Indelible (Part One)
The leopard was creeping down her arm, its front paw resting gently on her wrist, prowling some unseen prey.
Matt was proud of his work. The colours were vibrant, the glassy eye perfectly inked, a slight hint of the texture of the big cat’s luxurious coat.
‘You’re a genius,’ she said.
Matthew avoided her gaze as he replied, ‘Thank you.’ He packed away his needles and inks, making a mental note to sterilise them at work the next day. He gently patted away the few persistent droplets of blood with a fresh cloth, before drying it and applying the bandage. Her skin felt cold and he avoided her attempts to stroke his arm with her fingertips as he secured the muslin. Her dry voice cut through the silence.
‘I want more,’ she said.
The words hit like a left hook to his stomach. Matt could feel himself getting angry; his head started to pound and his hands balled into a fist.
‘How much more?’ he said, trying to control his voice. He didn’t want the neighbours to hear them having another row and coming to the door again with another one of their constant complaints. He failed to notice that she hadn’t answered him. ‘You always want more. When are you ever going to be satisfied?’ he said to her.
‘Make my throat look pretty Matthew.’ He glanced down at her. Matt never used to say no to her. Things had changed.
‘It’ll have to be tomorrow. I’m tired,’ he said, stepping towards the door and reaching for the handle. The floorboards creaked under his weight. As he touched the door handle, a spark of static ran through his fingers. He grasped the handle tighter and jerked the door open.
‘Matthew? Do you love me?’ Her whisper was as clear as if she was standing beside him but as he looked back he could see her still lieing on her bed.
He took a moment to let the question hang in the silence of the room. ‘No. I don’t love you,’ he replied. ‘I’m sorry.’ He felt his stomach roll and his throat filled with bile. He forced himself to swallow hard and quietly said, ‘but I will always look after you.’
He thought he heard her sob quietly before she replied, ‘Thank you, Matthew.’ Her voice was monotone, controlled. That made it easier for him.
Matthew closed the door quietly, went into the living room and switched on the TV. He jabbed at the remote until it reached the rolling news channel. He poured himself a generous shot of vodka, downing it in one, before lying on the couch. The drone of two politicians arguing melded away to white noise in his head. He hadn’t slept without the television on for two weeks now.
to be continued…