The curtains were open. Bright sunshine poured into the bedroom. A major engineering project had taken up residence in Alison Fenway’s skull. Its sappers were drilling tunnels through the cerebellum. Earth movers were busily shifting mounds of tissue from one side of her brain to the other. The back of her throat had been drained of moisture entirely while an army of asphalters had coated her tongue in a thick, furry substance then carefully stuck the swollen organ, taste bud by taste bud, firmly to the roof of her mouth.
She rolled over in bed and looked at the clock. It was ten fifteen. She rolled over and looked at Miles. He lay on his back, naked, mouth open, emitting a rattling, energetic snore. The room was cold and stank of beer, farts and something else her wounded brain could not yet name. She dragged the duvet around her, walked over to the window and threw it open. Chill September air rushed up to greet her. Alison stuck her head out of the window and took several painful breaths. There was a noise on the Minnis. To her astonishment Harry Blamire was there, driving the cricket club’s ancient tractor, round and round the outfield, mowing the pitch. He waved; he was on the other side of the green, too far away for her to see the expression on his face.
“Goddamn hicks,” she croaked, and was then reduced to a fit of painful coughing. Still wrapped in the duvet she stumbled back to the bed and threw herself on it, as hard as she could. She watched Miles’ dark, flaccid body bounce up and down when she landed. His face was covered in dry, animal stubble.
“Smoke,” Alison said suddenly, out of nowhere. It was coming back. The worst part of any hangover: the memories. Crawling on the damp grass behind the bonfire, trying to avoid the dogshit, scared to death, shrieking at the thought that there was something alive inside the straw effigy, something that moved. And screaming, mindlessly, at the top of her voice, some crap about Wrigglers and Antis and why couldn’t anyone else see what was going on?
Alison took a long, deep breath and absolutely refused to utter those useless words “never again”. Then thought about a shower. But hadn’t there been one anyway, after they carried her back to the house? The room stank of smoke. She didn’t. Her ragged sense of perception just might be detecting the faintest odour of soap on her skin.
She shrugged off the idea, threw her arm over her eyes in what was, she knew, a horribly clichéd expression of pain. Something soft and wispy fell across her face. Alison took her arm away and examined her right wrist. Tied around it, tightly enough to be immobile, was a cream silk sash from Miles’ toybox.
Her mind beginning to work at last, Alison hitched herself up in bed and threw the duvet to the floor. There was the faint, but discernible mark of a sash on her left wrist too, and the same on each ankle. She stared in the bedside mirror. On either side of her eyes were two light, pink bands, like faint sunburn. There was also, she realised, beginning to feel both angry and sick, a distinct redness to one side of her mouth. She licked her lips and let her tongue go to the corner. It felt like the kind of fuzzy pain you got with a cold sore, distant but unmistakable.
She got up and walked over to the wardrobe where Miles kept “his things”. The toybox was still open. The sashes had been lazily stuffed in the open top. She counted them: five. With the one attached to her wrist…
Something hot and uncontrollable began to wake in her head. She walked over to the bed, stood on it with one stride. Cursing, she kicked him as hard as she could in the arse and watched the dark form career off the side of the divan. Miles rolled over once, screamed and then opened his eyes. It took, she thought, a mere five seconds for the tell-tale stain of guilt to start to form on his face.
“Uhhhhhhhh.” He moaned, swallowed on a dry throat, and looked sickly.
“You utter bastard.”
She leapt down from the bed, kicked him hard again on the backside. “Shut up. You bastard.”
“I think,” Miles whined, “I’ve got that message. Is that for anything in particular or am I just generally responsible for whatever happens to be troubling you right now?”
“You bastard,” she said, waving the silk sash in his face. “This happens to be troubling me. Are we hearing bells now?”
He looked at the cream thing flapping through the air and groaned again.
“There are,” she continued, “games I will play, though God knows why because, frankly, they do nothing for me. However, they do not include being tied up, blindfolded and gagged for God’s sake while I am totally unconscious. Being incapable of saying no does not count as consent, Miles. Is there any part of that statement you don’t understand?”
He was very pale. She hated him when he looked like this. He was so pitiful she ended up forgiving him anything. Men, Alison thought, could be so pathetic at times.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. Something flickered in Miles’ eyes. He was starting to look a touch alert. He was remembering, and Alison was absolutely certain she wanted to be somewhere else before he remembered much more.
She undid the sash on her wrist with some difficulty then dropped it gently onto his chest. “I am having a shower. Then I am going for a walk. I do not wish to speak with you this side of lunch. Which you will be cooking for yourself.”
He eyed her from the bed, searching for something in her face. It was a new expression, she thought. Miles still had some surprises. “You won’t complain if it works though, will you?” he said. “Burning Man. And all that.”
“Bullshit!” Alison stormed into the bathroom and walked straight beneath the icy cold shower.
(C) David Hewson 2012