Horla Fiction (February 2021)

DARLING, I’M HOME

by H.D. HURWORTH

RAIN lashes down against the concrete grey of the pavement, making it sparkle as if a thousand tiny shards of diamond were trapped in the ground. Hurried feet scuttled over it, always in a rush to be somewhere. Have you ever noticed that people always seem to be in more of a hurry when it rains? They need to be at their meeting five minutes earlier or at the bus stop with time to spare. Nobody ever stops to feel the cool kiss of the rain on their face or to jump in a puddle like we once did as children.

Today I’m sitting inside, only watching the rain from the large window seat in the library. I had been curled up with a book, but the rain’s pitter patter rhythm distracted me. Sometimes, I like to people watch from this seat. It has an excellent vantage point over the park and today I can see a colourful array of mackintosh coats and umbrellas dancing through the autumn trees. It’s sort of beautiful how, on the greyest days, the world still makes a rainbow.

Today I am alone. Father left for a very important business trip three days ago, and, about three hours ago, my Mother lied and told me she was going shopping. I watched her red coat climb into a cab at the foot of our building, with a cautious glance and uncharacteristic speed. She think if I know I will tell Father about the man she is seeing. So I pretend not to know. Father is gone so often that it does not feel like lying to conceal this from him. He is a clever man; I think he already knows. This means the house is empty.

Why then, can I hear footsteps in the hall?

I do not move, thinking for a moment. I know many people would be prone to irrational responses of fear and panic, but I am firm in my belief that there must be a logical explanation. Perhaps it is Mother, home early from her escapades but that is not the sound of her Louboutin’s. Perhaps it is the housekeeper, sent to check on me, but she is usually much quieter. Perhaps it is…

I pull the curtain around myself, obscuring myself from anyone who may enter the library, and sit very quietly as the footsteps move closer and closer. They are moving slowly, not in a hurry like the people outside in the rain. They stop outside the door to the library, left slightly ajar, and I stop breathing. The door creaks and they’re in the room.

This house has a beautiful library. I am told that my grandfather loved books very much, but he died before I was born. He was the one who built this house, and he made the library the grandest room of all. Two stories high with books filling every conceivable surface, and a mismatched collection of sofa’s and armchairs from which to enjoy them. Great ladders reaching to the highest heights of Mount Olympus, and ornate carvings depicting scenes from my grandfather’s favourites. There is one beneath the window seat where I am hiding, of Persephone and Hades ruling over the underworld together.

I have deduced that the footsteps in the room belong to a man. Someone with heavy footsteps and large boots. He is stood in the doorway now, and I can feel his eyes scan the room, glancing over the long red drapes behind which I am concealed.

He takes a step forwards into the room, pausing at the noticeable creak of the floorboards. I imagine him flinch, amused that someone with such heavy footsteps would be so concerned by the unmistakable creaking of the floor. It does not bother either of us for long, and I hold myself as still as I can be as he moves systematically around the room, coming ever closer to my hiding space. I allow myself a short breath and find myself able to smell the unfamiliar cologne that my unwelcome companion is wearing. He is too close.

I press my face against the window, wondering if anyone would notice me from the street. I have always valued this hiding spot for its anonymity, but now I am desperate to be seen. Through the raindrop sparkled glass I see a cab pull up on the street in front of our house.

A familiar red coat emerges. A hand grips the curtain. I squeeze my eyes shut. The door downstairs opens. He pulls back the curtain. I scream.

“Darling, I’m home.”

 

***

H.D. Hurworth is a writer and poet from North Yorkshire, England. Horla published her story ‘Rhiannon’ in 2018. She says, ‘Since then I have qualified as an English teacher but am now itching to revisit my passion for writing. During my first year of university I received the Outstanding Applicant Scholarship for creative writing, and as an English teacher I have been able to develop a deeper awareness of my own writing and improve my work significantly. I am currently in the process of rebranding my blog.’

Title photo credit – Vagelis Lnz on Unsplash

Horla standard disclaimer – image has no direct connection with the fiction