Short Stories: Franklin, In Memorian

The late afternoon sun was struggling to be seen, sending what dim rays of fading light it could through the drawn curtains, and giving the dust motes a stage on which to dance. Further into the darkened room, across the furniture and the floor, two weeks’ worth of clothes had been left crumpled and twisted up. Worn once, then flung away and left to watch the dust motes’ lethargic ballet from where they fell. Since the beginning of the two week stay in the cabin the clothes had spread farther and farther from the luggage bags that had been unceremoniously dumped at the foot of the bed. From there, they reached every corner of the room and beyond, into the en suite, like foreign weeds that had spread across a forest floor and conquered the native flora. On the table by the bed, wine bottles – Shiraz and Pinot Grigio – and cigarette packets – Marlboro and Benson & Hedges – surrounded plates and bowls that harbored the last shreds of a dozen meals that were never finished. Noodles, rice, peas and the like; the tiny scraps not worth the attention of the fork and so condemned to spoil.

The two figures that lay on the bed, next to the mass grave of food and drink, their legs entwined and their fingers locked together, were gazing pensively up into the wooden beams that held up the ceiling of the rustic Alpine cabin they had rented for their honeymoon. The duvet was twisted up by their feet, thrown back to make way for their love-making. Their hair matted and skin glistening, they lay silent and motionless, lost in their own thoughts with sex and sweat and bliss thick in the air. Franklin was the first to break the silence with a long, sharp inhalation as he surveyed the chaos of the bedroom, before turning to his new wife and letting out a protracted sigh.

“We are utter pigs, dearest.”
Rolling onto her side to face him, Elizabeth hummed her agreement through a soft and innocent smile; the smile that always made his heart glow.

“Yep. A pair of lovely, happy, sexy pigs, who I reckon have more than earned a spot of laziness.”

The two lovers shared a giggle and returned to their ponderings. Franklin enjoyed moments like this. The way he could remain motionless and silent, yet still have the time of his life because he was doing it with her by his side. Franklin was normally a modest man, but he had to admit: Liza was right. They had earned the right to be slobs for a little while. At 21 years old, to be among the best on his course at one of the most prestigious universities in the U.K. while also planning, and indeed having, a wedding was no small feat. Franklin had worked hard to give Elizabeth the wedding that the most precious human being on Earth deserved and he still had a lot of work to do to secure their future together. Yes, he deserved to rest for a short while.

With her fingers still laced through his, he raised her hand up above his head, inspecting the white-gold ring that adorned her finger and smiling to himself. So many had criticized him for proposing. From close friends to one-time-acquaintances, they had all made the same negative comments. “You’re still so young” they had said. “You’ve only been seeing each other two years, it’s too soon to be getting married!” It was always the same. Franklin didn’t begrudge them these concerns, though. He knew that they only wanted what was best for him, but they simply didn’t understand. How could they? They had never been touched by a love as profound as his. A love so inexorably beyond comprehension that no song or poem could ever do it justice and to attempt to articulate it with the words of mortal men could only insult it.

He parted his lips to discuss with her the possibilities of their future when something interrupted him. A noise; a voice half formed. It sounded like a strong wind blowing against the back of the ear, but somehow more distant. Franklin strained to hear it, trying to make out the words he was sure were there, but the more he tried, the more he began to fear. He wasn’t sure what it was he heard that sent a chill down his spine, only that he heard it.
“Frank? What’s that face about? Have you pissed the bed or something?”

Suddenly the sound was silenced, and Frank’s head was clear. He smiled when he pieced together what Elizabeth had said. Despite all her womanly grace and intellect, she was still like a mischievous child, sometimes. God, how he loved her. Her everything.

“Even I’m not that disgusting. Unlike you!”

“You arsehole!”

A playful punch to his chest saw the chuckles that had been bubbling inside him come tumbling forth, before petering out into a contented sigh.

“Shall we polish off this wine then?”

She nodded and stretch out her arms in imitation of a baby reaching for the bottle and it painted yet another loving smile on Franklin’s face. He leaned over to the table by their bed and plucked up the two cleanest glasses he could see and two bottles that still retained some of their contents – a Shiraz for him and a Pinot for her – and set about pouring.

A blackness took everything, like the world had been shut down, before a flash restored the light a fraction of a second later. Blurred shapes appeared and began to come into focus as Franklin’s vision returned. An off-white room with meagerly stocked bookshelves formed around him. A bespectacled man wearing an outdated brown cardigan sat looking expectantly at Franklin from the chair opposite. Despair and frustration set in.

“Mr. Evetts? Mr. Evetts, are you with us?”
A number of ragged breaths passed Franklin’s lips before he gave any indication of his lucidity. His left leg was shaking and his heart racing, as they always did when they dragged him back here. He lifted his legs up onto the starched bed, curling up into a ball.

“Why do you always bring me back?”

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