I thought it was only right that if I was hosting #12Masque I should also be contributing. Put your money where your mouth is and all that.
My story is inspired by an image that I found disturbing - it took me outside of the mystery of the masquerade and made me think about the masks people wear, all the time and in lots of different ways. The faces people put on to make things better, to get by, to hide and to reveal.
The scar seemed to shimmer on her wrist, livid against her pale skin. A brand, or a summons. Veronica hunched her knees up to her chest, tight as a drawbridge. She smelled stale, sleep-warmed. She hadn’t showered in two days. Impossible to close her eyes. In the darkness all she could see was slick edged razors against her skin, opening her up.
She needed to open up before she collapsed in and became a black hole, consuming anything that came too close. Or anyone.
Heat slithered down her cheeks, pooling in damp patches on the faded duvet cover. She tasted salt on her cracked lips.
Make it stop.
You can make it stop.
But she couldn’t, not with Gracie and Ella sleeping next door, sticky haired and flushed, chubby arms thrown out wide with the confidence of the loved.
How long had it been? Two days? Two weeks? Two months? Did it matter?
“Ronnie?” Her husband called from downstairs. “Are you awake?”
Quickly, she scrubbed her salt-streaked face, sucked in a deep breath. “I’ll be down in a sec.”
Kieran looked round as the kitchen door banged open. “Shona popped by with some work stuff for you.”
“Great.” He watched as his wife flashed a brief smile, tucking her shirt into her waistband. Not looking at him. “You lost weight?”
“Me? I wish.” Bright as a daffodil, she hid behind her compact, fingers rooting in her make up bag. When she emerged it was with soot-coloured lashes and glossy pink lips. And that smile that looked like it had been plucked off a mannequin and glued to her face. Not her smile.
“Ronnie are you okay?” He reached out to touch her arm, but she was out of his reach before his fingers brushed her silk sleeve. It was like grappling with a will O' the wisp.
She didn’t answer. “The kids are still asleep. Can you wake them?”
But she was gone, the backdoor slamming behind her.
“How did it happen?” Kieran looked up at the young policewoman sitting awkwardly on the edge of the chair. His chest felt lead-lined, saturated. The enormity of what she had just said was impossible to comprehend.
“She just stepped out in front of the lorry. He couldn’t avoid her.”
“Jesus. Oh Jesus.” His voice broke and he knew shame. A man should be strong.
“I’m sorry Mr Hughes.”
“What will I tell the girls?”
“You’ll put a brave face on. Children are resilient.”
“She’s dead,” Ella said. Six years old eyes, clear with certainty. “She isn’t an angel. Mummy didn’t believe in angels.”
“She was sad,” Gracie whispered.
Kieran sat on the bedroom floor and picked up a doll, staring down at it. “She was sad?”
“Her eyes were all red when she wasn’t wearing her face.”
A sudden memory. Ronnie standing in the bathroom, lipstick in hand. “Just let me put my face on.”
Putting his head in his hands, he wept.
Now for the other tales...
Now for the other tales...
RED ALERT!! Due to a Blog Malfunction and a misunderstanding with Inlinkz @lastwordy and @DavidALudwig's stories weren't posted. It's too late to add them to the InLinkz voting, but please do read and consider their stories when judging the Fan's Favourite!
25. Tongues of Fire by @lastwordy
26. And a Cape to Match by @lastwordy
27. Masquerade by @DavidALudwig
HURRY! VOTING CLOSES AT MIDDAY 13 JANUARY 2013 (GMT)
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