Penelope

I get a text from O telling me he has landed. They’ve lost his luggage and his phone is about to die. He says he is on his way and he’s still got his keys.

I’m throwing a party. Partly because it’s my birthday, partly because today is the day he said he’d be back.

I have spent the day in motion preparing. Moving around the house and getting ready to host.

The Wheedler got here early and offered to help. I’ve got him cutting cucumbers. He keeps touching my arm whenever we speak and trying to look into my eyes. I put the booze out on a table in the kitchen. I bring the snacks upstairs.

Guests arrive and they gather in the living room. Someone gives me flowers and I try to smile gratefully. Where I’m standing I can look out on the street and see who walks past.

The Lodger arrives. He knows that tonight is partly birthday partly not. Originally we had agreed he would move out when O came back. But he has ignored any mention of O since and speaks like a man with his feet under the table. He is with a group of people I don’t know.

The house fills up. The music gets louder. The Wheedler asks if I want anything to drink and I take what he offers. He starts to talk to me about how long we’ve known each other. I drink and nod.

I have to push my way up the stairs to get a mop. Some idiot dropped a bottle of wine in the hall. Two men I don’t know watch me silently as I clean up.

I’ve drunk too much. The room is slipping. I go to the toilet. Someone knocks at the door after I’m not sure how long. They ask if I am okay. I mumble something. They knock again. I tell them to fuck off. I take off my clothes and get in the shower. Cold. I dry myself and then redress. A glass of water is waiting for me outside the door.

I get to the foot of the stairs and there is the Lodger. He pulls me by the arm into the living room and explains that the alcohol is running out. He offers to go get some more, but he doesn’t have any cash. He’s still holding onto my wrist. Fifty. He guides me upstairs to get my wallet. He tries to follow me into my room but I manage to close the door. I press my body against it. I look round and see two people making out on my bed. I find my bag and get the cash.

I’m in the corridor and he is thanking me for the money. He leans forward for a kiss.

I’m downstairs talking to a man who works in the civil service. Something about tax. I’m having trouble speaking, I can just about keep my eyes focused on him. He keeps on talking.

My bedroom is empty now, and some fucker has spilt wine on the sheets. At least I think it’s wine. I gulp the glass of water beside my bed. I sit on the bed and look at my phone. There are no messages. The cat, who I haven’t seen since the morning, sits on my lap and licks my beard. We sit in silence for a while until someone falls over on the stairs and it jumps off. I remember I have a pack of cigarettes stashed in my cupboard.

I’m out the back door and I don’t have a fucking lighter. There’s some guy on the wall smoking. He has some matches and I light a cigarette. I slur thanks.

The Lodger is snorting coke in the kitchen.

The Wheedler is holding two drinks and offers me one. I thank him and turn around. He stops me and asks if I want to dance. I suppose so.

Someone’s drawn the curtains and I can’t see outside anymore.

I throw up in the bathroom. My hands grip the side of the toilet.

A knock at the door. FUCK OFF. I hear the door open and I realise it wasn’t locked. I turn to begin shouting and I see O standing there with the door closed behind his back.

He stands and watches me, smiling, a smirk really. Oh fuck off (quietly). He kneels down and puts his hand on my back.

Washing my face I see him in the mirror’s reflection. He strikes a match and hold it up to the ceiling, to the smoke detector. The alarm goes off throughout the house. He walks to the window and opens it. We watch as the guests stream into the street. I see the lodger with a bloody nose.

O smirks.

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Dinosaur

This is based on a little boy I knew when working in nursery last year.

 

He pretends he is a dinosaur

It’s the only word he knows

He bends his fingers into claws

And wrinkles up his nose

 

He bends his knees and stamps his feet

His head swivels left to right

He loves to bare his pointy teeth

And roar with all his might

 

He loves nothing more than stomping

Up and down the corridor

We ask him what he’s playing

His reply is: Dinosaur

 

We worry for his progress

We worry for his speech

We talk to mum and rack our brains

We do our best to teach

 

And soon enough he begins to talk

He starts playing different games

He begins to talk to other children

He becomes fascinated by trains

 

We soon forget our t-rex worries

Amidst the sand, blocks, and sticks

There’s always a child who’s dripping wet

Or another who spits and kicks

 

But one day I do a double take

It was him I’m pretty sure

Looking in the mirror

His mouth a silent roar