Loose Ends

Loose Ends

In a small, seaside town called Littleton, four people are suddenly confronted by their own secrets. Whilst fighting for sanity in a world gone half-mad with prejudice, they discover life is not what they expected it to be, and so each of them are forced to deal with their own problems in a different way . . . but some loose ends, especially those frayed beyond repair, are better left untied.

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Finished.

Chapter 1

Before Catherine Hughes’s eyes, the wind made the leaves in front of her rustle softly. Several flower petals of the rose bushes next to the window fell off and drifted towards the ground, droplets of rain soaking them until they turned as red as a child’s ribbons . . . red as blood, trickling out of a body. No, she chided herself. That was a bad comparison. Red, red as cherries.

She traced her finger across the damp window, despite her mother’s warnings about causing potential damage. After all, why would she care if things weren’t as picture perfect as they seemed?

Her psychologist’s words echoed—vibrated—through her limbs, crawled under her skin with a ferocity that was painful. They clawed their way up to her throat, until they balanced carefully on the tip of her tongue. She said them out loud, flinching as they were louder than intended, “Nothing is perfect.”

Catherine had always compared words with flavors, colors and sometimes even pictures. She would smell and taste and see them, even though they weren’t really there. These words tasted bitter, like black coffee without milk, the kind her mother took in the morning to wake up. They were a murky brown. In her mind’s eye, she saw newspapers and guns and mud everywhere.

“Cathy.”

She didn’t turn around, but instead clutched her knees and tried to keep herself warm. The finger that she had touched the glass with, strangely enough, felt hotter than the rest of her body. The rest was cold. Like ice in the Arctic circles, before there was such a thing as Global Warming.

“You’re going to be late, come.” Her mother’s voice was gentle, warm. A fire kindling, wild chestnuts being roasted. The odor of roasted meat. A rusty color. Home.

The girl remained as still as a statue, her eyes fixed rigidly upon the outside world. “I don’t care.” Hollow. A cave. The color grey. Factories. Starving children.

“Cathy. . . .”

Only her breath was audible for a moment, which clung to the cold window and formed condensation. Her lashes quivered like a hummingbird’s wings and then closed, locking the mental door in her mind. Golden keys, cages, dogs howling.

“Cathy, you’re going to be late,” her mother repeated nervously, holding on to the door for dear life- it was one of the few things she could count on supporting her lately. “Doctor Powell is waiting, honey.”

Only three words. “I—“ An image of a glass, shattered in half. A baby crying loudly. “—don’t—“ Screaming, stop signs. Fences. “—care.” A mother, cradling her child. Valentine hearts.

She kept her lashes shut firmly until she heard her mother retreat, probably to call Doctor Powell. Then she parted them and stared at her bare feet, counting the tiny hairs on her toes, starting over every time she thought she got it wrong . . . even if she knew, inside, she had gotten them right. Even though she didn’t want to hear it, she could hear her mother argue in a hushed voice. After another moment, the door was shut. The creaks reminded her of scary movies that she had seen with her friends. Blood splattering all over people. Intestines falling out. Torture, girls with overly large breasts. Disgusting sex scenes, cheap lines. Laughter. Walking home in the dark.

Catherine took a deep breath that shook her soul and stood up quickly, her bones rattling in her body. Haste made her limbs tremble, and to soothe herself, she counted each step she took, until she reached the bathroom door. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Nine steps, she repeated mentally. It took her three seconds before she stood in front of the shower. Her hands automatically turned the heat three quarters up, the cold water tap only one quarter. Not bothering to get rid of her clothes first, she jumped into the luxurious shower and let the water rain down on her, harsh taps that made her shoulders relax gradually. She ceased to be Catherine Hughes and instead, became nothing.

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