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by Kate Jones

There’s a Beast in the bathroom. He’s been in there 22 minutes. I’ve counted, slowly, like we learned at school. One elephant, two elephant. He’s shaving; I can hear the squirt of the shaving foam canister. I decide to wait it out.

Besides, he’s got the key in the bathroom with him.

How did he get in here again? I let him in. He’s been here before, you see. But not for ages. At least a couple of months. What brought him this time?

Shoes. Something to do with shoes. I look down at my feet. I’m only wearing one. A pointed toe, black stiletto heel. I instinctively reach up to my cheek. Feel sticky liquid under my eye. Bring my fingers to my eye line and see red. Blood. Mine. See the other stiletto on the bed, on its side, where it landed after it struck my cheek.

Now I remember. It was the shoes. I looked like a tart. He’s told me that before — why hadn’t I remembered? I should have worn the flat ones; the frumpy ones. Then I looked okay. Then I looked plain and not too fancy. Then the Beast might not have shown up.

Last time, it’d been my skirt. Too short. And too much makeup. I’d been really good since then, remembering not to wear blusher; wearing trousers or long skirts. Now I’d gone and spoilt it with the shoes.

Stupid. He was right, the Beast, I was a stupid tart. He only wanted to protect me, after all, to take care of me. To stop me looking ridiculous.

I hear the gurgle of the plug hole. He’s finished shaving. He’s going to emerge from the bathroom. I’ll change my shoes, quick; grab a tissue to wipe the congealing blood off my face. He won’t want to see that; it’ll remind him I made him change into the Beast again. He doesn’t like me changing, you see. It’s just that I drive him to it sometimes. When I forget.

The bathroom door is opening. The Man walks out, and for a minute, I’m not sure if he’s the Beast or the Man. They look so alike, you see. He looks around the room, taking me in briefly. He sees his car keys on the nightstand. He walks across and picks them up. I try really hard not to flinch as he walks by, because he hates that.

He picks up the keys and heads towards the door. You coming? he says, over his shoulder. I think it’s okay; I think he’s turning back from the Beast to the Man, but I’m not quite sure.

I’m ready, I say, picking up my clutch bag from the bed and practically running toward the open door. I think it will be an okay night, once we get to the party. Once he’s had a drink and I’ve shown him what a good girl I can be.

I think it will be okay.

Kate Jones is a freelance writer based in the UK who has a passion for flash fiction. Having published flash in various places, including Spelk, SickLit and Café Aphra, she also writes features and reviews, critical essays and creative non-fiction. She can be found loitering around Twitter @katejonespp and occasionally blogging at www.writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com.