The Mews

The engine shudders to a stop, it leaves behind a hazy silence. The lane ahead, too narrow for the car, is lined on both sides with houses; stables long ago converted into apartments. They’re empty now. Their emptiness ekes out into the surrounding meadows. The late summer breeze breathes through the place, barely touching it at all. A whisper only, a hush. As the sunlight fades, the coppice in the distance stands like a black shadow, backlit. A bird flies out of it, a black speck against the bright grey sky.

Lucy pulls the keys from the ignition and places them in her pocket. She looks out through the windscreen, not sure if she should wait here or leave the car. She tries to envisage the right tension for the situation, tries to build a sense of apprehension in her blood. But it evades her. It’s too peaceful. The drive here too was peaceful.

She does get out of the car. The lane is dry, dusty and grey with sun baked mud covering the old cobbles. Her footsteps echo in the emptiness, the hollow sounds expanding to fill the silence.

Lucy takes her footsteps down between the houses, their noise is too great. She carries the sound between her fingers, not letting it escape to reverberate against the stonework of the old buildings.

She stops in front of number 6. A dusty blue door, the windows are mottled with splotches of mud and grime, etched with natural patterns like fingerprints. She edges the door open, beyond it is a whitewashed but heavily shadowed room. In the rafters above, bunches of herbs are hanging, brittle of smell, but when one is knocked to the floor it coughs up its hidden redolence. Lucy closes her eyes and feels about for the smell, grasping it in her fists; she feeds it into her nostrils.

She clears the worn wooden table of its dusty pelt. She lights a candle. The night hovers in wait like a wet mist as the light slowly ebbs away from the windows and the crack beneath the door. She sits almost motionless, letting meagre thoughts flit through her mind, she is waiting on heftier ideas. Poised in the emptiness, she is waiting on a woman. A woman she has met before, in fleeting peripheral moments; across distances, within muddled drunken walks home, in the drowsiness before sleep, in the shower, in a multitude of meditative moments. There is never a confrontation; she appears in exquisite short-lived junctures.

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