The man walks up to our door. I can’t see his face, but he can see me looking at him through the window. I know he can, because I feel his gaze pushing its way right into my heart. He is hurting me. I blink and he’s gone from my vision. Then I hear a knock on the door. I freeze. I hear my mother’s footsteps. It’s not really my mother and I’m not really me, but whoever we are, we are just about to open the door to a man I’ve been waiting to see for a long time. I know it’s him because I can feel him. Imminent death is knocking at our door.
The door is thick and heavy and she struggles to open it. She’s a sweet lady. I think she’s been baking cakes whilst I’ve been looking out of the window. She’s got a pinny on and she’s all covered in flour. The flour falls from her sweet, pink hands and covers the floor in small white sprinkles.
We live in Midwest America. We live in a wooden house and we keep cattle. I wear gingham. I have plaits. We eat broth and grow our own vegetables. Our house is warm and cozy. The fire is burning. It is an idyllic life.
I think I knew he was coming today. She wipes her hands on her apron and looks up at him expectantly. I don’t see his face. Standing behind my mother, I reach up to touch where his face should be, fascination and wonderment energizing my hands. I want to see the terror oozing from his face. I want to fill my heart with horror. I think I like it. I think I want to like him. I think I want him to like me.
He pushes my hands away and pulls my mother to him. His darkness envelops her and she is thrown to the floor. I see his face now, as the black flowing hood cascades around his shoulders. He smiles at me from his large, brown face and takes me up in his big strong arms. Now his darkness envelops me and I feel safe and small and warm……..The warmth trickles through my blood, around my body and I kiss his face. His handsome face. Just as handsome as I could ever possibly imagine. His black eyes, deep and dark, pull me in and I am swimming in his eyes. Swimming in the blackness, and I can’t breathe. I can’t see where I’m swimming, but I see myself, naked and young, in his eyes. I am smiling and swimming and laughing though the blackness. His face lowers onto mine and I stop swimming and I stop breathing for one short moment and I stop holding him as my arms fall to my side.
I fall to the floor and its twists and turns and is no longer horizontal. It is vertical. I am vertical. I am holding on, trying to climb and I can’t get much higher. I slip down the shiny surface.
I see the patio outside the house and I feel sick. I see my brother brushing the patio. He stamps on the concrete slabs. We buried him under there. We hit him over the head and buried him under there. It is true, I know it’s true and I’m not supposed to remember. I want to dig up the patio and see if it’s true. His black eyes will smile right back at me and his contorted body will just be resting. He isn’t even dead.
I can’t get my cardigan on. It’s pink and fluffy and it’s not mine, but I have to wear it. It’s too tight and I begin to cry. I want to wear the pink cardigan. I put on some pink lipstick and look in the mirror. The lipstick isn’t there. I put some more on. It still isn’t showing up. I press down hard on my lips and it still isn’t there. I try some blusher. Not there. I brush harder. Still no rouge on my cheeks. I cry hard.
I walk down the street and people are pointing at me. They are laughing and pointing. I catch my reflection in the shop window. I see my face, caked in blusher and lipstick. Bright pink and all over my face. A tight pink cardigan, far too small, starched across my shoulders and pulled up over my arms. I run and cry and run and cry and run and cry. I pull at my face and clothes. I keep on running and crying.
The maze is dark and lonely and dirty. It is a maze of streets, back streets. I can see the figure looming at each corner, big and heavy and right behind me. I don’t know where I am, but it seems familiar. By the sea, I think and I sniff the air to catch the salt in my nostrils. I turn each corner and each alley seems just as black and grim as before. I want to escape from the figure, but he follows behind me. I turn into an alley. It’s Victorian England and I can see nothing but poverty and dirt everywhere. The figure is right behind me. I want to shout out, but no sound comes from my mouth.
I cannot speak.
There is no one around.
I am alone.
The figure has gone.
I am alone.
I keep on crying.
Claire Bolden McGill is a British expat who lived in Maryland for three years and moved back to the UK in August 2015. Claire wrote about her life as a British expat on the East Coast and now works in travel and hospitality PR in the UK. She still finds time to blog about her repatriation and the reverse culture shock that ensued – and she still hasn’t finished that novel, but she’s working on it. You can contact Claire via twitter on @clairebmcgill or via her blog From America to England.