House-sitter

In the morning there was the pull of things, like the turning of the leaves. June unwrapped a ball of wool at the table, wore only a T-shirt, white cotton blanching against her thigh. The green window frames were old and would whistle come autumn, but in that early part of the season gave only the faint impression of holding their breath.

James held the pool queue tight in the upper room, stalked the table without thought. Their time house-sitting was coming to an end. It was too soon for either of them to have a child. He tried to aim casually, to remain unmethodical in his approach. The wind pulled at the leaves of the trees outside.

In the evening they sat before one another like chess pieces long unmoved. Meals of fresh vegetables, the last the earth would give. From the French doors the last stretch of sunlight laid its finger across the room. At the table they spoke over the sound of cutlery that wasn’t theirs. Fine crystal glasses shone bright and silent in a cabinet against the wall.

There are days that feel borrowed, like placing your hand in a recently worn glove. Others remain indecently your own. These were the sort that if he were a fisherman James would have gladly thrown back.

It was about then that June pressed her thumb tightly against the fork’s side, and said, apropos of nothing,

“I’m sorry, but this is something I have to do alone.”

Brett Darling is a writer from London. He is a graduate of the MA in creative writing programme at London Metropolitan University. His ekphrastic writing is forthcoming on the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) blog. This is his first published work of fiction.

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