When Kate opened her eyes the next morning, it was several minutes before she remembered the blood. Then the full realisation hit her and her stomach lurched uncomfortably, forcing her to sit up and contemplate doing something. She didn’t want to do anything at all and desperately wished she could forget what had happened. Poor Dylan, he had definitely run out of lives, or someone had decided he had.
She managed to finish showering with the barest minimum of thinking. The secret she discovered was to concentrate hard on trivial things, but how long could she keep that up?
Trying to comb the tangles from her unruly hair finally managed to destroy the temporary peace in her head, and the tears were not too far away. She almost found herself wishing she could join Dylan, wherever he was, removing the necessity of having to make all these decisions.
Wiping her eyes, she stared angrily at herself in the mirror. She had to be stronger than that, surely there was plenty of life left in these bones, wasn’t there? She expected the voice to put its two cents in, but it was strangely quiet. She probably knew what it would say anyway. More rubbish about her having lives like a cat. Didn’t do Dylan any good though, did it?
The only way you left this world was when someone or something decided your time was up, nothing to do with numbers. She must have several lives left anyway, so no point worrying about any of it just yet.
She decided to wear something comfortable, as she had no intention of going out and chose a T-shirt and some baggy joggers. As she walked towards the kitchen, she thought she heard the sound of the cat-flap. Had she forgotten to lock it?
She peeked around the door just in time to see the flap swinging gently. There had to be a breeze, there was no other explanation. It took every ounce of courage she could muster to bend down and flip the lock. She had never used the lock before and it was stiff, but she managed, ensuring that nothing could get in.
The plastic rubbish bag with all that was left of Dylan was still sitting by the door. Kate knew she had to put it in the dustbin but somehow couldn’t bring herself to do it. It would be too final. She would have liked to bury him somewhere, but not having a garden it was out of the question. Still, the thought was there. He probably didn’t care one way or the other now, she thought, imagining him sunning himself in cat heaven without a care in the world.
She wasn’t looking forward to telling Janet he had gone and hoped she wouldn’t be too upset. It probably wasn’t good to get upset at her age. Hell, it wasn’t good for her either come to think of it. She had been having nagging pains in her chest since yesterday. That thought led her to her upcoming hospital check-up. When was it supposed to be?
The calendar was propped inside the cupboard where she kept the plates, and she scanned the page, hoping she hadn’t missed the appointment. There it was, 10.30 on Monday. Good thing she checked as she probably would have forgotten all about it.
Now, what was she going to do today? She needed to visit the estate agent in town, but for a moment, she couldn’t remember how you went about moving to a different part of the country. It would help, she thought, if I had some kind of clue as to where I want to go. She could visit the library next week to use one of their computers to research the possibilities, although she knew as she thought about it her heart was not in it. A great deal of apathy was descending on her shoulders, and she knew she didn’t want to do anything.
That included Sam’s artwork and that wasn’t good at all. Whether she moved or not, she still had to eat and pay the bills. She would have to pull herself together somehow and get cracking.
Giving the plastic bag a guilty look, she made a mug of coffee and went to her studio.
The studio smelled stale and unfamiliar. Usually, the smell of linseed oil and paint would invigorate Kate, making her eager to explore her imagination. She knew it would be different today, but she would have to summon the inspiration from somewhere. Music might help, so she switched on her iPod. There was quite a mix of many different kinds of music on there and she set the controls to shuffle, hoping one of the pieces would work the oracle.
She opened the window a little, letting in some fresh air and sat down in front of the less than perfect canvas. Nothing had changed in her absence; it was still too gloomy. As she studied the churning waves, the music changed from something pastoral to the dramatic Fingal’s Cave, and she felt the adrenaline begin to trickle into her brain. The power of the music built slowly in the room and she anticipated the tension as it moved towards the climax.
As she responded to the music, the image in front of her began to change. The dark, menacing waves were still there, but they seemed much higher now, reaching for the cliffs. They smashed against the rocks, sending masses of white foam soaring into the air and she could hear the powerful hiss of the water as it tried to destroy the cliff.
The mug of coffee grew cold and lunchtime came and went, but Kate showed no sign of stopping.
When it was too dark to see what she was doing, Kate stopped painting, cleaned her brush and stretched her arms above her head. In the gloom, the canvas in front of her looked quite amazing.
She couldn’t feel the power of the ocean she had painted, in the fading daylight. She stood up and switched on the light and the impact was exactly what she had wanted to achieve. Sam will like this one, she thought.
Her stomach was growling like a bear and she realised she had not eaten all day. The mug of coffee looked disgusting; the surface congealed and wrinkly.
Kate took the mug into the kitchen and poured the contents down the sink, trying to come up with a tasty idea for her supper. It would have to be a quick idea, for she was feeling faint. Stupid to work through lunch, she thought, not a good idea at all.
She made a quick ham sandwich and ate it while she assembled the makings of a proper meal. She fancied a jacket potato and luckily there was just one left that wasn’t beginning to grow, so she set the microwave running. She grated some cheese and heated the beans, and when it was ready, she couldn’t bring herself to eat it. She knew she had to eat something or she would be ill, so she picked half-heartedly at the melting cheese. Then she gave up and scooped it all into the bin.
She retrieved the plastic bag from the floor and changed the one in the pedal bin. The wheelie bin was outside the front door in its own alcove, and far enough away, that Kate had to step away from the front door to reach it; something she never felt comfortable doing. She always imagined someone was waiting to jump out on her and usually wouldn’t go out there after dark, but she was determined to do it.
Back inside, Kate made sure to lock the door, guiltily remembering that she had promised Sam she would have the locks changed. She had also promised to take her medication, and it was still in the paper bag the hospital had given her. No wonder she felt rotten. If she started taking them now, would she feel any better?
She thought of the appointment at the hospital on Monday, would they know she hadn’t been following orders?
As if on cue, the nagging pain in her chest returned, and she suddenly felt exhausted. She could read, but that idea faded as quickly as it came. As she looked at the bookcase in the living room, she noticed there was a street atlas for Surrey on the shelf. She discovered that Surrey was a big place, and finding a suitable sanctuary suddenly seemed an impossible idea. She threw the book at the coffee table in her frustration.
The voice in her head recommended giving up, that there was no point worrying about anything. Kate was tired, but that didn’t stop the anger from erupting. She was so sick of its innuendos. If its ambition was to drive her insane, it might just pull it off, for she was beginning to doubt everything. She tried to control her temper as the pain in her chest threatened to build into a problem. There must be a way she could get rid of the voice. Whenever she listened to music with an earpiece, she noticed that it left her alone, or did it know she couldn’t hear it?
Whichever it was, it was worth investigating, she might be able to organise her life without any of its input.
The thought cheered her up but because she was too tired to think straight, decided on an early night. Maybe tomorrow would be more productive…