Apologies for the delay, but here it finally is - The Wrong Room. ©opyright, as always, remains solely with me, the author.
THE WRONG ROOM
His current name is John. John Dale. An ordinary name, an invisible name, plucked from the air for that very reason. He lives inside his head and rarely speaks. He keeps himself to himself. It wasn’t always so, not before that last night in Basingstoke.
He sits at a corner table for one, on a busy terrace overlooking a sea the same shade of blue as the Miro print on the whitewashed wall behind him. Though he belongs now on the fringes of society, he seeks the company of crowds. They shield him, like a locked door, from the horror lurking in the basement. They keep him anchored in the present. For a while, at least. Alone at night, in cheap no-questions-asked hotels, the past always wins, unless he’s drunk himself into oblivion.
A black and white figure in a ridiculous oversized sombrero flits by his table, a tray of chinking glasses held aloft, blond sweat-dark hair fastened in a stubby ponytail. John lifts a hand to his own hair, blond too beneath the mouse-brown L’Oréal.
Hey! Waiter! Any chance of some service here? Natives gone for a kip and left you to it, have they? Bleeding siestas. Good job you student types come here for the summer or we’d all die of thirst.
Do they make you wear that hat for the tourists, then? Or was it your idea, to keep the sun off? Can hardly see your face. Good idea if you’ve only just arrived, mind. Sun’s bleeding strong here, even in the late afternoon. Course, I’m used to it. Almost a native now.
Hey! I was here before them. Or was I. Maybe not. And anyway, they look like they need a drink even more than me. Frying on the beach all day, I expect. Can smell the suntan oil from here. Deep meaningful looks and holding hands under the table. Just wait till later, when the pink turns red. That’ll put an end to the shagging for a day or two.
Speaking of which, it’s been a long time. Two years, to be exact. Can’t get it up any more, not since… Hey! Where the hell are you going now? No, no, you’re right. That old couple was already here when I sat down. Germans, aren’t they? Or maybe Dutch. Never was much good at languages. Well, what’s the point? Everyone speaks English. Except the bleeding French. They do it on purpose, you know, to piss us off. If I’d known, I’d have bought a phrase book at Dover. Needed all the help I could get, with the cops on my tail.
Ah! You’ve noticed me at last. An apologetic glance that says ‘on my way’. And about time too.
What the…? No, it can’t be… But it is, it is! Those amazing violet eyes, just like your ma’s! Scarred chin. Happened when you fell off your trike that time. Jesus Christ, you’ve come searching for me like I always feared you would. Close up, you’ll see through the dyed hair and brown contacts, right into my soul, what’s left of it. I have to – need to – get up and run. Run and run, across the sand and into the sea and swim to Africa. But I can’t. I’m frozen solid from the inside out.
I love you, son. Please believe that. And I loved your ma, even after what she did. If I hadn’t got wrecked again that night, maybe we could’ve worked things out, me and her. She always said drink’d be my downfall and she was right.
All that blood, so much blood. Everywhere, it was. Splattered up the walls, soaked right through the mattress. The Butcher of Basingstoke, they called me. Bleeding tabloids.
I had no idea. No idea your ma was having an affair. I should have done. Even your Uncle Jack knew, and he was permanently bladdered. He told me, in the Feathers that night. Her boss, he said. Been going on for months. When I got home, there he was, her bastard loverboy, stretched out in our bed like he belonged there. At least, that’s what I thought. Bleeding drink messed up my radar good and proper. You have to believe I didn’t know. I didn’t know. Please, if you leave me be I promise I’ll never touch another drop, I promise I promise…
I can’t stand it any longer. Do what you’ve come to do. It can’t be worse than all those terrible dreams and sleepless nights. Put me out of my misery. I’m ready, ready as I’ll ever be. Just make it quick, please make it quick…
Wha…? I don’t believe it! You don’t look anything like my boy! Apart from the hair. Not even a hint of a scar. And I could’ve sworn, bleeding sworn…
Is this my punishment, God? For running away? Don’t you think I hurt enough already? Don’t you? It was an accident, for Pete’s sake! I didn’t mean to kill him. It was the wrong room, the wrong bleeding room oh God...
Don’t fuss, waiter, don’t fuss. Yes, I expect I do look like I’ve seen a ghost. For a minute there I thought…
He lowers his wet face into shaking hands and forces down bile. Words form, fat and ungainly, on a tongue that feels and tastes like a slab of bloodless liver. “Get me a large scotch and I’ll be fine,” he croaks. “No, wait. On second thoughts, bring me the bleeding bottle.”
© Rosie Rose
♥ The blog of BaggieAggie, designer of bags, gadget cases and other fabulous accessories handmade in Wales. Sprinkled with recipes, gardening chat, the odd piece of short fiction, and anything else that inspires (or annoys!) me. So pull up a comfy chair and stay a while. ♥