Chapter 3

Chapter 3

A Chapter by livspen

Tiffany and Robert return from their walk.


When we got back to the house, the sky was a bruised purple hue. Robert’s father was drunk and his bland voice ricocheted off every wall. An empty bottle of scotch lay horizontal on the coffee table. It was one of those expensive scotches that my own father might have gone crazy for had he been there.

Robert's grey eyes looked over at me sadly as I pulled off my wellingtons, as if to say, "This is where it all begins...."

With the scotch. The rest comes after.

We wondered into the house. The idea of a chess game popped into my head, but then I remembered Robert was so expert at it he found it dull. My Aunt was nowhere to be seen, but she usually went upstairs to iron that time of night anyway.The smell of slow-boiling carrots drifted to us. 

"I'm going upstairs," Robert said. His long muscular arms reached round to scratch the back of his head. "Shall I see you at dinner, or...?"

"Yes. We shall rendez-vous then."

"Indeed. It shall be a surprise to see you there once again, I have to say. A delight, but a surprise." A wicked smile lay on his lips. Then he leapt lightly up the stairs, 3 at a time, disappeared.

If only I could go up with him, to his room, for the evening. Had we got to that chummy stage yet? We had, surely? How could I know. He was like a dream, but nonetheless, boys , for me, were still from Mars. I swung my hands limply around me. Mr Grey's voice rumbled on.

I took a few steps towards his downstairs study. The door, one of the mahogany doors with a gold knob which were everywhere around the house, was firmly closed. I stepped right up to it, but did not touch it, as if I feared it would burn me. In the dim evening light, the brown wood did seem to smoulder a little. 

Beyond, I could hear he was listening to Frank Sinatra. Occasionally, there was a bash or a tap or clap sound as if my Uncle was using furniture as percussion instruments, or maybe punchbags. His voice didn't fit the tune on the tape. No wonder it hadn't sounded like singing. It was a drone--

"Tiffany, is Robert home?"

I spun round and almost fell over with surprise at my Aunt's slicing, curt voice. She had on an olive green wrap dress which made her pale neck seem oddly long.

"Yes, he went to his room a minute ago."

My Aunt waited a few seconds, as if my voice was oddly delayed in her head, then nodded and let her face relax a little. But not much. It still looked painfully stretched. She turned slowly and went into the kitchen, where her heels clacked on the terracotta tiles.

Inside the room, Sinatra still played. But my Uncle sang no more.

Dinner went quickly that night, for which I was glad. The end of my Uncle's nose was a lavender purple; his lips quivered strangely whenever someone looked at him. My Aunt didn't look at him often. She was trying not to, I expect.

Robert ate dutifully, silently, as always. Tonight's casserole was one of the more preferable of my Aunt's stock meals, because the dead meat soaked up the sauce and was not, therefore, as hard on the teeth. Potatoes were edible, too. Some vapid talk about tomorrow's Christmas tree hunt came and went. Then it was time to wipe your mouth with your dazzling white napkin, throw it on the table, get up and stumble off. That's what my Uncle believed, at least.

Robert watched him go with level grey eyes. He looked so superb in the soft light hanging above the table. Almost... a demi-god. And I felt, once again, that something was troubling him. As it had been troubling me. But maybe he was suffering more.

We took our plates to the kitchen and said thank you to Mrs Grey who replied rigidly, as she always did, that the clock was running on and it was best to get to bed. Robert's closed environment out here meant a trapped life for a 19-year-old boy with the face of an angel. Maybe that was this trouble inside him.

I don't know why I could always sense trouble. I always had been able to do it. Nice things always caught me unawares, although I can't remember too many of those in my childhood.... I had a surprise birthday party when I was ten. That counts. Nice things were a surprise. But for days before something bad, something wretched and stinkingly awful, which they always were if they were bad, I could feel the trouble brewing like a shivering kettle. I knew I was going to be ill a week before I got food poisoning at the age of 7. I could already taste the vomit at night, as I drifted between consciousness and sleep. It was the most ill I'd ever been.

And I could see that kind of.... bad..... behind Robert's large, round eyes.

I tip-toed upstairs into his room that night, around midnight, after everyone had rolled into bed. I had brushed my unruly hair smooth beforehand. His bedside lamp was on, and the untidiness of his room was magnified eighty times in the eerie glow. He was sitting on his bed quietly, writing in a book which was obviously very private, because he snapped it shut when I appeared in the arc of his door. But a smile soon broke over his face. He looked relieved, somehow.

"Evening," he said, softly. Patted the bed beside him. 

I felt my skin begin to glow hotly as I moved to sit down.

"Couldn't sleep," I said. This was a part-truth. I feared the... dreams. But I wanted to see Robert, how he was. Try to crack him. He was a difficult and mesmerising puzzle.

"I think there might be some herbal tea downstairs that will help you sleep better. Special tea. Ginger and lemon, I think. Mum drinks it."

"Oh, great. I'll try it tomorrow."

Our faces were close in the lamplight. He seemed distant, however. Very far away. Then he licked his lips and asked:

"Do you feel happy to be here? At this house?"

"Of course." The answer seemed to jump out of me. "Yes, absolutely. It's worlds away from... from when I'm with my parents." 

Robert was smiling but I could tell that wasn't what he was asking. Not really.

"Why do you ask?" I whispered. It came out a whisper, as if hushed by the peace and the dark.

Robert opened his lips and took a breath. Then he closed his mouth abruptly. Shook his head. Laughed forcedly. "I don't know, actually."

"Oh." My eyes inadvertently drifted to the dark red cover of his book, just next to him. It was battered and old, and the gold writing had almost totally peeled off. I couldn't read it easily, and after a second Robert snatched it up in his arms.

"My writing book. It's just silly poems and things." He held it so tightly as he placed it in the drawer next to his bed, on top of a moth-bitten scarf.

I sensed something had bothered him.

"Night then, Robert." I got up, trying not to creak the floorboards. He smiled weakly up at me. I considered ruffling his hair, and my hand twitched, but I couldn't.

"Night night, Tiff. Sweet dreams. No nightmares." His eyes followed me closely as I left the room. I wondered if he wanted me to go. 

A bitter cold brushed up and down my arms and legs as soon as I left Robert's room. Utterly icy. Pricking my skin into goosebumps. Grazing me.

Just a draught, Tiffany... Just a draught.....

Oh the shark, babe

Has such teeth, dear

And it shows them

Pearly white

Just a jackknife

Has old MacHeath, babe

And he keeps it

Out of sight.

When that shark bites

With his teeth, babe

Scarlet billows

Start to spread

Fancy gloves, though

Wears old MacHeath, babe

So there's never, never

A trace of red.........

© 2010 livspen

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Added on May 15, 2010
Last Updated on July 30, 2010
Tags: horror, dinner, father



Brighton, Sussex, United Kingdom

Im Liv. I'm from Brighton, England. I write, constantly. Enjoy. more..

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