Imitation snow on the window, light blazed, bath filled with thick bubbled. Almost time. Later, water clouded and slick with scented oils, the cold invades once more. Time passed, the time is past. The steam misting the cold window now water again, soaking into the snow-foam.
Cold tiles. Feet bare, tread high and find the bath cold, water stale and still. She steps in, lies back. The water moves slows, closes clammily over her skin. Imitation snow on the window spreads milky patches across the sill. The lights are dim, the blue night grey in the white bathroom.
It is a ritual, performed for no one and no purpose. The oil on the surface is flammable and its blue flame dances will o’the wisp in the room. Corpse-lights. Here, Dracula’s coachman sets a rock to dig in the morning. She extends a leg, and allows all to slip greasily back into the water. She speaks, addressing the room. She incants.
The light will soon be on the other side of the window. True snow is promised in the mellow bulge of the clouds, banking over the distant hills. She takes the water in a small bottle, caps it. Curses, blessings, simple comforts for superstitious minds. She trusts its power. Walks, feet flat to the frigid floor, back out the way she came. Time over.
Runner Up: Charlotte Risdale
How has it come to this? It’s Friday night, I’m in my twenties (just), and look at me. These are meant to be some of the best years of my life. All I had wanted was to sit back in a hot bath with a cold gin and read my book. Instead, I’m here in a lukewarm bath with no gin, trying to get an awkward patch of hair on my ankle without taking off half my skin all for a date I don’t really want to go on with my sister’s friend, Steve. Not that there’s anything wrong with Steve – I’m sure he’s a lovely guy. It’s just hard to mentally prepare yourself for a date you’ve been railroaded into by your mother who thinks it’s about time to start thinking about settling down. Obviously this is a ridiculously antiquated idea, and normally I would call her out on things like this, but sometimes it helps to placate her. Like, for example, when she is the woman helping you pay rent because your long-term boyfriend suddenly announced he had decided he was going to back-pack around Asia without you and left you to pay the entire rent for your apartment in Islington which you definitely could not afford but was ‘an investment in our future’ (his words, not mine). So here I am, in 2019, crumpled up in the bath, getting ready for a date my mother arranged for me. God, I need a gin.
Winner: Jessica Joy
I’m ten again. I hate this bathroom. It’s still as cold and soapy as it was back then. I prefer a shower but the shower never worked. A quarter-filled with tepid water, a bath forces you to hug cold knees or to contemplate your stomach and thighs. A bath coerces you to lie in your own dirt. And guilt. I avoid baths, usually.
My parent’s bathroom hasn’t changed one iota, since the Eighties. Cheap white suite. Cheap peach-coloured tiles. More ‘budget rental’ than ‘hotel boutique’.
Peach. I can’t stand peaches. They make my tongue itch. I was a peach once. Well, more than once. That’s what Uncle Mo called me, his ‘Little Peach.’
The track marks on my arm look like teeth marks. “Just one small bite of my Little Peach.”
I can hear the murmur of voices downstairs in the sitting room. They think I don’t know what’s going on. The invitation was to Sunday lunch, with the family. But it’s another Intervention.
I pull out the plug and lie back hoping the water will whisk me down the drain with all the scum and dead skin and hairs. I shiver in the empty bath. My shoulders squeak against the base.
There is a tap, tap, tap on the bathroom door. I freeze. But it’s Mum’s voice that whispers through the gap, “Are you coming down now?”
Maybe this time I’ll have the courage to tell them the truth. Maybe this time I’ll show them the real scars.
Thank you all for some lovely interpretations for what even I deemed ‘a weird prompt’ everyone! Biggest of congratulations to Thom, Charlotte and Jessica. Charlotte, if your piece has a name let me know and I’ll add it in.
Look out for a #QUICKFIC announcement coming soon. Until then!
For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.