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The Mess In The Bedroom
“You need to go in there and sort that mess out,” he said. Frances stared blankly at him.
“I don’t understand.”
“You have left that mess in the bedroom for a long time now. You need to sort it out, Fran.”
Frances stared at Jake hard, trying to understand why he was asking her to do this. Why did he care about the mess? What problem was it of his?
“I don’t want- I don’t see any problem with the bedroom how it is. There is no reason to do any sort of ‘sorting out’ in there,” she said, rubbing her eyes.
“You have avoided it. You need to sort it out.” Jake paced up and down the lounge, he paused to look out of the window. “It smells in there, there is flies in there, you haven’t slept in your own bed for a fortnight.”
“I haven’t slept at all,” Fran mumbled. But she was fine with the sofa.
“You need to face up to this.”
“I disagree.” She didn’t need to face up to anything. The bedroom was fine. Everything was fine. No need to do anything. “You have more pressing things to worry about.”
You would think a man who had not long ago been diagnosed with a brain tumour would be more worried about his health, let alone a God damn bedroom.
Frances had been with Jake for five years. They met at their mutual work place and was started a relationship almost immediately after the first date. Frances was sure Jake was going to propose soon, but what with the tumour… things like that seemed to have been put on hold.
“You can’t just leave it as it is.”
“Why do you care about it so much?” There she said it, she was pushing him into a corner. “Say it, make me believe it, Jake.”
Jake came up to her and kneeled not far from her on the carpet. “You already believe it. You already know it. Don’t you want the pain to stop?”
“It’ll never stop,” she said.
Not until you clean it up…
“It’ll ease somewhat.”
“So it’s as easy as getting a mop and broom is it? Or a bin bag? Some Dettol should help, surely?”
“You’re in denial.”
“It’s not the way you think it is,” protested Frances. “Go look for yourself. It is isn’t there. It shouldn’t be anyway. It can’t be. It can’t happen to me. Jake, say it’s not there.”
“I can’t do that. How are the voices?”
Frances knew the voices in her head were not real. It was just her subconscious telling her to sort out the mess. It was sort of similar to someone calling themselves an idiot in the third person for forgetting something…
“They’re calming down.”
“I want you to see a doctor. They weren’t there before all of this. You’re not well.”
“I’m fine, how many times Jake?”
Frances had been avoiding the bedroom for exactly as long as Jake had said. A fortnight. An intense fear greeted her each time she considered it. She had thought it over and over, trying to work out why she—her brain… was being unreasonable about it. At the start, she could have done it. She could have entered the room, done what needed to be done, made the calls…
But now she had left it far too long.
“You want to go. You don’t love me anymore,” she begun to sob, old makeup around her eyes started to melt with her salty tears and ran down her pale face.
A lurch in her stomach. Hunger, but how could she eat now?
“Yes, I do have to go at some point. But I do love you, Fran. I love you very much, with my whole heart. This is why I am trying to help you. You can’t go on like this. It is only a room.”
“I don’t have to go in there… I could just get the phone and—"
“No, you have to go in there. You have to believe what you see. You have to accept what has taken place. The mess… Fran… the mess… it must be unbearable to know it’s like that in there. That room, where we made love so many times, where we watched so many wonderful films, played music, tickled each other… spoke of our dreams. It’s our room. You can’t just forget it exists.”
Frances wiped her face and trembled at the thought of even opening the door. The bathroom was adjacent to the bedroom, so she only went to the bathroom to use the toilet. She didn’t stay long in there lest she should smell the foul stench coming from the mess. The build up…
Leaving it day by day… trying to forget it. No will to rise and get to it. She often pictured the dust falling, landing, staying. Thick dust covering it all. Stains…
A fortnight ago she had woken to a cold morning and had dreaded getting out of the bed to go to work. She had eventually risen. She knew what had taken place already but had pushed it out of her mind as she got dressed. A little while after as she sat in the lounge drinking a coffee, Jake approached her and asked her what was wrong. It took him awhile but eventually he realised.
Since then she avoided the bedroom. She became withdrawn and ill. She called in sick at work and then after a couple of days called to say she wasn’t coming back. She didn’t go shopping, she didn’t answer the phone…she just remained in the lounge.
Jake had watched her pacing the lounge, her stares across the room. She often watched a television that was not on. Meanwhile, he had done whatever he chose to do in the house. Sometimes he was by her side, sometimes he disappeared into the kitchen or bathroom. He grew concerned for her, had asked her to go to the doctor, had asked her to speak to someone… anyone. One thing was for sure, he had not gone back into the bedroom after that morning that had passed. How could he? How could he without her? But he had to go soon. She knew that. It had all become too much. He had become tired of reluctance to face the reality of the situation.
“I know you have to leave,” she said finally after a brief silence. “I know you want to leave.”
How could you expect him to stay? What with all that mess…
“How dare you!” he shouted. “After having seen me remain here, for you! To help you! To be by your side through this difficult time.”
“Then don’t go!” Frances protested. “Stay with me and forget the bedroom!”
“How can I? It’s all there is now. It’s all that’s left. Fran, go in there and face it. I’ll be waiting for you here.”
“Then you’ll go!”
“I’ll remain with you while you wait for the—“
“I won’t call them, I won’t go in there.”
“No Jake! No! No! You can’t go if I don’t go in there!”
“I can go whenever I want to. You know that. This is for you, Fran.”
“It’s all very well for you isn’t it!” she shouted then. “You’re not alone, you’ll never be alone. What am I supposed to do now? Just clean it up? Hide it under the bed? Put it in the bin? Hoover the rug, dust the sides down….wash the blankets…” Tears soaked her eyes as she sobbed. “The bedroom is staying as it is! No one is going in there and nothing…nothing is coming out of there.”
Jake sighed, flickered. Like an old video, an image not fully there. Frances rubbed eyes repeatedly.
But he didn’t speak, he just stared at her as though he were a portrait. Not quite Da Vinci as it was Van Gogh, abstract… he didn’t look then to her as if he were whole. It was as though he were somewhere else whilst being here. A place now, she could see he didn’t belong. His image here, but the sense of him…gone. He was already gone even though she saw him before her. His consciousness was elsewhere, only a small part of him remained…
Her vision of him…
He wasn’t there because he wanted to be… he was there because she wanted him to be. She was forcing him to remain. And now, she wished she could have had the strength to tell him to go before he made the choice to leave himself.
He walked away from her to do whatever it was that he did when he wasn’t with her. Frances laid her head down on the sofa and closed her eyes and for the first time in so long, she fell into a deep sleep.
She woke to the sound of a church bell, low and morbid. She didn’t live anywhere near a church so she didn’t understand why that sort of noise could ever find its way to her flat. The television was not on either. It took her awhile to fully accept her surroundings. She had dreamt that everything had resolved itself, so it was a nasty shock to wake to reality again. Her eyes found the window.
Darkness. It was night.
“Jake? Have you gone?” He was often by side when she woke from brief naps.
Would he return? That was her question. Would he ever see her again? Was he ashamed of her? Did he criticize her weakness, lack of moral strength? Did he feel that she had disrespected him? Would he have done the same?
She rose from the sofa and switched the lounge light on. “Jake?” Fear tingled her skin. How horrible this new sense of alone felt.
A hot thud of her heart passed through her chest as she peered in the hallway over to where the bedroom door stood. She switched the hall light on. The brightness hurt her eyes.
Slowly she approached the bedroom door and as she did, she could smell it. The foul stench that had haunted her for days whenever she had walked near the door.
She hoped that could call his name out again and hear him reply but she knew this wasn’t possible. She knew he was gone now. She had been expecting it. He had done all he could to try and help her.
She was alone now. It was just her and the bedroom.
Stupid girl…you’ll never go in there…and the rot will keep on rotting, the flies will keep on buzzing…
“Go away!” Frances screamed. Her head now in her hands.
Keep on rotting… keep on buzzing…
“I’m going to clean it, just give me a chance!”
Buzz... buzz... buzz... buzz
To do what? Run! Run! Run! Run back to the lounge!
“I’m not going back there!”
Run! Run! Run! She drew in a deep breath and pulled the door handle down. Her palms already drenched with sweat, her head pounding from a headache that had insisted on staying put, swelling her brains… hurting her eye sockets…
But she couldn’t imagine what Jake’s headaches had been like. Poor Jake. It seems now she could not remember a time when he wasn’t sick.
Selfish girl. Poor Jake… he was ill and you still refused to clean it up! Now you’ll never clean it up!
The door creaked as it opened. And she opened it all the way. The stench was thicker inside the room, heavier… it was cold, she had left the windows open that last morning a fortnight ago.
Darkness. No light was on.
One breath, a whimper… she was afraid, so afraid. The sort of sort a child would feel in the dark when they might have spied a shadow in the corner of their eye.
Her throat was dry. She wanted to cry, to call for her Mother… but she knew she couldn’t help her now. No one could. This was her bedroom… her mess.
Her mess but not—
No, its not your bedroom any more...
Her dirty mess that she had left, too scared to look at.
"Its my bedroom!"
“I’m sorry…” she sobbed. “I’m so sorry I left it…I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
She wailed, composed herself, wailed again. “Jake! Jake! Please! Come back! I’m sorry!” Her chest ached and heaved. She was so tired of being afraid. So tired of feeling exhausted… hungry. So tired of the physical pain, the mental torture…
But the room had her now. Now she could sort the mess out. If it was there, that is.
“Because it might not be there…” she said to herself. What did Jake know? He didn’t even go in there himself. Why was he so bothered about it? The same man who leaves bottles of beer half full by the sofa. The same man who leaves his underwear nearby the wash basket. The same man who waits until the rubbish bin is spilling junk everywhere…
She heard her Mothers voice. “Always clean a little bit up straight away! Or you’ll have a lot to clean up later!” But how did that apply here? Now?
"Oh, Jesus...forgive me."
It is all your fault. You decided to leave it there! Now Jake is never going to come back! You’re all alone, girl. All alone.
Someone could have come to help you clean it up, but now it’s too late! How can you explain this one Frances?!
“I know, I know! I’m sorry.”
They’ll take you away for this…
She switched the light on with soggy hands and held back a scream, tears streaming down her face, flies buzzing around her head, the stench hanging around her.
They’ll lock you up, you dirty girl!
The mess was there, just as it had always been since a fortnight ago. Stinking, putrid mess.
She tried to call for the voices but even they had stopped now…
Perhaps she should dust the sides first? Or empty the glass of water by the bed? She should probably make the bed too.
But the real mess was on the bed, you see.
The mess Jake had been referring to. Frances could not escape that.
When she was a child, she’d leave clothes and empty crisp packets on her bed. This was worse. This would leave a stain for sure.
Leaking… rotting like an apple…
“Hello?! Police! Frances?! Open the door or we’ll break through!”
The voices were so far…
Jake called them…
No… Mum? Jake?
Who then, if not Jake?
“Frances! Open the door! We know you’re in there!”
You really should have tidied up…now look…shame yourself!
Jake...Jake…Jake is here! He is outside the door!
He was with the police…she could hear him outside her front door.
Frances! Open the door!
“I’m coming Jake!”
She turned on her heel, now not worrying about that stupid mess! She rushed through the hallway, her heart missing beats, her forehead wet.
Frances was never any good at letting things go. But in the end, she had no choice.
When the police greeted her at the front door, they draped a blanket around Frances who was shivering with cold. She was dehydrated and malnourished, her face pale, framed by bony outlines.
After a brief interview, they determined that she needed intense psychiatric help after a period in the hospital to regain her health. She was put on a drip after a lukewarm bath and something small to eat as the doctor said she couldn’t just start eating normally again so soon, such was the seriousness of her self-inflicted predicament. When put to bed, she became delirious and kept speaking of her “mess,” she slept with the help of pills. Her family were called but was also warned that Frances was in a fragile state and would only be ready to receive visitors when she had calmed down dramatically. That they should await confirmation on when they can see her and news of her recovery.
The post mortem determined that the young white male found on the bed had died in his sleep about a fortnight ago, as a result of his brain tumour that had been diagnosed and declared terminal almost 6 months before.