This piece was inspired by a painting, which you can view here.
The way they were looking at each other when they came out of the meeting room. A sly little glance over at me. I pretended to be working. All afternoon I got the sense they had been discussing my future at the company, and how I’m not suitable for the senior position, even though I’m obviously the best person for the job. Martha’s always been out to get me. I think she’s jealous. I can’t get it out of my head, that look in her eyes, although she acted like everything was normal when she sat back down. Then she leaned across and asked me to get started on the Quale account. The stink of coffee on her breath. I smiled, said of course. Minutes later I heard her fingers tapping aggressively on the keyboard like she was drafting an angry email. She’s always doing that. I think it must be to do with her childhood, the reason she’s so angry. Maybe she didn’t get enough attention as a kid and now she has to play the victim all the time?
Oh, what am I going to do about Daniel’s birthday? It’s less than two weeks away. I got him that video game he wanted, and I was thinking about maybe getting him an electric shaver, because I’ve noticed he’s started shaving more regularly now, it’s quite sweet actually, makes me feel proud and also kind of sad, like I know he’ll be leaving home soon and sometimes I worry I’ll get lonely without him…
Red velvet cake. That’s what I’ll make. He’ll act all unimpressed, like they do. Teenage boys. But secretly he’ll love it. When we’re in the kitchen, after the guests have gone home, he’ll give me a hug and say: ‘thanks, Mum, it was a really nice day.’
It was just the way Martha was looking at him. When they came out of the meeting. What were they saying about me? She was holding a piece of paper in her hand and I tried to get a look at it as she walked by. Urgh, she just loves it. Making me suffer. She’s jealous of all women younger than her. I’d been banking on this promotion, we could use the money, I need to get the repairs finished.
The builder is ripping me off. His quote seems far too high. If Harry was still around I could ask him, but things are awkward, I can’t just text him out of the blue.
Blue. Maybe blue for the back room. Light, of course, like eggshell or something. Is that a colour? I should go to B&Q at the weekend. Price up the paint. Blue. Sea blue, water on my feet, is this the beach I used to visit with Mum in the summer? Stars. I want to walk, only my feet are stuck. Sand. It’s wet, cold, I can’t move.
Maybe blue for the back room, and an electric shaver for Daniel.
Why can’t I move my feet? It’s dark. I can’t see anything when I look down. I have to struggle. Pull my knees up to my chest. There is wind whistling through the air, and branches groaning. Someone is here. I struggle more, try to get away. Then I can see the horizon. A border between sand and sky. I walk further. Is this a forest? With my hands grasping, I feel my way through the trees. I’m being followed. They might be dangerous. I break into a run but can’t seem to go very fast; it’s like I’m moving through treacle. The smell of bark. Footsteps behind me. Who is that? I call out ‘Harry’. No answer. They’re getting faster.
Now I’m at the station. Train announcements, and people rushing round. I look over my shoulder and try to catch sight of my pursuer. They are obscured by the wall of passengers. What time is my train leaving, again? There’s a ticket in my hand. It’s departing in less than five minutes and I haven’t found my platform. The departure board is blurry; I squint; the numbers are confusing. I need to get home to meet the builder. He’ll be there at seven. What time is it? Already ten o’clock, fuck!
A hand appears from the crowd and grabs me. This person is familiar, but like the numbers, I can’t discern their face. Is it Martha? I need to get home, meet the builder, make the cake for Daniel’s birthday. I am pulled back. Reaching into my pocket, I touch the cool handle of the knife. We’re on the floor. She’s on top of me, fighting, suffocating. I grasp the handle tighter. It will be over quickly and everything will be OK. Pull out the knife. Do it. Now. It seems to be stuck. What time is the train leaving?
There’s a flicker of space, blackness, a tide coming in. The sand is wet and cold. My Mum is proud of me, for building this sandcastle all by myself. It’s better than my brother’s. Later we’re going to the arcade. My fingers will turn metallic. The edge of the water is inviting. I want to go in. Behind me, her voice comes like music, telling me to be careful. I’m old enough, now. I know things. It’s quiet, and I’m alone.
But the water is stronger than it looked. It’s taking all my strength to stay afloat. Pulling me down, like Martha’s hands. Up ahead there is a drop. It’s going to be steep. I kick my feet and flap my arms. This seems to go on forever. Just when I think the waterfall is coming, there is more black water, and I kick and flap harder trying to swim back to shore. She’s waiting. It makes no difference. I prepare myself for the pain. It’s like giving birth. You think you can anticipate what’s coming. Then the shock pummels you, knocking you down. The tide is pulling. Here it comes. Focus on breathing. Push, Sarah. Count down from ten. That’s it. You’re doing great.
And here comes the drop. I am weightless (awake?). Dawn light is seeping through the curtains.
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Photo by Artem Saranin