Love Don’t Bother (Part 2)

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It was a bad dream, somehow I knew that, but I couldn’t wake myself up from it. I was at the bar we always go to at the end of our nights out and a handsome man was talking to me. I could hear Amelia, Darcy and their boyfriends in the background. The man was saying how pretty I am and how he couldn’t believe his luck meeting me in here.

I smile and sip my drink.  I try to say how lucky I feel back, but I can’t.  Loud music wraps around me, tugging me to the dance floor yet I don’t move. Bright lights are flashing and there are too many people. I want to leave and go somewhere else. I go to say this to the man, but he ignores me. I reach out for his hand, but my fingers seem to slip through his. The music and the shouting voices press painfully on my head so that I can only see blinding flashes of light.

I try to shake it away then I spot Darcy’s boyfriend, Alex, coming over. He starts whispering to the man. I can’t hear the words but I can see the effect as the man’s face falls. He gives me a look of disgust and leaves.

‘What did you say?’ my dream self-demands.

‘That you sleep with anyone who’ll have you. You’re old, fat and ugly, but always game for some action,’ Alex says with a laugh.

‘That’s not true!’

‘It so is. You’ve tried it on with me and everyone else in this bar.’

He waves his hand out and I look and see the fuzzy faces of men I half remember. Is that my high school history teacher? And the one against the wall looks like my old neighbour, who use to leer at me from behind his hedge.

I shake my head and back up into the bar stool.

‘It’s true!’ he says, ‘you’re a sex-crazed hippo, aren’t you? Here, you want some…’ he unzips his jeans, ‘I’ll give you some!’

Laughter fills my ears, I struggle to get away from him and then I awake up.

Breathing hard, I listen but hear nothing other than the old house settling, the wind rattling the window and the living room clock ticking. I push myself up and turn on the lamp. The light helps, even though I can now see the shadows fleeing to the corners of the room. Sweeping my hair back, I feel dampness against my skin. I get up and open the window. Cold air trials in, blowing the heat and sleep from my face. I can see a hint of light in the overcast grey sky. It’s going to rain soon.

I take deep breaths, which help clear the dream from my mind. However, it has once again disturbed the past memory that I’d put in lock down. Seeing Darcy’s room probably cracked the lid on it. Closing the window, I go into the bathroom and splash some water on my face. It helps a little, but I still feel my skin all sticking together.

I glance at the shower and deciding I’m awake now, take off my clothes and get in. I turn the temperature down and avoid trying to get my hair wet. Which is an impossible task, because the shower is dodgy and water just  goes everywhere. I wash and try hard to think of anything else other then the bits I’m scrubbing with the sponge.

Parts of the dream flash into mind, but I push them away, only they end up being replaced with the real events.

I get out, dry off and collect my clothes. Taking my towel wrapped body back into my bedroom, I find other PJs to wear. Going to the window, I open the curtains, but not enough light is coming in. I notice a few rain drops clinging to the glass. Making sure it’s locked, I leave the grey dawn and turn on the over head light.

My room comes into full clarity. To my left is my messed up bed with a bedding box placed at the end then my TV on it’s stand with the DVD player sticking out underneath. There’s a few small racks holding DVDs and CDS along the wall in between. The wall above my bed as my collection of framed postcards, which looks impression but all the places are actually here in England. Though I’ve a few from Wales. On the right are three floor to ceiling bookcases, which contain whole arrays of fiction and non-fiction books. Then there’s my desk and computer followed by my wardrobe.

Moving, I go over to my bed and kneel down. Flipping the duvet and other trailing blankets back, I feel around and pull out a large fabric covered cardboard box. Taking the lid off, I see it’s the one I want, for inside is a collection of diaries. Last’s years sits on top. I pull it out and climb on to the bed. Flipping the pages, I look for May and June. Once there, I peer at my small neat handwriting and scan the words.

I find the part I’m looking for in the middle of May. I turn on the lamp, curl up against the pillows and began reading.

I met Darcy’s boyfriend, Alex today. I don’t like him and I don’t really see what Darcy sees in him. He’s a big jerk. When we were introduced I saw him sneering at me and thinking…Well, I guess the normal things that people think about large girls. He was polite enough, but I knew it was forced.

Then I over heard him talking to Amelia’s boyfriend, Luke, in her bedroom about me. I was going out to the library and just passing there when I heard voices. I wasn’t going to stop but then I heard my name. Alex was saying, ‘Marcelen has huge boobs. I’d love to see them. Shame about the rest of her though…did you think someone in her family was a cow?’ He laughed.  

Thankfully, Luke didn’t laugh, but he did reply with, ‘she’s not so bad.’

I left, but as I walked to uni, I pictured myself opening Amelia’s door and giving him a piece of my mind. Don’t judge people! You don’t know me. Apologise and in future keep you nasty thoughts to yourself. But I know I’d never have been able to have said it. 

The library was empty – not surprising for a Saturday…..

I stopped as my past self changed topic. I turn the pages and looked for the next entry about Alex. It was there almost a week later; a Friday night and we were going to Liverpool. I skipped the beginning and found a bit the middle.

Everything was going great until the last club. I was at the bar, getting a glass of water and I felt a hand on my bum. I turned and it was Alex! He was totally drunk. I whacked his hand away and yelled, ‘Darcy’s nipped to the loos!’  He shouted down my ear, ‘it’s you I want!’ Then he squeezed my bum. 

I think I told him to get off and then I got my water and walked around the edge of the dance floor. He followed me and then he grabbed my hand, pulling me close to him. I think he said something about dancing, but I wasn’t sure. I tried to shake him off, but he wouldn’t let go and he kept saying how much he wanted me and how he’d seen me staring at him. I think then, though of course with the deafening, booming music, I could have been wrong, he said, ‘a fat bird like you must be gagging for it!’

I threw my water at him and ran away. Of course, then it took forever to find Amelia and Darcy. Luckily, we were going to head home anyway, so when we meet up outside the club, it wasn’t that bad. I was so sure that Alex would say something because he was still wet, but he didn’t. Perhaps, he told Darcy in private as soon as we said goodnight and went into our bedrooms. Though I think there’s only one thing on his mind right now!  

Even now thinking about it worries me. I know Alex was drunk and that was probably to blame, but still…And there’s no way I can tell anyone, because they won’t remember. I don’t get why people enjoy making themselves so drunk like that. You can have a nice night out without all that illness in the morning. 

I can hear them having sex. They must have done it a few times before now, but I’ve never heard them before. I guess being drunk makes them loud. It makes me think about my ex. I still miss him, but it was still the right thing to do. Things would never have worked out between us and I see that now. There’ll be someone else out there for me, I know. Maybe I need to join that dating website again? But my PhD must come first.

I got some prep to do for supporting teaching the first years Monday. Mustn’t forget about that….

I stop reading and let that sink in. I had forgotten that had happened, but it had been the start of everything really. I look up and and out of the window, the sunlight had given up trying to defeat the heavy clouds and it was now raining. Leaving last year’s diary open, I slotted it under a pillow and went to get breakfast.

 

To Be Continued…

 

Love Don’t Bother (Part 1)

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Dropping the towel from my still wet body, I peer nervously into the full length mirror. All my life I’ve hated reflective glass of any kind. Not even the mirror mazes of my childhood made me laugh. I avoid mirrors like people avoid food they’re allergic too. Now though, I’ve decided to stare the cold hard truth about myself down.

Pressing my lips together, I see my face; the flush chubby cheeks, up turned small nose, large olive eyes, the wrinkling forehead and my fair brown hair. Is that actually me? I know it is, but why did my consciousness ended up in this body? Why couldn’t I have been someone else? Then I might not have been Marcelen Potts, but…Taylor Swift or someone else rich, famous and pretty.

I’m not pretty. My face might just been passable but the rest of me…. I drop my eyes and see my huge boobs. They are round and soft, but hang down too much. I slot my hands under them, rising them up to where they stood be. Now, if they stayed like that, things would be okay, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference, I’d still be a threat to chest high people, just without the aid of a bra…In fact, I’d probably still need one to keep my boobs stable.

Just below them is my non-existent waist. It’s just a round doughnut like roll of pink flesh. It actually reminds me of one of those inflatable swimming rings you put around children to keep them afloat.

I squish the front of it together, trying to imagine myself being flat and able to see my ribs. It’s a pointless task really. I’ve no idea what slim me would look like and the images come from seeing all those zero size walking stick girls.

Isn’t it true that most of the women you see in photos have been made to look that way by editing software? So, what everyone is seeing is actually unachievable anyway? And you hardly ever see fat women! They are all shunned into a corner and society finger points and says no one can look like that. Fat can’t be beautiful, only bones can be!

Dropping my hands, they brush against the sides of my stomach. I stare at my overhanging belly in the mirror, I jiggle it. The warm, damp skin ripples and keeps going like it would never end. I pick it up, pinching the areas either side of my bellybutton and stretching the flesh. I could easily hide a small child underneath me. Or someone could use me as a parasol and stay in the shade.

I try squeezing my stomach all together and seeing if I can get it flat. However, it acts like Flubber and just wobbles away, bulging at the sides. I drop the whole thing and let my hands rest of top of stomach. I will myself to imagine what it might look like flat, but I can’t picture it.

Moving on I do the last part of the inspection; arms and legs. My fingers, hands, feet and toes look good, they are long and thin. My wrists too are slender and my low arms are okay, but then I get to my upper arms, which look like tiny wings. My legs are the same, but are more like chunky tree trunks. And that’s it, staring at my body is complete until I dare to look again.

I turn away, picking up the towel and wrapping myself in it. Though it barely fits around me and I poke out down one side. I leave the hallway and the mirror which is attached to the wall close to the front door. The mirror was there when I moved in and I don’t know who is responsible for it. I should ask my two flatmates if they know and maybe get it removed.

I go up the narrow stairs, which my stomach and upper arms almost touches and arrive at the first floor. To my right is Amelia’s room and to the left is the bathroom, though it’s not the one I use –unless it’s an emergency. Moving past them, I come to the foot of another staircase, which twists back on itself before it reaches the second floor. Two more door sit on the other side of the stairs, leading into the kitchen on the left and the living room on the right. They are joined in the middle by another door.

Clutching my towel, I hurry up the stairs. My footsteps cushioned by the thick pattern carpet. At the top is a small landing and three doors. The middle door- the second bathroom is half open and mist is still hugging the walls. I go in and open the window. Cold autumn air rushes in and the hair on my arms rise. I dry off again and stick the towel on to the rack. I shut the door behind me and go over to the right door, my bedroom.

Opening the door, I hear a creaking behind me and glance over. The opposite door which leads to Darcy’s room, is slowly moving. Ignoring it, I go into my room, put on the flannel Pjs I left on the bed and try not to think any more about my body. Grabbing my hairbrush, I start brushing, but a loud squeaking pauses my hand.

I go out and see Darcy’s door has opened more now. Sighing, I go over and look inside. I’ve been in her room before, ages ago now, but it so didn’t look like this. There are clothes, shoes, soft toys, books and other things scattered over the floor so that not an inch of the carpet can be seen. Her bed and desk look just the same and things are spilling from her wardrobe as if it’s just been sick. I close the door on the chaos and go back to organised.

Everything in my room has a place and it always gets put back there. Sinking on to the bed, I pick up my diary and flick the pages. I stop on today’s date, grab a fountain pen and begin writing. My mind wonders faster than I can write though and soon I’m reflecting on why I decided not to go out tonight. The excuse about working on the research for my PhD was all because I didn’t want to see Amelia and Darcy with their boyfriends. If it had been a girl’s only night I’d have been fine, but playing the third wheel has never been for me.

I stop writing and look up, hearing something outside. There’s a window in the wall next to the head of my bed. I get up, leaving off mid-sentence. Sweeping back the netted curtain, I open the window and stick my head out with my hands pressed hard to the sill.

The late evening sky is dotted with stars and a perfectly thin crescent moon. Below me is the cobblestoned alleyway that leads to my flat and also the flat opposite. Bins nestle against the walls and I think I see the flickering of a shadow. Then laughter rises from somewhere and I hear voices. They wouldn’t come back so soon, but still…

I close the window and the curtain falls back into place. I cross my room, open the door and go downstairs with heavy thuds echoing behind me. I fast walk into the living room, not turning on the light and go to the window. I pull the net curtain slightly back and look down upon a Victorian styled high street.

Lights shine from the few pubs, bars and takeaways onto the large flagstone pavement. Small groups of people are slowly walking around or standing in doorways. I see the thin trails of cig smoke rising from two people at the entrance to The King’s pub. Laughter and voices drift through the thin glass and I can just about smell pizza.

I drop my head, scolding myself for my stupid panicking and the lingering memories of last year. Letting the curtain fall, I go back stairs and climb into bed. I spot the time as being a little past nine, perhaps too early for sleep, but it’s the only thing I want to do. I finish up writing in my diary, avoiding the parts about looking in the mirror before and my depression over being single.

Then placing it back inside the top draw of my bedside table, I turn out the lamp and fall into the darkness.

To Be Continued…

Dear Diary #25

And September is here! I can’t believe how fast summer has gone, it was over like all that flash flooding we’ve been having. I only saw like 20 odd days of pure sunshine out of the 92 days. How bad is that? And so not enough to get a tan, but luckily no one else really has either.

I’m strangely not looking forward to going back to uni now. It’s final year and that’s going to be so much hard work and so little time for partying! I’m glad things have got sorted and we can all stay in the same house. It was very touch and go for awhile back there. Dev said that me and him would find our own place, but getting a one or two bedroom flat wasn’t as easy as it would actually seem. It’s all good though and the four of us will be fine again.

My parents have been bugging me with questions about afterwards. I don’t know what I’m going to do! Maybe take a different course and return? Do a masters or go into teaching? I just don’t know and a part of me is wondering what kind of job I believed I was going to get doing a history degree. I should have gone with business or computing or something that leads straight into work. Perhaps, something will come up and right now I just got to try and pass this year.

At least I can get a few more days of freedom in! I’m off to the Lake District tomorrow, for a few romantic days away with Dev. So looking forward to that. We’ve not had much alone time or dates with him working as many hours as he can get at the pub. So it’ll be nice to spend sometime together. The weather isn’t looking great though, so we might not risk any long walks, but I’d be happy to just lounge by the indoor pool.

I should actually go and start packing!

The Place Promised in our Early Days

sunshine, spring, tree, blooms

By Paul Coleman

The normal weekend house party had arrived. I attended the party alone as I normal did. But I wasn’t bothered about my arrival; I knew that Katie would be there. I hope tonight that we would finally kiss. The house was full to the brim with students, many of them already drunk. Our student life is so simple, drink until we can’t feel anymore. I made my way through the crowd, all the time feeling I was being observed. I reached across the room and grabbed a beer. The taste is so vile. But I like it; I’m accustomed to the taste.

In this room of people, I had never felt alone. I couldn’t even see Katie. After drinking several cans, I began to lean on the kitchen cupboards. Gently someone grab my hand and pulled me through the crowd. I could only make out a hazy outline of the person in front. Soon I was dragged into a bedroom, the lights flared up and as my eyesight adjusted I realised who had been dragging me.

‘Kara?’

‘Surprise!’

‘What are you doing here?’

‘Something told me you were feeling lonely and nervous so I came to see you, so surprise!’

‘How did you know I would be here? I don’t recall mentioning it to you yesterday at the skate park?’

She ran her soft and smooth fingertips down my stubble laden cheek. It felt nice to feel her touch again; it’s just like a home comfort. I closed my eyes as she pressed her cherry red lips against mine, she still kisses the same as she did the first time. Nice to know some things will never change. The moment started to take hold of us. I ran my hand through her soft hair and swiftly lifted off her t-shirt.

*

“How did you get that bruise?”

“Some boy at school hit me in the eye for standing up to him.”

“You should tell someone if you’re being bullied!”

“I don’t really care. It won’t change anything. One day I’m going to run away to this lakeside beach that I went to when I was five.”

“What does it look like?”

I turned around and looked at her. She was beautiful. Her long brown hair looked like waves when it blew in the wind. That blue dress floated in the breeze. The shadow of the cherry blossom engulfed us. Behind the hill, the sun began to set and the skyline was tainted blood red. I watched her brush the hair off her rosy lips.

“White sands as far as the eye can see. Waves from the lake break gently and can lie in the wake without a care in the world. The area is so quiet, surrounded by a think line of trees; no-one ever knows this place exists. I remember sitting on this wooden pier with my feet in the cool blue water.”

“It sounds so magical”

She walked over to me and wrapped her arms around me. It was the first hug I had ever received.

“I promise one day we’ll go back there together.”

*

The door to the room flew open, two drunken students burst into the room. One was topless, the other pant less. They looked at me, with my arms wrapped around Kara’s waist. Then they started to laugh.

“Du… dude what are you doing to the air?” the topless one blurted

“Yea… like there’s… like no-one there!”

“Oh man, he must be one of them fucking weirdo’s who thinks he’s got someone when he hasn’t.”

Confused I searched the room to see where Kara had gone. But she was no where to be found. Distress began to reign. Kara had vanished in front of my eyes. I barged past the drunken students and locked myself in the bathroom. I collapsed in a heap onto the floor. Outside I could hear the drunken students laugh about what had just transpired.

“Why are you upset?”

I looked up. Kara had reappeared again. She was fully dressed as if nothing had happened in the last five minutes.

“Oh god, I’m so fucked up!”

“Come with me… You won’t feel that way anymore if you come with me!”

“Where do you want me to go?” I asked as I stood. The reflection in the bathroom mirror showed me and me alone. Strange that in the corner of my eye I could see a girl I thought I knew for the entire of my teenage years that can disappear on a whim. Her touch had felt so real in that bedroom.

“You told me once that you had a place you wanted to see, I can take you there. You won’t ever have to be mocked by people like that again and you won’t feel pain anymore.”

I paused and thought of the beach I had drawn in mind. The first conversation Kara and I had under the Cherry Blossom. The place promised in our early days.

“Ok.” My voice was shuddering and sounded so faint.

“Wonderful, all you have to do is slit your wrist.”

“I can’t… I can’t kill myself”

“Look, I love you. I want to take you to where you want to be. Do you want to be with me?”

I felt the touch of her lips again before I answered anything. The taste of her lips was so enticing like a spell was cast over me. I reached across the cream wash basin and retrieved the razor blade. One last time I looked into the mirror to see nothing staring back at me. Gently I rested the point of the blade above the vein on my wrist. I took a deep breath. Millions of thoughts flashed through my mind at once. I began to move the blade away from the vein until Kara’s arms wrapped around me. She was so warm; I felt comfort whenever I’m with her. In my ear she whispered the words “do it!”

With one swift movement I pushed the blade into my wrist and drove it down to my hand. The blade fell into the sink as the cut on my wrist erupted with blood. A jet of blood sprayed across the walls. I cried out in pain as I fell to my knees. A pool began to form around me as the wound wept more blood out. It seemed so inviting to lay in it, as if the warmth I felt with Kara was there in the blood pool. Seconds later, I allowed myself to fall into the pool as my eyes began to feel heavy. I began to laugh hysterically. My eyelids blocked out the light from the room, and eventually the sound of own my laughter faded away.

*

I could hear the sound of sirens and numerous voices cried out my name. My eyesight was so hazy I couldn’t make anyone out. I turned my head slightly and saw Kara once again shrouded in a white glow like an angel. The warmth of the glow beckoned me to follow her, alike the pool of blood. Once more I closed my eyes.

*

My relationship with Kara has been turbulent to say the least, but we are good friends now. I had left for university to get some freedom in my life. Kara says she’s going to commute to the same university for her psychology lectures. It’s rare that I see her these days. But I’ve felt ok about it because I can’t always rely on her.

I sat on the edge of the half-pipe in the local skate park. My worn black skateboard rested behind me. The local boarders surfed across the humps in the park. As I observed them I took another long drag on my cigarette. The smoke I had blown back danced around on the spring breeze. All around me were drawings and phrases sprayed on the concrete with vibrant coloured spray paint. The artwork of a generation raised in a country of class differences and racial inequality.

I flicked the butt of the cigarette into the grass near the half pipe and picked up my board. Within seconds I was surfing the sides of the half pipe without any care in the world. In a sudden moment I plummeted down the concrete curve without my board.  The skin on my elbow scrapped across the concrete and felt like it had caught on fire. As my body halted, my board rolled past me. I rolled over and inspected my elbow to see the extent of the damage. Blood leaked from underneath the torn and burnt skin.

“You know one day you’re going to get so hurt hat I’m never going be able to take you back to that lakeside beach!”

I brushed part of my fringe away from my eyes. Kara stood at the edge of the half pipe.

“Yeah, well… I went out in style.”

“In so much style you ended up fucking up your elbow.”

“It’ll be fine; I’ll bandage it when I get home.”

“How are your housemates?”

“Alright I guess. I just think that they don’t like me as much as they like each other.”

*

Warmth

I feel the warmth again. It engulfs me like it did when I closed my eyes for the first time. Slowly I opened my eyes and felt the pain of the sunshine burning a hole in my retinas. It was like I’ve never truly used my eyes and this was the first time I had woken up. In the background I could hear the soothing break of waves gently crashing onto the beach. When my eyes had finally adjusted to the light, I turn my head to the left and saw her lying next to me. Kara looked at me and smiled that wondrous smile. We sat up and I looked at the world that she had brought to me. It was the tranquil beach I had always longed to find. Across the lake was the wooden pier. All the trees that I remembered surrounded the beach. We had arrived in the place promised in our early days.

“All I felt in that world was pain, but here I don’t really feel anything anymore.”

“That’s because here all emotions are removed when you fully succumb to this world so no-one can be hurt. It’s your perfect world.”

“Did you ever really exist when I was in that old world? Or were you a ghost?”

“I existed in your mind for when you needed some comfort or support. All of the memories you have of me are unique to you.”

In my left hand I grasped some of the sand and I stared at it on my palm. It felt so real. I watched the tiny grains fall through the cracks in my hand and disappear into the soft breeze. In my eyes I felt tears gathering fast. Slowly I curled up and began to cry. The tears fell from my eyes and into the sand like the first raindrops of a summer storm.

“None of this is real is it? This lake isn’t real! I’m dead aren’t I?”

“Please just relax in this world; you shouldn’t try to feel anything on the Beach. You offered your body back to the Water. Let it take you.”

“The Water?”

“Everything that lives originated from the Water. A life stream if you would prefer. And when people die, there bodies may decay but there immortal image will return to the life stream.”

“I don’t understand why I’m here.”

“You were alone. So I brought you here where you can be with me. Like we promised under the Cherry Blossom.”

“But I never was truly alone…”

“Then why did you let me take your life. Was it this illusion? This fantasy? The longing to be with someone who cared?”

“Liar! You never cared. You just didn’t want me to have friends besides you”

I launched myself at Kara and pinned her down by her neck. This rage only made my hands tighten around her neck. Her eyes turned bloodshot and her pupils dilated as I squeezed the last breathe of air from her body.

“Are you… rejecting this… gift?” she mumbled. I loosened my grip and began to cry once again. Tears splashed on her soft face. I struggled to see through my watering eyes, but in the mist I could make out Katie’s face. This image brought a smile to my face.

“I met so many good people in that world… and I want to see them again, I want to see her again. I know that the love I felt for her was the one thing that I know to be true in the world and I want the chance to tell her that. I just wish that I could see them one more time, even if it’s just for a minute, because when I’m with them I feel happy and no longer alone.”

“Then open your eyes. Open them for the first time, if you feel that is where you want to be.”

“Are you sure?”

“Don’t worry my love. Everyone can return to life just as long as they can picture themselves back into that reality.”

“But what if I can’t see myself there?”

“Then you will become whoever or whatever you picture yourself as.”

Slowly we both stood up and I looked over the glistening red sea. I walked into the wake with Kara and let the waves break against my feet. As the waves broke, Kara began to disappear into thin air. I observed her body blow away in little cherry blossom leaves. She held out her arm and I felt the warm touch of her fingertips brush against my cheek for one last time. Her wondrous smile emerged on her lips as the last pieces of her blew away into the wind.

“Goodbye… my love” I whispered and then I closed my eyes. As held out my arms, I saw the face of the one I wanted to be with. I took one final breath whilst falling backwards willingly into the Water.

On The Train

James had become so engrossed in finishing off his essay that he’d missed his stop. With his noise cancelling headphones on, playing The Natural Sounds Of The World album, he hadn’t heard the station call out. Plus, his mind was fully set on the laptop screen before him and the crumpled paper notes scattered across the small table.

He hadn’t felt at all guilty about taking up a whole table and four seats on the train during morning rush hour as he had sneaked into first class and hardly anyone was in the carriage with him. Being the lazy and fun loving college student that he was, he had been out partying last night and thus not the all-nighter working on his essay that he should have done.

He was near completing the damn thing, when something caught his eye and he looked up at the window. Large snowflakes were splattering against the glass and with the dark grey sky the visibility outside had dropped. Frowning, James pulled off his headphones and looked at the announcement screen above the carriage door. The time was a little past nine and the next stations weren’t ones he recognised.

Panic hit him and scrambling up, he went to find someone. As he entered the next carriage, his hip hit the elbow of a business man reading a newspaper.

‘What train is this?’ James asked, breathlessly.

‘The one to Glasgow,’ the man replied.

‘Glasgow? Did it stop at Lancaster?’

‘Yes. We are at Lockerbie now, so you’ve missed it by a good few stops.’

‘Can I get off here and go back?’ James said desperately.

‘I don’t know, sorry,’ the man answered and turned back to his newspaper.

Growling, James hurried back and packed all his things away in his rucksack. As the train pulled into the station, he waited by the doors and got off. The station was tiny and worriedly he looked around for a ticket office and didn’t spot one. However, he did see a train table on the other side from him and Lancaster was listed as a stop.

He headed for the small bridge, crossed over and double checked the sign. Luckily, there was a train due in a few minutes. He lent against a wall, watching the snowfall and kicking himself until the train arrived.

Cat With Books

Pushing open the door, Kanas walked into the quiet section of the library and found it empty. Around her the bookcases grew from the floor and into the ceiling, each stuffed full of volumes that seemed to watch and whisper to her. Closing the door, Kanas clutched the two books she had already picked up to tighter her chest and rested her chin on top of them. Her breath had caught and her eyes could not stop glancing around.

It felt wrong to be in here this late, but on the other hand she was relieved to have found a space to study. Abruptly, the next song on her IPod burst into her large headphones and she jumped. Catching herself on a nearby bookcase, which also caused a small scratch on her palm, she recovered quickly and slipped the headphones off. 12 Stones Open Your Eyes drifted softly into the room. Shaking her head, Kanas meandered around the bookcases and towards a centre isle, where a large table and fourteen chairs sat.

Kanas slipped her books and bag onto the table, which also held a number of green shaded lamps, a pile of abandoned books, a vase of dried flowers and another object which seemed out of place. Frowning, Kanas walked to the other end of the table to see what it was. The music from her headphones still floated out and in her curiosity, she seemed to have forgotten about it.

She stepped around the corner of the table and looked down. The object was a large painting in a wooden frame. It depicted a sleeping cat on a bookcase surrounded by birds, mice and books. The cat was a tabby and looked content with its body and paws wrapped around the books. Kanas smiled, it reminded her of herself and her bedroom. Slowly, she reached out and stroked the cat’s fur. There was no glass in the frame, so her fingers brushed against the dried paint.

Pulling herself away, she went back to the other end of the table and set herself up. She had an English essay to write on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Opening her laptop, she switched it on and left it loading whilst she sorted out her notes and the books. Just before she was about to start typing her eyes flickered to the painting once more, even though she now couldn’t see it from this angle. I’ll ask about it later, she thought as she slipped her headphones on and began typing.

She wrote solidly for an hour, finding it easy going and her essay taking shape nicely. She was so wrapped up in her work that she didn’t hear the door opening or the sharp coughing behind her. A figure appeared in the corner of her eye and Kanas jumped, her hands shot up to rip the headphones off and her mouth forming an O scream. With the music off though, the janitor’s voice came to her and her shocked faded.

‘It’s closing time. Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I didn’t know you were here. Are you all right?’ he was speaking.

Kanas nodded and looked at the time on her laptop, it was two am.

‘I thought it was an all nighter?’ she asked, saving her work.

‘It is. Was I believe, but there’s no one else here now. Bit silly if you ask me, keeping the university library open all night on a Friday,’ the janitor chuckled, then stopped as his eyes fell on Kanas, ‘Deadline due?’

‘Overdue. I got an extension till Monday. My aunt died last week,’ Kanas explained.

‘I’m sorry about that.’

‘My hall was too noisy and there was a group of media student taking up the twenty-four hour computer room. So I came here. I’ll leave if you want me too,’ Kanas added.

‘You got much left to do?’

She nodded.

‘You can come back tomorrow though,’ the janitor smiled.

‘Yeah, thanks,’ Kanas replied and quickly began packing up.

The janitor carried on his sweeping off the floor then began cleaning the other side of the table. Kanas saw him touching the painting and suddenly remembered about it. Slipping on her bag and picking up her books, she called to him and asked, ‘where did that painting come from?’

‘This?’ he asked holding it up, ‘I found it the other day behind one of the bookcases in here. No one seems to know anything about it and the head librarian told me to throw it away today. I think it’s too nice though. I was going to keep.’

Kanas bite her lip and nodded. She turned to go.

‘Wait. Do you…want it?’

She turned back and walked over. Her eyes fell on the painting and a smile came to her face, ‘Can I? There’s just something about it. It reminds me of myself…somehow…’ she giggled.

‘Sure. My wife’s sick of me bring things home. Here,’ he prompt and handed her the painting, ‘I’ll show you out.’

‘Thanks,’ she said and slipped the painting under her arm, ‘it’ll brighten up my room.’

‘I hear they are good for inspiration too,’ the janitor added.

They walked through the library and to the main door. After saying goodbye, Kanas stepped into the cool November night and headed back to her room. Her hall was quiet and after juggling the painting and books, she made it through her front and room doors. Putting everything down on the bed, she turned on the light and took the old clock down from the wall above the desk.

She wasn’t sure that the hook would take the painting, but after a few tries, she got it up. Stepping back, she looked at the sleeping cat and felt a wave of peace and tiredness creep across her. Sorting out her things, she then got ready for bed, but she couldn’t help but noticed that the painting really brightened up the room.