The back door was open, that was the first thing she noticed as she walked into her girlfriend’s garden. No big deal, Sarah always expected people to come through the back door, and it was nice weather. Why wouldn’t it be open? But still, it was unusual that she should not be in the kitchen as Rhian walked in. Strange that she should not be at the kitchen table labouring over something; some new vegetable to be pickled in jars.
Rhian stood in the kitchen and eyed the boiling pan on the cooker, the jars on the kitchen table. She called into the house beyond. ‘It’s me!’ She waited for a response, which did not come. The pan on the cooker was whistling loudly. She walked over quickly to turn it off, skirting the floor where jam had pooled on the cold kitchen tile. She turned to face the kitchen. The house was silent.
On the floor she eyed something glinting in the sunlight; a jar smashed. She bent down and looked close. On a particularly large piece of glass there was a smear of blood. She stood up and looked around the kitchen, searching for an answer. There was nothing there, where was she? She called again. ‘Sarah! Sweetheart! Where are you?’ But still no answer came.
Rhian stepped carefully over the shattered glass and toward the kitchen door. She walked into the hallway expecting to hear human noises, a radio in the distance, a toilet flushing. But there was nothing. Could Sarah have gone out without locking the back door? But knowing Rhian was coming around? And with the jam still boiling on the cooker? Seemed unlikely.
Rhian walked slowly down the hallway, suddenly feeling like an intruder in a house she knew so well. She looked into the living room, nothing out of the ordinary. But still no Sarah. As she turned her attention to the room across the hallway her eyes caught on a dark red patch on the light grey carpeting. She crouched down to take a closer look.
It was a rich red, she reached to touch it, but she faltered. Silly to seem so scared, but still, she stood up. She rounded the bottom of the stairs to look inside Sarah’s small study; messy, as per normal. As Rhian turned to look up the stairs she saw them, red spots spattering the steps. She walked up the steps, holding the banister to steady her nerves.
Where the stairs turned near the top, a thick red smear ran down the wall. What was this? Where was Sarah? She tried to rationalise the thoughts offering themselves up to her worried mind, but she was running out of logic. ‘Sarah?!’ she shouted loudly again, her voice croaking with the weight of her fear. She looked down the stairs, should she turn back? Should she go on? What if Sarah was up there? She had to find her.
She continued up the stairs. Sarah was hurt, Sarah was bleeding, Sarah needed her. At the top of the stairs her foot hit a heavy lump. She looked down. The candlesticks usually sat on a table, one was now on the floor. In the dim light she saw the same thick red colour, and something else, she couldn’t quite discern. She crouched to look. It was hair; matted sticky red hair. Rhian swallowed. ‘Sarah!’ she shouted with urgency, but no response came.
She stood up; she held her hands together, twisting them in agitation, for comfort. What should she do? She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She needed to find Sarah. Where would she go? If she was hiding Sarah would have gone to her bedroom, to her bathroom. She would have locked herself in. Okay, this was going to be okay. Rhian began her walk down the hallway and toward Sarah’s bedroom.
The door was unlocked; she held her breath and pushed it open. Across the pale yellow carpet was a splatter of red spots and smudges. They seemed to lead to the bathroom but when Rhian looked up the door was wide open, the light on. She walked towards it, listening for a sound of movement, there was nothing. She peeked around the door, no one there.
Then, from somewhere behind her, she heard a faint banging noise. She held her breath and turned around. There was an old, tall cupboard on the far side of Sarah’s bedroom. It was a great big, piece of furniture with heavy doors that would slam shut. The banging was coming from inside it. The bangs were small and quiet. Was it Sarah? Trying her best to hide from an intruder. Or was it the intruder trying to hide from her?
She took a deep breath, she would have to look inside. She picked up the cricket bat that Sarah kept by the side of her bed and then, quietly, she took the long walk around the room to face the cupboard head on. The bangs grew louder and more impatient as Sarah approached. Finally she was face to face with it.
How was she going to do this? She took a step back towards the bed and raised the cricket bat with both hands. She balanced on one foot and used the other to catch the bottom of the cupboard door. She pulled it open in one swift movement, shouting with an almighty ‘ha!’. She had thought she was steady but something small, something fast, bounded out of the wardrobe and she fell back on to the bed in alarm.
Noises came from downstairs, someone was running up the stairs. Rhian battled with her panic, she grabbed the cricket bat and got to her feet. She held the bat high in the air and turned to face the room. There she saw two things. Sarah, eyes wide, gobsmacked, and her cat Captain Christmas sitting on the bed, sticky with red jam, licking himself gently.
Rhian crumpled to the floor in exhaustion as Sarah laughed loudly at the scene in front of her. Sarah walked around the bed and dropped to the floor. In between her giggles Sarah managed to piece together the whole scene. How she had cut herself while trying to rescue Captain Christmas from the boiling jam. How she’d gone to the neighbour’s when she couldn’t find any plasters, and how she’d locked Captain Christmas in the cupboard to stop him from making any more mess while she was gone.
‘Oh my darling,’ she said, smiling ‘you were going to rescue me! My hero!’ Rhian didn’t feel very heroic but still she collapsed into Sarah’s arms and let her plant kisses all over her head and face. She felt silly, she felt exhausted. Sarah pulled her to her feet and took her downstairs to the kitchen. There she washed off a disgruntled Captain Christmas, while Rhian dozed off happily to the sound of Sarah’s laughter.
This is part of my ‘Happy Endings Series’ where I write a story inspired by three words given to me by a friend and set within a genre of their choosing. The conditions of the series is that each story is only around 1000 words and that it has a happy ending. This story is for my friend Rachel; inspired by the words: cupboard, candlestick and jam. Rachel didn’t set me a genre but she likes crime fiction and cats, so I used that as my cue.