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She takes to visiting the shed on a daily basis, constantly checking over her shoulder on the lookout for Lottie or James, hoping to snatch a couple of hours to herself.
In the beginning, these visits were seldom, few and far between. She would make up an excuse, that she had a headache and couldn’t see, her vision dissolving into multi-coloured spots like psychedelic rain. Perhaps it was another migraine coming on. Yes. A Migraine.
She needed absolute silence, no loitering about outside, wearing the carpet out. And definitely no interruptions. This was her space, a solid cube of a room, a kind of cardboard lodging where she was the only resident. Manufactured solitude.
Except they couldn’t stay away.
Lottie was the worst, tappity-tap-tapping like a cat scratching a post.
‘Can I show you something? Can you take a look at this? It will only take a minute.’
And James wasn’t much better.
‘Have you seen my car keys, love? How do you turn on the oven again?’
Can you remember how to breathe? No of course not. That would be far too convenient.
So she took to the shed instead, furnishing the interior with homely comforts, a splash of paint here and there, a yoga mat and Pilates ball, a CD player and smoothie maker where heaven flowed through a straw at any time of the day. It was sheer bliss.
Whenever she felt like the house was getting a bit too much, she would feign a headache and steal outside into the garden. Lottie was too wrapped up in her performance to notice anyone else, and James, well, he found pleasure in the smallest of things. Surprisingly, he could keep himself entertained for hours on end, though she never understood quite what these guilty pleasures were.
She tiptoes across the paving stones, careful not to trip over the fleet of watching gnomes, James insisted on having. A job lot, he said. Letting them go cheap. Eight for five pound and a dozen more for a tenner. She couldn’t help but notice that the figures didn’t add up.
But she held her tongue. Male pride and all that.
The door is quiet, discreet; its hinges purposefully well-oiled and maintained. It opens with a perfect sigh, gliding wide like summery butter.
Once inside, she switches on the lava lamp, waiting for the lime bubbles to snake and stretch, winding their way in the mauve jelly, inviting her to come and play, experiment. Dare to be different.
She opens the fridge and selects two smoothies; a banana and raspberry ready-made cocktail sweeter than pavlova.
And she smiles, a wide syrupy grin smearing her face, whale songs coming alive in her ears as she loses herself in whisked-up ecstasy.
Lauren Bell lives in Birmingham, England, loves rainbows and is often drunk on inspiration. Her work has been published by Firewords Quarterly, Bare Fiction, Spelk, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and Storgy where she is a contributing writer.