Red Like The Bottle You Just Finished by Jon Kemsley Clark

Nobody expects to wake up naked in a strange bed. So it’s funny how often that happens. It started more or less in that horrible damp depressing hallway that smells worse than a charity store and, guess what, the lights were out again. I knocked twice and stared at my feet and waited. There was a radio playing something moody and classical and then it stopped and then there was the rattle of a chain and the door opened slowly. Hey Chris. Hey Jodie. I had all the words because I’d been reading one of those stupid stories where everybody gets what they want by the end of it and nobody has to deal with any consequences. My toilet is blocked again, can I use yours? But it sounded pretty lame once I’d actually gone and said it and I think I even blushed. Yeah sure, come on in. I’m all out of sugar though. Chris laughed a soft chuckle and in I went and then the door closed behind me with a rattle and then I really had to go through with it. My head was spinning as Chris led me across the living room and pushed open the door to the bathroom. Would you like a coffee? I have coffee brewing. But no sugar. Oh and actually no milk either. Trying to cut down. Another soft chuckle. Um okay sure, I don’t take either. Which is more or less true at least most of the time. I sort of fell into the bathroom and turned the handle a little too far and the handle started to come away and I had to push it back on before I could close the door. I took my time looking at all the jars and bottles and picked a few up and smelled them. Then I went through all the drawers and opened up the mirrored cabinet over the sink. Come on, you would do that, I know you would do that. When I was done I flushed the toilet and rattled the seat and let the tap run for a few seconds.

I’d seen Chris in that little super at the end of the street before I even knew the downstairs was taken. That was what, two, three months back now? I don’t know what I was doing in there because I always buy from the hyper on the main road but there I was. Maybe a newspaper or something, okay yes, it was that, whatever. Chris had finished with the cards and so I went and looked at some of those although really I wanted to look at Chris. That little super has the lowest aisles so you can see everything and it literally never closes. Chris stopped at the end of the far aisle and picked out a bottle of wine. I remember it was an expensive red because it was a top shelf number and came with its own dust and that netting you get around the necks of expensive reds. I hate red. I mean I really hate red. Gives me the worst headache. Not like in Jerry’s, that was pink, and anyway I was drunk already and someone else was paying for the pink. And you know that is true so don’t judge me. So anyway I went and looked at the bottled ales in the far aisle and when I looked up again there was nobody there except for me and the creepy guy behind the counter. I felt bad for the creepy guy and bought three of the three for two bottled ales even though they were too warm to drink and it would have been easier to just walk out. Then about a day later the old man rocks up and tells us the downstairs is taken now so don’t you be playing that loud party music all hours or we’ll be having words. Like one time, that one time, just because I had the big windows open and he happened to be driving past or so he says and now he never shuts up about it. God, I mean I heard him trying to chat Stevie up last week and Stevie was just laughing at him but it was pretty disgusting and he should be ashamed of himself for being such a creep. He’s nearly forty I think, or something like that, and he has no clue. Chris is twenty-seven and I know that for a fact because I found a passport in one of the drawers in the bathroom. In case of break-ins I guess. Yes, it’s the sort of thing my mother would have done, god bless her, and what you’re thinking now is not even funny. I have maths as well as science you know and I can do the maths. Twenty-seven is okay. And it’s not like you haven’t been thinking the same thing as me so don’t even go there. Remember that stupid dinner party over at Jack’s place? Yeah right, that one, well that was Chris. I had nothing to do with it, I swear, it just happened that way. Jackie knows everybody.

So now we’re back in the bathroom and I’m being super careful with the loose handle but the carpet is right up against the bottom of the door so that’s not helping. And Chris is sat at the little dining table the old man has put in there that doesn’t even match the chairs because he has no clue and Chris is looking, you know, pretty nice and everything. So I sit at the dining table sipping coffee and smiling my goofy smile that always looks so goofy in the mirror. It felt nice to have proper coffee made fresh for me like that and I couldn’t think of the last time it had happened which was a bit sad. There was a longish silence. Chris was maybe a little bit embarrassed, I don’t know, and my head was spinning again. Chris began to ask me something about college, probably why I never went in, only I wasn’t really listening because I had all the words, remember, and so I went right ahead and blurted out, you can have me if you want to, something stupid like that. Well, no, to be honest it was exactly that and I would not be telling you this if I was sober but what the hell. Chris was so cool about it. I mean so cool. Chris says, oh, and puts down the coffee cup. Nothing else. My voice was getting squeaky, the way it always does when I’m nervous, but I just carried on with my foolishness. I mean, I said, I mean I don’t mind. I could feel myself burning up now and my coffee was spilling so Chris took the cup away from me and set it down on the dining table. But I couldn’t think of the rest of it so I panicked and threw in something random. I saw some stuff in the bathroom, I squeaked, that we could use. Oh, says Chris again. Oh. So cool. There was another longish silence. I was properly losing my nerve and Chris was definitely looking embarrassed now. Come on Jodie, what’s wrong with you, the door is right over there, let’s go, let’s get it over with. I’m going in there, I said, to lie down. I hope that’s okay with you. I got up all shaky and made my stupid way across the floor and into the bedroom. Well here goes nothing, I was thinking. I closed my eyes and stepped out of my clothes with the door wide open and climbed onto the bed and pushed my stupid red face into the pillows. And waited. I waited a long time, I mean it was really a long time. And it was really so warm and comfortable in there and smelled so good that, yeah, you guessed it, I just sort of curled up and went to sleep. When I woke up there was a blanket around me and a glass of water by the bed. And my clothes were over a chair in the corner and the coffee cups were all washed up and Chris had gone out leaving a note on the dining table. I had the worst headache.


Jon Kemsley Clark has had stories and poems published in Smiths Knoll, South, Plan Nine, Joyzine, Ghost Parachute, Storgy and Neon. He works in finance which is odd as he trained in science and he likes to mess about with tape recorders, old radios, analogue synths and the like.

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