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Candles and Pizzas (extract)

Haworth Hodgkinson

 

Shh! Don't move. That's his knock. What does he want?

It's Daniel. I knew he'd come today. But I'm not ready for him. I can't let him in. Why does he always come at the wrong time?

Keep still! He won't know I'm here.

I was looking for him yesterday. I waited outside the paper shop on Cross Street. He often calls in there when he comes out of his work. I thought he might want to go and see a film or something. It's ages since we last went to the cinema.

I've hardly seen Daniel since Bonfire Night at Rachel and Steve's. We were supposed to meet up last week. He said he'd see me by the Christmas tree outside Littlewoods. Six o'clock on Thursday.

And now he comes to my door when I'm not ready for him. He can't just turn up like this. I could have been in the bath or something. Except he knows I never have a bath. It costs too much to heat the water.

One time he came to my door and I was still in bed. That was back in the summer and he'd brought a picnic. Fresh bread from the baker's and fruit and salad and stuff. And a bottle of wine. I made him wait outside until I'd got dressed and then we went and ate it in the park by the railway. I sent him back to the shop for another bottle of wine and then we just laid on the grass. That was the best day of my summer.

He didn't get back to his work that afternoon. Missed some important meeting with his boss. He says if he's not careful he's going to lose that job. I don't know what he's fussed about. It's not much of a job. Sorting papers into colour-coded filing cabinets. I'd be bored out of my mind. And anyway if he lost his job that would mean we could spend every afternoon together. If we wanted. You see the trouble is, at this time of year, when he's working all day I only ever see him in the dark. I can't stand electric lights. Daniel says we could meet for lunch, but that means getting up early.

I bet he's still mad about last Thursday. The Christmas tree outside Littlewoods. I didn't go. I'd wanted to when we first said we'd meet, but by Thursday I'd changed my mind. You know sometimes it's best not to make arrangements, just wait and see if you meet people on the street.

Daniel says I should get a phone. No way! I don't want him keeping a check on me all the time. Doesn't he know I've got my own life to lead?

And now he's got me trapped in the kitchen. I can't go out across the hallway because he'll see me if he's looking through the letterbox. I hope he can't hear the floorboards creaking.

This flat isn't big enough for visitors. There isn't space to keep it tidy, and I don't want him seeing my clothes on the floor or the dishes in the kitchen.

When we come back after seeing a film we usually have to stay out on the street to talk, but if there's no bulb in the stair light I'll make a pot of tea and we can drink it sitting on the landing.

I don't mind him coming in if I know the flat's not too bad. I asked him to stay the night once when we'd been out for a meal. Then I got so drunk I can't remember what happened. When I woke up he'd gone. I hope he didn't get the wrong idea.

He always wants to put the light on. Says he likes to see what he's sitting on. Cheek! It's a chair, Daniel, you're sitting on a chair. He did sit on a bag of cold chips once. I'd got them the night before, then didn't feel hungry and forgot about them.

He's still out there. I haven't heard the landing door. Just go, Daniel! If you've brought me a pizza, shove it through the letterbox and go! I'll see you in town sometime.

Daniel's always bringing me food. I keep explaining to him that I don't really need to eat every day. And when I'm hungry I can always get something from the shop on the corner if I can't be bothered with a tin of soup from the cupboard. I tell him there are places in Africa where a pizza can feed a whole village for a week. I wish he'd just bring a bottle of wine instead.

I don't mind candles. Candles are more natural than electric lights. Like tiny little suns. They bring out the beauty in people's smiles. Bonfires, too. There was beauty in Daniel's smile at Rachel and Steve's bonfire. And, like I say, I haven't seen him since. Except the one night I caught him coming out of his work. I'd just got my giro and I offered to take him out for a meal. My treat for a change. He said he was going somewhere else that night, but we could meet outside Littlewoods on Thursday. Now he'll be angry because I didn't turn up.

What if the old man across the landing comes out? He'll tell Daniel I'm here. He always sees me coming in and going out. Always tells me if Daniel's called when I've been out. Always interfering. I bet he's the one who keeps putting new bulbs in the stair light.

I wonder what time it is. Haven't got a clock in here. Not one that tells the right time anyway. Please, Daniel! I can't spend all night in the kitchen. Let me go and I'll see you outside your work tomorrow.

Read the rest of this story in Point of Balance.

 


Written 2003
Revised 2004–2005
Edited 2013

Published in Point of Balance, 2013
(Lemon Tree Writers)

Point of Balance


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