A Small Punishment
Mona lay face down on the bed, pressing the pillow into her eyes, but she couldn’t stop the image coming, a white flower closing in a speeded-up film. When Steve had told her he was leaving, she’d felt herself shrinking like the flower.
A routine would be good, it would help take her mind off things, she knew that, but she’d given up on the nine to five for now. She had an Amnesty International calendar in the kitchen and ticked off the days. She’d read an article about a Japanese artist, known as ‘the bread man’, who travelled the world with bloomers tied to his head. Mona understood the attraction of wearing bread round your head, it would act like a giant car bumper, protecting you from shocks.
Sometimes she couldn't stand the things around her. Harmless things like her hairbrush, the kettle, the pattern on the shower curtain – all of these could unleash a terrifying uneasiness in her. Sometimes these things didn’t bother her, but sometimes she had to focus on them and they became unbearable. And now she couldn’t even pick up a magazine without awareness of the act – seeing herself bending down to pick it up. Everything had too much significance when you were on your own.
If anyone phoned who didn’t know, she’d say, Steve doesn’t live here anymore and she’d give them his new number. They’d dial the new number, and Mona’s twin sister would answer, saying, Hang on, I’ll get him, sounding just like Mona.
Only last year, they’d gone to France for their honeymoon. Steve had taken a black and white photo of her in the water with her back to the camera. Mona’d been squealing and laughing, the waves slapping against her like a small punishment. He’d blown the photo up and hung it in the hall.
Now she would sit on the sanded floor, hugging her knees, staring up at the grainy woman. She was desperate for the woman to turn round and tell her that everything was going to be okay. The grainy woman didn’t know that her husband was fucking her sister.
The night he’d left, Mona had curled up in the bedroom cupboard amongst what was left of his clothes, his ties licking her face. She’d cried so much she’d felt she was peeling away from herself. She’d cut off her twin’s head in every photo she could find, scattering her smile on the floor like treacherous jigsaw pieces.
Today, she’d thought of going to a matinee – there was a good French film showing - but she could see herself sitting in the cinema with popcorn, and the preview was terrifying, so she’d turned back. By the time she’d reached University Ave, she was crying and the speeded-up flower was shrinking inside her head again. She’d cried boo-hoo-hoo all the way home to their conveniently situated two-bedroomed flat with gas central heating and attractive roof-garden. Offers over £200 000.