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by Lauren Bell

She decided that everything had to go. Absolutely everything. She wanted no reminder of him, not even a speck of dust made from his dead skin cells.

She began with the furniture: the office chair and desk with the wonky leg, the cheap-looking wardrobe and bedside cabinet with the Japanese-inspired decor. All of it was junk, cluttering up her rooms, the spaces she had allowed him to share. He had been difficult, forever demanding extra space, space she didn’t have.

Izzy tried to compromise, offering him her precious garden instead; if inspiration was what he needed, being exposed to nature would suit him down to the ground.

Except it didn’t.

“The view is crap,” he said. “And I’m certain there are people spying on me at the back. I keep seeing their curtains twitch. No, I’d rather have my own private study.”

She had given in and soon the cupboard under the stairs had been converted. At least now she didn’t have to see his miserable face every time she looked out of the kitchen window. He was out of the way … for now.

If anything though, the space beneath the stairs only amplified Danny’s whinging.

“It’s too small. I can practically touch the walls with my elbows. Don’t you know I’m claustrophobic?”

So Izzy began to take her space back.

“You can’t put your canvas in there,” she said, when she caught him one morning eyeing up the downstairs toilet. “Where on earth will my artificial flowers go?”

At first Danny resented Izzy’s plans. But as the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, he grew confused.

“My lilo, lawnmower and metal detector have all got to go in there.” She pointed to the space which had formerly been his study. “There’s no room for your stamp collection. Sorry.”

Izzy even snapped up the attic.

“I need this space to meditate. I can’t be disturbed, you see.”

Except he didn’t.

Danny proposed that they extend the house.

“What about a conservatory?” he suggested.

“I’ve always wanted my very own greenhouse,” she said. “We could grow some tomatoes in there. What do you say?”

Danny hated tomatoes and scrapped the idea.

Soon, every room in the house was fulfilling a function: the living room became a leisure centre, the kitchen a sauna, the bathroom a health spa, the bedrooms an office and sanctuary respectively.

The space beneath the stairs went neglected with Izzy’s junk.

“Can I have my old study back?” he asked late one evening, his fingers crossed behind his back.

“But what about your claustrophobia? Can claustrophobia be cured?”

“Sure it can.”

“Don’t be silly, love,” she said. “You said yourself the study was too small.”

Danny resigned himself and headed upstairs where a single mattress lay waiting on the floor.

The final straw for him came when he was turned off his mattress a few days later.

“You’re blocking me from getting past,” Izzy said. “You can sleep in the shed instead.”

***

The wallpaper came off surprisingly easy. Strips of mint and gold found their way into bin bags. Izzy preferred the house like this, stripped back. She pictured Danny’s face the day he was taken away. Attempted arson, the authorities called it. At least he was in safe hands now. The doctors would know what to prescribe, what treatment he needed.

Let’s hope they do the right thing, she thought. And give him a place of his own.


Lauren Bell lives in Birmingham, loves rainbows and is often drunk on inspiration. Her work has been published by Breve New Stories, Firewords Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, The Fractured Nuance and Storgy Magazine, where she is a contributing writer.

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