Anthony Self’s New Short Story – Send Her Away

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SEND HER AWAY

motel view

Sarah pressed the spoon hard onto the aspirin tablets, crushing them into a fine powder. Scooping them off the dressing table with a cupped hand, she slid the powder into a glass and added the whiskey before moving over to the bed. She tested the resilience, making sure not to wake Greg.

Holed up in a dive that presented from the outset the look of a hotel. No other guests, not even a television set in the shabby room. There wasn’t even a lobby. Just a desk, a chair and a man downstairs, his T-shirt rolled up to his belly, his stomach spilling out. The kind of guy that didn’t smile if someone came into the area, his piggy eyes tapered to the entrance door.

Sarah looked around the crumby room and sighed inwardly. Had it really come to this? The wallpaper looked stained and there were edges peeling off from the corners here and there, revealing some older wall paper behind it.

Greg grumbled something in his sleep, and she picked herself up from the bed. She glanced at his pale, waxy complexion. Walking over to the single window in the room, she looked out into the city night. Dark room to a light street, you saw everything. Dark street to a light room, you saw nothing and everything looked right back at you. Sarah pulled the shit stained curtains closed, and glanced over at the only new appliance in the room; the Telephone, sitting on the swollen bedside table, the white cable snaking from phone port into a hole in the skirting board.

She went back to the bed and loomed over Greg’s body, studying the craggy lines on his face. He was sweating heavily, probably fever. There were no other guests and some of the rooms she passed didn’t have doors. She speculated about the bed in her room, and what would happen to it after they were done. Would the guy downstairs burn it, to remove any evidence that they were ever there? Probably. Blaine was sharp like that and didn’t like to leave any loose ends.

She blew out smoke into his face. Poor, infantile Greg. She’d known from the beginning that he’d been sweet on her, but then again most men were.

Silence. Two hours had passed since Sarah had crushed the tablets and it had been about ten minutes since she last checked her watch. There was an occasional car that rolled past in the streets outside, but the unobtrusive sounds of the building was starting to unsettle her. The adrenaline had worn off now, but the paranoia and general feeling of disconcertion began to creep up on her and get under her skin. She involuntarily scratched her arm.

“Sarah?”

She leaned over the bed. Greg looked at her through groggy eyes. He smacked his lips. Dry and numb. “Where…where are we?”

“Safe,” she said flatly. “Waiting for Blaine to call. You shouldn’t move. You need to stay in bed.” There was a command and assurance in her voice. Greg’s eyes rolled in his head. Probably didn’t notice that he was half dead already. He tried to straighten himself up, but his mouth contorted into a permanent wince and he uttered a groan of pain.

Sarah bent down at the foot of the bed and took the glass of whiskey. She shoved it in his face.

He opened his mouth and she poured the contents into his mouth. He spluttered, coughed and flinched as another wave of pain slammed into him. When the glass was empty, Sarah put it on the bedside table and sighed nonchalantly. Remaining in a seated position on the bed, she took the duvet cover and with a deft sweeping gesture revealed the rest of his body.

From the inward angle of his feet it was obvious that both legs were broken. The flesh around his right ankle had ballooned into a furious swelling. The injury to the left leg seemed to be below the knee. It was blackened and swollen. Blood from an open wound had seeped into the duvet.

Greg lowered his head back onto the pillow.

“I think I could try and put the right ankle back into position.” She said coolly. “I don’t know how long it will be until you get some help.”

Greg turned his head towards her, a solitary tear rolling down his cheek. “You’re saying I could lose it.”

“It’s your leg.”

“Do it then. But bring me the whiskey first.”

Half an hour later, he was unconscious.

The phone began to ring. Sarah almost vaulted over Greg’s body.

“Hello Sarah.”

Sarah gripped the receiver hard. She tried to maintain her breathing, making sure that the next words that left her mouth were controlled, that her tone was confident. “Hi Blaine. How are you?”

Silence. Sarah had a vivid image of Blaine in her mind, sitting on his terraced balcony in his penthouse suite, overlooking London. Watching the blinking lights of buildings in the distance, gazing out at the world he was trying to conquer. Looking down on his minions, with a copper taste of distaste and contempt in his mouth. For a moment Sarah thought that the line had gone dead, and she panicked that he may have thought she’d hung up on him.

“We’re at the hotel,” she said nervously, breaking the silence. The trembling in her voice must have been apparent, because she could almost see him smiling now.

“Ah. That’s good.”

The heckles of her neck did stand on end now, the feeling of uncertainty and paranoia crashing down on her. He’d known she would have been in the room for hours, he’d known she would be feeling like this now.

“I know it’s not the Savoy, but after the…little incident today, one can’t be too careful.”

She bit down hard on her bottom lip. He’d already heard about it.

“There was nothing I could do,” she said, chiding herself for sounding like a lost child.

“Perhaps not,” the voice down the line crackled. Sarah stiffened at this involuntarily. Her eyes were wide, trying to ascertain some kind of semblance where this conversation was going.

“Greg’s with me,” she said, glancing over at the bed. “He’s in a bad way,” she continued, realising she was starting to talk fast.

“That’s a shame.” Blaine said, with no emotion in his voice.

“What do you want me to do?” she said, her voice quavering. Once the words had left her mouth, a numb feeling of self-loathing washed over her, and she realised that within a couple of minutes speaking, she had been psychologically and emotionally beaten.

“I will tell you these instructions,” the voice dispassionately replied, “and you will follow them explicitly. If you fail this task, there will be consequences.”

Half an hour later Sarah was packing her bag, not once looking over at Greg.

“Where are you going?”

She ignored him. She checked her pockets and started towards the door.

“Jesus, Sarah…you can’t leave me here.” He twisted his body round in the bed, until he could flail an arm off the mattress to reach her. Without much effort, she battered the arm away as if it was a troublesome fly, opened the door and was gone.

“You can’t leave me!” he shrieked, the unendurable pain sweeping through his legs. He called after her for over twenty minutes, before clasping his head in his hands and crying.

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