Hed been in the kitchen, being with the blood. Hed allowed the drops to concentrate at his feet, to pool and spatter, patterns complicating patterns, beginning to look like an almost significant loss. Twenty drops or so for every millilitre and telling the story of someone standing, wounded, but not too severely and neither struggling nor in flight.
Hed been in the kitchen and laid his own trail to the French windows. Tiny splashes hazed a power point in the skirting board, dirtying its little plastic coverwhite, the kind of thing you fit to stop a child from putting its fingers where they shouldnt be. No reason for the cover, of course, their household didnt need itprotection from a hazard they couldnt conjure, an impossibility.
Hed been in the kitchen marking the reflections with his blood. Then hed paused for a few millilitres before he needed to swipe his whole arm back and forth in mid-air, blood hitting the dark glass of the doors in punctuated curves, the drops legging down before they dried, being distorted by motion, direction, gravity. Hed pumped his fist, then tried to cup his hand, catch some of his flow, then cast it off again, drive it over his ghost face and the night-time garden outside, the dim layers of wind-rocked shrubs, the scatter of drizzle, thinner and less interesting than blood. Hed thrown overarm, underarm, tried to get a kick out of his wrist until the hurt in his hand felt anxious, abused. Then hed rubbed his knuckles wetly across his forehead before cradling them with his other palm, while his physiology performed as could be predicted, increased heart rate jerking out his loss, building up his body of evidence. Read the blood here and youd see perhaps a blade that rose and fell, or the clash of victim and attacker: blows and fear and outrage, shock.
Hed been in the kitchen and she had come in. Never even heard her unlock the front door, nor any of the usual small combinations of noise as she dropped her bag and shed her coat, made her way along the corridor and then stood. Hed only noticed her when she spoke.
Jesus Christ, Frank. What have you done. What the fuck are you doing.
Hed turned to her and smiled, because he was glad to see her. Im sorry, the soups not ready. Itll be . . . Hed glanced at the clock and calculated, so that shed know how to plan her timeshe might want a bath before they ate. Itll be about nine. Would you like a drink? He could feel a distraction, a moisture somewhere near his right eyebrow.
What the fuck are you doing.
Hed smiled again, which meant that he might have seemed sad for the second or two before, I know, but nine isnt too late. He needed to apologise and uncover how she was feelingthat would help their evening go well. Time spent paying attention to people is never wasted. Unless youre really hungry. Are you really hungry? Her hair had been ruffled, was perhaps dampsome intervention of bad weather between her leaving the car and reaching their doorstep had disturbed it. Skin paler than normal but with strong colour at her cheeks, as if she was cold. Her suit was the chocolatey one with this metallic-blue blouse, a combination which always struck him as odd but very lovely, You look tired. It was the fit of the suit. So snug. It lay just where your hands would want to. Would you like a bath? Therell be time. Once its ready, it doesnt spoil. Shed kept her figure: was possibly even slimmer, brighter than when theyd first met. I got some organic celeriac, which was lucky. He seemed slightly breathless for some reason and heavy in his arms.
What if Id brought someone back with me. What if theyd seen . . . you.
Excerpted from What Becomes by A. L. Kennedy Copyright © 2010 by A. L. Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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