He hadn’t noticed a problem at first. Of course he had been concerned but she told him she was tired, that the pain was back, that she was having a bad day. It seemed perfectly plausible but time went on and nothing changed. When her skin began to turn he was forced to accept that she might not be telling him the whole story.
It appeared first on her cheeks and spread like a rash, blue bleeding beneath her surface like a burst ink cartridge. Perhaps three weeks was enough, he suggested. Perhaps it was time to get moving again, rejoin the rat race. If she heard what he said, she gave no indication. She just sat there, one arm resting on the back of the sofa, the other stretched over the armrest in an empty hug.
Another week passed them by and still she sat. She stopped speaking, her entire existence reduced to blinking and breathing. She was completely blue now as the pleather continued its slow creep forward, claiming her body inch by inch. She wasn’t eating or drinking, melting into the sofa at an alarming rate. He took comfort in the flicker of her eyelashes, the rise and fall of her chest. She was resting, he told himself. She hadn’t left him; she was simply taking a break.
The following Tuesday, he woke to find himself sitting bolt upright, one foot half crammed into the wrong slipper, dressing gown crumpled in his outstretched hand. His heart was beating rapidly, panic bubbling in his chest and bile curdling in the back of his throat. He felt alone. Completely alone. Had she left him? He stuffed his other foot into his slipper, not bothering to put them on the right feet. With his dressing gown trailing behind him he half ran, half fell down the stairs.
At first glance the sofa seemed empty and he was in two minds whether to panic or celebrate. After all, she had been there a very long time and things were getting silly. He wiped the sleep from his eyes, blinking hard. Only then did he see the truth of it. She was still there, protruding only slightly from the corner. He felt the bump of her hand on the armrest and he could see her fluffy purple slippers poking out from the base. Her head had disappeared, her lovely smile now hidden inside the sofa. He didn’t know if her eyes were open. It bothered him. His fingers danced down the gentle slope of her neck and over the curve of her breast. Her heartbeat was no more than a flicker beneath her ribcage. He wanted to talk to her but he didn’t know how. What do you say to someone who’s been devoured by their furniture? To make up for the silence he settled his head over her heart, draping an arm across her waist. He would wait here in her arms. He would not let her do this without him.
William Nicholson's comment
"Elegant, well written, straight-faced surrealism. I loved this, found it highly original, with all sorts of echoes of a relationship taken for granted. This is the one that lingers in my mind."