Posts tagged London

Promises

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The anticipation was the best part.

Lily gave herself a treat that evening, outside one of the more expensive gyms where the rich worked off their calories and their guilt. She watched from the shadows as the light waned, waiting for the right meal. She was vaguely aware of time passing, but had only taken note of the passing people.

The summer air tasted like rain and sweat. The sky was dull, black and gun-metal grey clouds, the city cast in monochrome save for the occasional ray that had struggled through to light the depraved city below.

She disliked picking on the city’s undernourished. There was an aftertaste, like the bit of a cheese that you waited a little too long to eat. Or the leftovers that look alright but smells slightly off. At least, that’s what she had assumed. It’d been a while—some hundred years or so since she’d truly enjoyed a more conventional meal.

Finally, the male walked out. He was still in his sweat-soaked gym clothes, his bag slung over his shoulder. Keys to an expensive car flashed in his hands. The same car she had seen him park a couple of hours ago. Her senses narrowed to his movements and the sound of his blood whooshing through his veins. The dark sky above rumbled ominously.

Lily stalked him crouched on all fours, allowing her body to take full control. It guided her along the edges of the car park to where the flashy car was parked by a copse of trees and a conveniently recently-broken street lamp. She grinned. It was lovely when a plan came together.

The meat was a little tough, but that was a fact easily ignored. After exercise, the blood is a gorgeous, oxygen-rich ruby-red loaded with delicious hormones, with its own sweaty seasoning like the salt rim on a margarita. Enough for her to get completely blissed out.

Her very own, personal catnip flavour.

She had a pro-wrestler once. Got him in his dressing room immediately after a fight. He was the most delicious meal she’d ever had and absolutely worth the hasty escape plan.

She was two cars away, close enough to taste him on the air when the man dropped his keys. She inhaled deeply as time slowed. His lemon-and-salt flavour saturated her brain. Her mouth flooded with venom.

She leapt over the cars and landed in a crouch beside him. He started and fell back against the car, knocked off balance.

“Oh,” she said, her voice dropping into a mocking tone as she stood. “Did I scare you?”

He blinked. “I didn’t see you there.”

“I know,” she said. “I don’t like having to chase my dinner. All that stress ruins the flavour.”

“Er…” His eyebrows rose. “I don’t quite follow?” He looked her up and down, taking in the dark, nondescript clothing. Lily had average features, and looked about twenty—ish. Mousy brown hair, dark brown eyes. Utterly forgettable. He dismissed her with a roll of his eyes and a wave. “Listen, sweetheart,” he said. “I have no idea what kind of crazy you are, but I don’t want a part of it.”

Lily giggled and ran her tongue over her teeth. He was perfect. She could barely hold herself back any longer, giddy with bloodlust as she was. “Don’t worry about it, it won’t matter in a moment anyway.” She stepped towards him. “You look absolutely delicious.” She put her hands on his chest and ran one hand up and around his neck. Her right hand stayed above his heart. “Come here, handsome.” She tugged him down gently.

He leaned down at the first flash of lightning. The crack of thunder drowned out his scream.

The clouds succumbed to their weight and opened as she made her way back to the business district. The few people left wandering outside ran for cover. Rain washed away the grit-and-ash taste of exhaust fumes from her palate as it wiped the air and the streets clean, giving way to the sweet aroma of the city’s other delights—rotting refuse and the revolting creatures in the dark places of the world.

Rats. She’d always been rather fond of the entrepreneurial little beings. They climbed up telephone poles and then along the swaying criss-cross of wire that spanned the width of the street, tails wrapped around cables, tightrope walking in single file.

The rats go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…

The hammering rain drowned out a lot of her hearing but Lily picked up a disturbance some distance up the street. The rain and fog obscured figures into shadows. The working girls were getting excited. A few of the window shoppers got a little handsy sometimes and she would have to interfere. She cocked her head to get a better listen. The sound was muted, as if it had travelled under water. It didn’t seem like they were being bothered. All Lily could hear was cooing. A high, quiet voice answered—a child?

Either way, she didn’t have to get involved. Again. She sighed and settled back under the awning of the shopfront that was providing meagre shelter from the torrential rain.

That night, Floret’s Perennials was her office. Tropical plants spilled out of terracotta pots and bright greenhouse flowers stood in tall vases, their unnatural presence even more unlikely in this rotten neighbourhood.

The smell helped drown out the tastes of human filth rising in steamy tendrils from the storm drains.

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53 Melville Square

( 5 stars · 21 reviews )

The Devine house was old. All the houses in that part of Belfast were – old buildings, old families, old money. They were big too, big and cold. They had fireplaces in every room, though few that worked – they just let the wind whistle through and kept the rooms in a frozen stasis. In my experience, wealthy people don’t mind the cold. It’s as if they use it to measure your endurance and character. That home was freezing, but it was furnished with the most modern of furniture and appliances – stereos and TVs controlled by voice command, intercom’s in every room and cameras that blinked red in every corner. No expense had been spared on the place, and yet it was bitterly cold.

I was their housekeeper, a vague title with constantly changing responsibilities. They’d inherited me from an uncle – a mean man who’d died the way he’d lived, in misery, moaning and groaning and cursing me and anyone else who cared to listen. The young Mr Devine was a barrister. Mrs Devine worked in finance. They were young and ambitious – all appearance, status and money. They were quiet and detached and made no small talk. They allowed me to work on my own initiative – which I was more than capable of doing.

And that is how it went, until last week, when Mrs Devine came home early, red-eyed and wet-cheeked. She threw herself onto the settee and sobbed. A miscarriage. Her fifth. I could think of no words to soothe her, so I simply stood there, watching mutely. The next day Mr Devine took her to their holiday cottage in Wexford. That left me on house sitting duty. And that is how I found myself alone, standing in the doorway, watching them drive away, uneasy at the thought of being by myself in that house.

I cleaned for a while, although my heart was not in it. But I needed some time, doing what I always did, before I could settle into my new role as a house-sitter. As the darkness inched its way across the sky, I opened a bottle of wine, but still I could not settle. With a desire to hear a familiar voice, I phoned my sister, but she did not answer. I finished my glass and had another, then I ran myself a bath. I had always loved that bath – a big cast-iron thing with a curved end and feet that made it look indulgent. I sank in and let the warm water calm my thoughts.

The buzz of the intercom made me jump.

Then the front door slammed shut.

Panic hit me like a firework.

I bolted upright and scrambled out of the bath, grasping for a towel. I felt like an intruder as I raced through the bathroom door.

Wet-footed and shivering in the hall, I called out a stuttering, “Hello!”

No answer.

The light sensor activated, illuminating the stairs.

I peered over the balustrade.

No one was there.

I checked every room, creeping hesitantly through each door, calling softly to announce my presence.

I was alone.

I checked the doors again. They were all locked. I thought that my mind was playing tricks on me, that the creepy old house and the wine had combined to unnerve me. I cursed myself for being so foolish.

I decided to settle myself with the rest of the wine and watch some TV in the sitting room. I must have fallen asleep, as I woke there, shivering to my bones with the TV still on. Checking my phone, I saw that it was three minutes after midnight. I was half asleep, but I felt … strange, as if I was not alone. The house was silent. There was no sound from the TV. Had I done that? Had I turned it down? But it was more than the TV. There was no sound anywhere. It was like being in a vacuum. My ears searched for the familiar, but there was nothing. No clocks ticked. No taps dripped. In such an old house there were no floorboards creaking, no pipes whining – even the whistling fireplaces had fallen silent.

My breath froze before me, hanging in the air.

And then came the noise.

A banging and crashing, as if an anvil had been thrown down the stairs.

The hairs on my arms stood to attention. Adrenaline raced through my limbs, and my body tensed expectantly, readying itself for what was to come.

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