left. Satisfied that it was locked she returned to the wardrobe, looking behind the clothes again and then picking out an off-white, sheer skirt which she tucked her shirt into. While she sat at the end of the bed Oliver reached an arm to her side, tucking in a tuft of her shirt that hung out of the back.

Oliver drifted back off to sleep. Closing the door, Mallory felt her thumb down the line where the wardrobe doors met, feeling any parts that may be ajar. She shuffled from one foot to the other, retying one of her laces, loosening it a bit.
The walls were covered with cream wallpaper, covering the ceiling with cheap decoration put in awkward areas of the room. Mallory always thought about how much her aunt and uncle would have despised the room if they had ever come to see it. They conveniently put her on a direct train to Cheltenham with a driver waiting at the other end for her and her bags. The calendar on the wall showed a pleasant photo of a cottage amidst a span of green hillside but it was a few months behind. Mallory wasn’t a fan of organisation so just picked the photos she liked every now and again. September’s was her favourite. She changed it to December where the 24th was circled in green ink. Michael was written in the middle.

Music was playing from the room below her creating a rhythmic hum that pierced an uncomfortable clarity into the room, severing her body from the room itself. She stood holding onto the handle experimenting with it, locking and unlocking it, feeling as though she was the only moving thing in the space. The things around her were still.

Just as she was opened the door, cream coloured liquid started to seep through the cracks in the wallpaper, evaporating as it came close to her. Smoke filled the spave around her, immersing Oliver and her things in its viscosity. Her breath sped up and she started to whimper like a pup. The liquid filled her lungs. She trying to breathe in but felt no air coming out. She curled up on the floor while the liquid absorbed her sanity and cried.

“Shit. Malls, are you alright?” Oliver ran to her side. “What’s wrong?”

Mallory heard only muffled versions of his speech. The music downstairs grew louder, beating waves through the fluid around her, throbbing through her muscles, and eventually patted her into a calmed state.

Oliver closed the door. The liquid evaporated and Mallory continued to whine.

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