She perched on the edge of the leather sofa, his reassuring hands pulling her cream dress down.
‘You’ve practically got it up at your waist’ he said smiling, as she nuzzled into his shoulder.
Situations like this made her feel uncomfortable; parties were never enjoyable. Like that time when that talk, bulky hulk of a man cornered that poor young girl, rummaging between her legs, and her terrified cries echoed through the entire house, drowning out Sam Sparro on the speakers. That was it, party over.
She shook the thought of that girls’ tear-stained face out of her head.
No, for once she was comfortable.
The floor was resoundingly dry and stable. Nothing was seeping in, dripping down from the ceiling in that slow, but sure, unrelenting manner. With him she felt safe and secure. And that had never happened before.
Everyone here seemed so lovely. The drinking games weren’t like that time. That time in the empty house, with the blistering wind bustling through the collapsing walls, when those frustrated, virginal boys said truth or dare would be fun and light-hearted. That night where she didn’t know any better and had to do some horrible things in front of that camera she never knew was there. The way those two girls kissed, and for some reason, she felt like running home and crying afterwards, because she really hadn’t liked the way those boys looked at her, drool trailing down their lapping tongues and dirty chins.
Again, she shook the thought of that distant, teenage memory from her head. Tonight would be a good night. She glanced to her right. He was still there, he wouldn’t be going anywhere. He thought the world of her, and she secretly knew she was falling in love with him, although she wouldn’t dare say it. Not yet.
Somebody spilt a bottle over, the bubbling drink soaked a small portion of the carpet. It stained her ivory heels, and she jumped.
No, no, it was fine. It was nothing.
Nothing was oozing up from the ground, she was perfectly safe.
She hadn’t noticed the water starting to trickle in from behind her. It was sneaking forwards, waiting to gather itself up and sweep her off her feet when she least expected it.
A few spots of the fallen drink had smeared her dress. She covered it nonchalantly, but he noticed and fingered at the folds of her outfit. She trusted him not to do anything, just to caution her to rinse it off in the bathroom on the top floor.
But it had happened like that last time. It was how they got themselves alone with you. Get you on the top floor of the tallest building, where nobody else would ever go, and then to shove their sandpaper tongue down your throat and pull your tights down to your knees, tearing them into frayed splinters between their rough fingers. Beer-drenched lips would curse beer-drenched accusations, reproaching her for being such a filthy slut, and she felt the bile rising in her throat.
The water-logged carpet was now forming a full puddle on the ground. It swamped the table and chairs, but nobody else seemed to notice as the cold water rose up and reached everyone’s ankles. No, she was the only one who felt it, her throat closing up as she knew the sensation was approaching, inevitably as it always would.
Please don’t, she cried to herself silently, taking as deep a breath as she could. Don’t. I’m happy and fulfilled here and I don’t want it to happen again.
But it would. She reached for the man to her right and he was gone. Everyone was gone.
Water peltered down from the ceiling, flooding in through the cracks in the windows and doors. The music’s familiar, throbbing beat was drowned out, and she knew she would have to take the deepest breath she could, once again, and hope the water would vanish again.
It never worked that way.
The liquid was murky and dirty. It wasn’t brown, but a filthy red. She knew he was on his way, and, yes, there he was.
The corpse which had jumped off the bridge that December night, into the fast-flowing river beneath, was back. It always came whenever she felt the water filling her lungs up. He floated towards her in the claustrophobic container, one crushed, mangled hand reaching towards her throat.
He was angry. What remained of his face was indeterminably hateful. If his arm wasn’t utterly disfigured from the fall, he would have ripped her throat out, rendering the water an even deeper red. But he couldn’t; instead he just floated in front of her, letting her know just how much he hated every core of his being that thought she was worth anything. Worth jumping off that bridge for.
She was glad the man on her right had disappeared. If the ghost in front of her had seen him, he would have done something unspeakable. She swallowed and choked, water flooding her throat and burning her lungs.
This was all her fault. If she hadn’t let him jump, then he would still be here. The room would slowly but surely empty of the blood-stained water, the people here would have never known her, and she would never again have to deal with the familiar, uneasy sensation of drowning.
Then the water was gone; the body was gone. Somebody was calling her name.
It was him.
Sat to her right, rubbing her shoulder with such love in his eyes. And it made her want to cry. It made her want to cry because she knew one day the puddle would form once again beneath her, and swallow her up. She didn’t love that mangled man anymore, but he was at the very core of her being, and he would always be there to drown her when she was shown a chance of fleeting happiness. To remind her of what she had done.
But that was a worry for another time.
She took a deep breath of good old-fashioned air, and practiced her best, award-winning smile.
Check out the rest of my musically-inspired stories here!
Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Sherratt