My first thought on looking at this theme was 'Oh god, not vampires'. There seemed to be so many clichés when it came to blood. It runs thicker than water. The rivers run red with it. It always tells, etc etc. Dripping blood, puddles of blood, violence. At time of writing, my capital city, London, is undergoing riots for no apparent reason, and I'm sure there is blood being shed. It's appalling.
This is no less melancholy, but I tried to write it slightly light-heartedly. This person, I feel, is practical about such matters, and knows it would be silly to grieve overlong.
The kitchen was cold. I had felt the icy waft of air as I pushed the door open, batting against my cheeks. Not just cold, I reflected, sat at the table. Unlived in. I ran my fingers over the pitted surface, feeling each groove, each nick in the plastic fascia revealing wood underneath.
There was the bit where I’d dropped the vase. It had bounced. Tall and made of thick glass, I’d been carrying it over to the windowsill but then Terrence, our incontinent cat, had been in the way. The vase had gone flying, had spilled its load over Dad’s newspaper and over Dad, who had been reading it. The flower had flumped to the floor, and the vase had bounced. Once. Later, clearing up the glass and petals, I had bashed my head on the underneath of this table in my hurry to be away.
Here were the series of grooves where my sister, Anya, had taken up a hobby. She had convinced our father to subscribe her to a partwork, one of those weekly magazines filled with fluffy rubbish that serves as a carrier for the free toy on the front. The partwork in question grandly portrayed itself as ‘Build Your Own Doll’s House’ (120 issues, £5.99/issue) and each week came with either a piece of house or a piece of furniture. Being something of a creative young lady, but also a young lady, Anya had decided to build this house. She never owned a doll, never even played with them as far as I know, but there it was. The doors had been a touch too big; some Chinese labourer, in his breaks from sewing trainers together, had been too generous with the resin, and, at the tender age of eight, Anya had found Dad’s box-knife. Mum was terribly upset by the inch-long score marks on the table, but I pointed out better that they were in the table and not in Anya. Mum wasn’t impressed.
Dad’s customary place at the table was surrounded by a fading collection of coffee-rings. He was a man of habit, and with breakfast he had two cups of coffee. Each, without fail, was overfilled, and as his hands were not the steadiest thanks to his oncoming Parkinson’s, he had left a succession of marks, on top of each other like an x-ray of a wonky tree. Most mornings he wiped them up but every other time he added to the patina of the table.
I guess, as my fingers wiped slowly over the tabletop, my mother’s contribution to the décor was one that was visible as soon as she stopped doing it. The thin layer of dust that had gathered on the once-shiny red surface was coming off on my fingers, leaving a clear trail in the rough surface. I looked at my fingers and grimaced; I’d never been one for dirt. Mum had trained me well in that respect.
The memories of their faces welled up in front of me, and I stared blankly at the images of my family, my blood; they seemed happy, serene, carefree. I blinked. There was a stack of bills, letters, condolence cards and, of course, the death certificates on the chair next to me. With a sigh I picked up the first one, shucking it from its papery prison.