by Rebecca Smith

Rose scraped the letters ‘P.T.’ in the freshly made soot at the back of the chimney.  The flames leaned to one side of the grate and she used the poker like a sword to carve a temporary shrine at the cooler side.  She sat crossed legged on the rug, watching the letters shimmer as the rain whipped itself around the cottage.  The storm pelted the small windows, desperate to get in. Rose shivered. Her fingers sought the rough burn holes that peppered the rug from spits from the fire.

The power had clicked off with a hush an hour ago and she had been waiting, waiting, ever since.

She should have heard from Jay by now. He should have text. She stood at the window and watched the rolling coven of clouds stop at her doorstep.  The grey deepened in the sky and she thought of the night before. The hairs on her arms tingled with electricity. The fever and thrill of guilt.

She ate the last piece of cake, a crumbly sad piece, standing next to the fire.  Her reflection flashed warmly back at her in the mirror above the mantelpiece.  She looked herself in the eye trying to swallow the gradual feeling of worry. The pull and shove of the two of them. It made her weak.

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Last orders were a long time ago.  She pictured Jay running from the pub kitchen to his car, hammered by the rain.  Driving carefully, the windscreen wipers going hell for leather. She looked around the living room to brush away the image, the expression he’d be wearing, of concentration, of care. She had loved that expression. The candles flickered in their make shift homes, empty bottles of wine, old mugs.  A little witch’s cottage is meant for nights like this.

She picked up her phone but it stared blankly back at her.  There were no texts from Jay. No texts from Peter.

A gust of wind threw a bucket full of rain drops onto the living room window.  She sat down in front of the fire again and pulled the blanket around her shoulders.  There’s no way Jay could have found out about them. No way. Peter was always so careful when he left. By the fire, her left side was unbearably hot in seconds. Her right side was as cold as death from the draft under the door. She rearranged the blanket and was lost for a moment inside the memory of it. Hot skin and rushed kisses. Breathlessness. The smell of burnt wood and embers. The door slammed open and she jumped up. The blanket fell onto the rug.

‘Rose!’ he shouted, ‘My phone died. I’m sorry, I wanted to text.’ He walked over to her, taking off his wet jacket. He dripped thin wasted raindrops onto the floorboards.

‘It’s okay,’ she smiled. The slippy sick feeling of relief blended with regret washed into her. ‘I knew you’d be fine.’

They kissed standing in front of the fire, then blew the candles out, bar two, which they carried, in their wine bottle sticks, up the stairs.  ‘I missed you last night,’ he said in the twitching shadows.

The fire was left to burn down in the grate.

In the morning the rain had stopped. Roads were flooded. Farmers fields had become lakes.  The old stone walls of the cottage had withstood the bursting clouds.  Jay woke early to light the fire for Rose.  It was the only way to heat the water for a bath.  He opened the curtains and the sun shone onto the fireplace, the initials, P.T. in the black powdered soot like a memorial.

Rebecca Smith | @beckorio

Rebecca Smith was brought up in the middle of nowhere in Cumbria and now lives in central Scotland. She studied English and Media at Stirling University and then produced live radio for 10 years, almost purely living off adrenaline. She currently works in Radio Drama in Glasgow. She has been mentored by Kirsty Logan after she was selected as part of the WoMentoring Project and has stories published in various magazines (Freak Circus, Tales from the Forest, Northwords Now, [Untitled]). She has one son, a silver-grey cat and penchant for biscuits.

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