Messages in the Dark

Picture Credits: Steve Buissinne

Exhibit F: An Extract From the History of Time Spent with You

We travelled to France, you, me and the recovering alcoholic. You were both working, and I -, I was the tea lady (as the brash Brit in the bar teased). It was all insects buzzing, sunshine and chlorine.

The garden of the Chateau waited for you. For you to clear it, claw it, manicure it. Remove the magical light from under the vines. To me, its wildness was perfection. But your clients gave you Fortnum & Mason Jam for Christmas and I knew the type of people they were. So there we were, the three of us and a digger. 

I typed quietly indoors, churning through 18th Century literature, my mind running in words.

You both carried on when the storm came and soaked your clothes so they clung to your skin. I, inside, made hot tea and passed steamy mugs through the door.

He looked like a boy, the alcoholic, – the recovered alcoholic – . You almost wouldn’t notice the red under his eyes. The same eyes looked hurt when we cheerily asked about the A.A. But deep breath, he talked about it with the conviction of someone who knew it’s protocol –  I was not well.

Wine glugged into our glasses over dinner. A hand over his – No thank you. We talked about the future while we sat on the plastic chairs outside, his rollie lit in a trembling hand. This addiction is fine. I endorsed his blurry-shaped ideas and he endorsed mine. – You’d be good at that. I didn’t ask about his past because it’s all shadows and holes. I was at university, he was unconscious.

When I was coy in my bikini, waddling to the pool, he said I have a nice bottom, not to be smooth but to be kind.

He accompanied me to the boulangerie. I drove badly. He said it’s fine. Our french made us embarrassed to order. He tried and apologised and we returned with twenty croissants for three. I thought it was funny, But they’ll all go stale you complained. And our personalities dangled -.

For one year sober, you receive a plastic coin and I think a wristband would be better. Gathered in the cobbled living room we lit a fire because the hearth is too majestic not to. With wine still in hand, I declared war on the word Anonymous. It was the wine that made me chatty. And I didn’t really understand but I knew I didn’t.

As we turned talk to the N.A, not the A.A (N for Narcotics? I asked), I remembered the stories of the little tins found hidden in the workshop and how it was the secrets that upset everyone not the heroin.

You would say it doesn’t matter now he’s better. Perhaps you did say it – I can’t remember. Perhaps you meant it.

Our days repeated. Work, tea, lunch, ripples on the pool all Hockney in the sunshine. Until the job was complete. (And the mouse we named Horace had gorged on all our food).

We packed down the house, returned it to its form. Back to a place without us, without sunglasses and books folded face down. I moved the owner’s wine back where it was in the fridge. There were three bottles missing. Perhaps I miscounted.

We wound our way home, packed up in the van, a stolen sunflower each in the back. We ate jelly sweets, listened to audiobooks and nodded in and out of sleep. We stopped by the side of the road where I cried and stamped my feet at you because I really am terrible at driving but you didn’t need to say it. You could have said it’s fine.

Why are you getting so upset? are the words I remember. But I couldn’t articulate the something I knew to be true about you, about how I knew, that if it were you, you never would have miscounted those bottles of wine.

And now we’re sat here, and you ask me over dinner if I remember our trip to France. And I smile and say, Yes. And think of how now it’s nothing but nostalgia, just a fragment in the history of me and you.

Alex Amey

About Alex A

Having recently graduated from Oxford University, Alex lives and works in Oxford and London and enjoys writing flash fiction, poetry and short stories.

Having recently graduated from Oxford University, Alex lives and works in Oxford and London and enjoys writing flash fiction, poetry and short stories.

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