Glockenspiel Girl continued...
She put the book down and took a sip of her tea, the cold cloying taste catching her off guard. She began reading two hours ago, losing herself in the words of Wuthering Heights; Catherine's face obscured by a white lace mask, Heathcliff's by rat chewed sackcloth.
Picking up her cup she placed the sleep abandoned book on the cheap wooden shelves and walked downstairs to the shared kitchen.
The room was dominated by a large wooden table, covered in cups, crumbs and newspapers. The walls, painted yellow, once vibrant and now stained with damp, did nothing to lift the mood of the room. She filled the kettle and turned it on. While it boiled she stared out of the window at the overgrown knotted garden, choked with bindweed and toys.
The front door opened then slammed shut followed by voices in the hall.
"Where is he?" a deep voice, local accent.
"Said he'd meet us here. Might as well carry the kit up. Get started."
A second voice. Nasal and high pitched.
Two figures walked past. The first heavy set, bristled. A Wild boar of a man. His eyes shadowed and hidden in deep sockets. The second amphibian; shorter and portly with protruding eyes, his tongue licking a long absent crumb of food from wet lips. They carried toolboxes and drills, the taller with a sledgehammer over his shoulder.
Sarah listened to the footsteps climb, then cross the landing to the room over the kitchen. A radio clicked on, too quiet to hear the words. The sound of impact erupted in a cloud of golden butterflies. Sarah stepped through, sending them cascading to the sides.
A new drink in hand she walked up the shadowed, damp stairs. At the first landing she hesitated, looked up the second flight of stairs to her room, ignored it and followed the sound of hammering. The door stood ajar, clouds of white dust billowing out to settle on the dirt trampled carpet. Sarah took a sip of her tea, covered it with her free hand and peered into the room. Inside the smaller workman sat drinking tea, fiddling with a tinny radio. The larger grunted, hefting his sledgehammer, bringing it in a sideways blow to the wall.
Sarah felt the impact spread through her midriff, spidering out in a rippling fracture. She fell to the floor, waves of discomfort spreading.
Sarah woke. She lay in the recovery position on the landing, her face pressed against the carpet that smelled of ancient incense and clay. Her hand felt wet and raw, around her fingers a constellation of shattered porcelain. She raised her hand to her face. Tea and blood.
"You OK?" a heavy voice above her.
She nodded and tried to stand up. A hand pressed on her shoulder, she flinched away from the contact, the skin.
"Easy. Just take it steady. You had a nasty fall. Some kind of fit. Need to make sure you're OK."
He reached down to help her up. She grasped his hand, her arm against his. His skin felt like forests and insects.
"Clive bring her that chair. You don't need it. Get that plastering cracked on with."
The chair creaked as she sat, one leg loose in its socket.
The boar man knelt in front of her.
"I've done Health and Safety. First Aid at Work. Just want to check you out. I know you're not at work. But I am."
He smiled; a warm, friendly grin that spoke of daughters now grown up and swings in overgrown gardens.
Holding her arms out straight he checked her burn, her pupils, the graze on her head.
"I'd go and wash that. State of this carpet," he smiled.
Sarah looked down at the floor and smiled back.
"There you go. If you need anything getting, cup of tea, painkillers, just shout," he said, this man whose words smelt of bleached belfast sinks and freshly dug allotments.
That night the house dreamt her dreams. When Sarah first woke to see the figures walking through her room, she thought the house had given up ghosts to her. Sent them to drive her from the room like Eleanor Lace. But the figures wore veils, sackcloth hoods and white cotton gloves, all woven in the heart of her dreams. She walked between them, through them. They ignored her, their genesis. Their Jehovah. Playing out private dramas in a play she had no programme for. They passed through furniture and doors that never existed. A small boy in a blue suit and ruff, a teddy boy trying to comb his quiff through a hood of green velvet. The girl that sat in the corner sobbing and rocking backward and forward. Sarah tried to comfort the child but no one had auditioned her for a part in this dream. Sarah woke.
The tree above caught strands of breeze dancing down the street. Sarah leant against his trunk watching the house, watching the renovations.
Ropes dangled to street level, as if left by fallen climbers. They hung out of vacant windows, cut back to raw brick. She could still feel the tenderness round her eyes left by the workmen's drills. Cheap sunglasses covered the red marks left by aggravated rubbing of her knuckles. While she watched, the wind catching her knotted hair, the two workmen lifted in the new windows. Even from the other side of the road she could smell the PVC of the frames, the shine of the plastic film covered glass.
She winced as the workmen pulled the windows into place, their tiny ghost fingers stretching the skin around her eyes to fit the new casements. The drill passing through the window frame into her eye sockets made her eyes water, and the putty her skin sticky.
Wild Boar and Frog gave the glass a final polish, opened the lower half and stepped back into the shadows of the room. Sarah felt the fresh air rush into her skull, down her optic nerve, spiking her vision now perfect and healed.
Her skin was cracked like brickwork and she stood holding hands with her neighbours, each a paper doll copy of her. She tried to raise her hands, brush her hair away, but her fingers were pressed tight against her adjacent clones. Somewhere deep inside a door opened. Lower a couple made love, guilt laden and forgettable. In her thorax a middle aged man with grease stained glasses snored, and cried in his sleep to memories of children he never saw. She felt one of her tiles slip and rain start to come in through her roof, soaking the dirty carpet that ran throughout. Hillcrest woke.
She was house and she was girl, between them there was nothing. When the central heating boiler raged into life Sarah felt her skin warm, the liquid pump round her veins. A door opened. She felt the draught deep inside. Footsteps echoed down her halls, trampling plaster into the carpets that furred within. Outside birds scratched and pecked at her eaves. Made nests of twigs and cotton wool in her loft. No. Hillcrest's loft. Deep inside she felt herself cocooned. Curled on an old tired mattress, in a room haunted by many ghosts. A kernel, once a girl. A mirror girl. A glockenspiel girl.