Friday 16 August 2019

No Way Out

by Hannah Retallick

It was disgusting how you slurped directly from the milk bottle, my love. It is not in my nature to be dramatic, as you are aware, and I trust you will forgive me for the irritation I still feel. A few nights ago, I poured the last trickle into my hot chocolate, finishing the two-pints. There are teeth marks around the crusty rim.
I swill the bottle with water and place it upside down, propped between the Fairy and the fraying sponge, to allow it to dry thoroughly before I put it into the recycling box. It is 15:15 on Sunday afternoon. I have no choice but to go to Tesco before the shop closes at 16:00; I cannot go any longer without a cup of tea.
Keys. Wallet. Tissues. I grunt, reaching down to tie my shoes – when I rise again, I see. Slippery-sliding, spinning, stretching, pulling its home across my exit: a spider’s web from one side to the other. The sun spills through the tiny window, stinging my eyes and catching the threads. They glisten. There is no caring way in which I can leave the house. I am not sentimental, as you are aware, but in the circumstances, I find myself incapable of destroying the spider and everything it has built. I simply cannot, my love.
            Returning to the kitchen, I look to the back door. No key. I just can’t for the life of me remember where I put it, you said. You flicked your grey hair, retracted your spare hand into a long jumper sleeve, and took a slurp from the bottle. That was back when the milkman brought it in cold glass, safe from your clutching jaw, impenetrable. No, I do not think you drank any milk at that moment – my memory has failed just as my heart has broken.
I am in desperate need of a cup of tea. It is only now that I remember the provisions you made, for a rainy day – those were your words, but you meant a snowy day. There is a carton of long-life milk behind the cupboard door, tucked by the pea and ham soup. I take it out, wipe it slowly with a square of kitchen paper, flick open the plastic cap, peel the foil, and do something unusual. I am struggling to come to terms with everything, as you are aware, and I trust you will forgive me for this lapse. It is strange drinking artificial milk, on its own, directly from the carton. But in the circumstances. 

About the author
Hannah Retallick is a twenty-five-year-old from Anglesey, North Wales. She was home educated and then studied with the Open University, graduating with a First-class honours degree, BA in Humanities with Creative Writing and Music, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. She is working on her second novel and writes short stories and a blog. She was shortlisted in the Writing Awards at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2019, the Cambridge Short Story Prize, and the Henshaw Short Story Competition June 2019.

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