Foreign House: Fifteen

FRIDAY

I pad down the corridor to the ajar door. Why I am doing it quietly? What am I expecting? I peer through the gap. The room is arranged as a reflection of ours. But which side of the mirror am I on? 

From where I am, most of the room is blocked from view. I can see the wall that curves around the bathroom and the desk-cum-vanity table. Less paraphernalia. Less moisturisers and gels. Less powders and rouges. Just a a couple of generic pots. Don’t date a dancer if you ever want to see any of your surfaces again. 

The door creaks as I push it further open. Someone is on the bed, laying on their back. I can only see their lower torso, sloping over the far side of the bed. 

I knock. What else do you do in this situation? 

The figure rises, unnaturally at the waist, with no support from their arms, until seated. I get a brief glance of their face. It’s Ashley. Eyes wide, mouth open. I step back from door.

“Are you OK after the confrontation with… the stag?” asks Ashley. Her voice sounds like it is being played from a Dictaphone with a faded battery. Off-key and warbled.  

“Yes,” I say. After too long a pause I add, “Are you OK?” 

“Yes.” There is another pause. “Will I see you downstairs at the training?”

“Yes. You will.”

After a moment, I ask, “Would you like me to close the door?” 

“It’s up to you.”

It’s up to me? I pull the door closed. It squeals again, then clicks shut. 

When I turn, I see Cindy poking her head out of the door. What? she mouths. I shoo her into the room with the back of my hand. When the door is closed, I tell her what I saw. 

“Are you sure?” is the first thing she asks, annoyingly.

“Yes.”

“Did you see who was running down the corridor?” she asks. 

“No.”  

She raises her eyebrows, “But?”

“It sounded like children.” 

“Did any of your colleagues come with their children.” 

“Not young children. It sounded like someone this tall…” I put a hand against my thigh. “And then last night as well,” I mumble. I don’t mention the figures I saw at breakfast. 

Cindy sighs, “What are you not telling me? There’s a piece missing.” 

“Yes, it’s the piece that makes me sound….”  

“Worse than what we saw on the beach?” she asks. Then waits. Which is infuriating because I know I will fill the silence sooner or later. 

So I tell her what I saw in the clearing. And after a moment I say, “You don’t believe me.” Not a question. A statement. And after another moment, “You can tell I’m not lying.” 

“I can tell that you think you’re telling the truth.” She says, without any coats of sugar. 

“C’mon, Cindy,” I sigh. “What about the bones on the beach?” 

“They were spooky. But they could have been anything.” 

“Cindy, this isn’t the weirdest thing in your life. You already take this for granted,” I say, barging some emotions into her mind. 

“It’s different.” Is all she can offer. The difference is she is accustomed to the magic of being an empath. She knows nothing else. 

>Be me

>Have QT 3.14 gf

>Still foreveralone

“And weirdest of all, it actually looks like Kanu is having a good time for once,” I say, trying to break the tension. She chuckles. “Kanu wants to talk to me about something,” I add.

Cindy breaks eye-contact. She almost never breaks eye-contact. She is too trained in the arts of intimacy. “What now?” I ask.  

“Are you sure he’s your son?” 

“What the fuck, Cindy?” Is everything that has happened so far an elaborate April fools prank? “Which one of us is losing their mind? Where did that come from?”  

She re-establishes eye-contact. “He doesn’t have the empathy.” 

“So what? Neither does his mother. It makes sense. Two kids, fifty-fifty.” 

“Only one of my parents had it but all four of my siblings have it to different degrees.” 

“To different degrees,” I repeat. “Maybe Kanu has it to such a mild degree he doesn’t notice.” I ask the question I was trying to avoid. “What makes you think he is not my son? Did you go into Lara’s mind?”

“No. You’re right,” she says. “It’s probably just the weirdness of everything making me go a little crazy, as well.” 

As well? 

“I’ve got to go and join this training. What are you going to do this afternoon?” I ask, desperate to change the topic now. 

“I’m going to look around the hotel. Use the spa if it’s open. Maybe go for a walk in the gardens. Seems a shame not to use all the gear I bought.” 

I lift her with a hug and squeeze, planting a sloppy kiss on her neck. Can you squeeze away the distance of doubt between two people? The squirming, ticklish squeal she lets out, suggests you can. 

I leave her and make my way to the ground floor, listening at Ashley’s door as I pass. Nothing. At the bottom of the stairs I check the reception desk. It’s still abandoned. Someone has erected a notice board in the lobby. On it is a piece of A4 paper that looks ridiculous on the vast board. Our company logo, followed by a single line: DIE in the workplace 14:00 to 16:00, followed by the room name. A conference room on the same wing as the dining room.   

Sounds drift to from the other wing of the hotel. People are playing parlour games in one of the sitting rooms. Comforting but muffled and distant. I think I can hear Kanu’s voice amongst the din. It feels like he is coming out of his shell finally. 

I walk to the other wing.

Deep breaths.

Get a grip. 

*

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