I woke cold, stiff, laid out, fully dressed.
Ice traced the inside of the window. The sheets were
grey and stale, the pillow stained with what looked like
tea and was probably the dribble of former
I lay for a while remembering
my dream: Abanica and me, intertwined and, although I was alone,
I blushed. My belly was damp and sticky.
I looked down at my hands, making empty
opening and closing gestures, clutching and releasing.
I was too cold to wash. The tail of my
I descended the stairs, my elbows drawn
into me to avoid contact with the grimy walls and greasy
When I reached the threadbare carpet of
the entrance hall, I determined to tell Abanica, or
someone there, about the dilapidated state of affairs in
the rest of the boarding house.
I neither saw nor heard a
I reached her door, knocked and waited.
Nothing. I knocked again. Silence. I was beginning to
feel angry, resenting the thirteen-and-sixpence I had
paid. Not even a drop of hot water!
I knocked a final time and
The room was empty. Floorboards, bare
windows. Dust, cobwebs. And nothing else. Odourless.
I looked out into the hall. First door
on the left.
I turned back into the room. Nothing. No
The other rooms were empty, as
I was thrown. I don't know how long I
stood, absent, in that empty room. After some time, I
suppose, I made for the front door along the sticky
strip of carpet.
On the wall, was a wood-framed rectangle
of green baize, hatched with faded scarlet ribbon. In
the bottom left-hand corner was a slip of green paper. I
In a shaky fountain-pen hand, it read,
'Received with thanks, the sum of thirteen shillings and
sixpence.' And the letter, 'A'.