September 23rd, 2004

Mask

Stain

There was blood on the wall, four small streaks just above the molding. It was probably caked to the paint by now, sealed and stained. Aurora rinsed out the tattered washcloth and went to work, scrubbing till the brown turned into a resistant yellow.





Aurora heard the knock on the door, and felt a sad thrill in ignoring it. Anyone who mattered could get in on their own, and she wasn’t prepared to deal with landlords, suitors, the sick orphans next door or the mad little woman downstairs. She curled her knees to her chest as the knock came a second time, soft and persistent. Aurora closed her eyes and squeezed the washcloth, cold, brown water dripping onto her shoe.

She stared ahead, the texture of the wall worked in and out of focus, blurring into white static and then becoming suddenly detailed, each crinkle of paint perfectly clear in her vision. The knocking persisted, gentle, in counts of three spaced by minute intervals, like a sad sparse rhythm, a funeral chant. It occurred to her that she could sleep here, on the floor, curled and strange to outside view. Maybe, when Corbett came home, he would think she was dead, and he would regret everything, just for a moment. She wondered what would have happened if she had left the brown bloodstain on the wall.

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