Friday, 17 August 2012

Flashfiction Friday #02: Ugly Duckling

The nursery has always given her the creeps. She remembers looking around the house for the first time, Andrew and the estate agent admiring the intricate brickwork outside, the sweeping staircase in the hallway, the French windows leading from the dining room to the gardens, a riot of colour even in early April. There was an air of abandonment to the whole place, the rooms were mostly bare and the remaining furniture was covered by white sheets. The estate agent was vague about the previous owners. She claimed it was a summer house that finances had forced the family to give up. Quinn didn't believe her. She wandered alone up to the attic rooms, while her husband asked questions about the gardens. He hated gardening but was determined to have a beautiful garden all the same.

The top of the house felt almost claustrophobic. The huge open chambers from the lower floors gave way to narrow corridors and locked doors. She frowned as she turned the handles, wondering what was being hidden up here. The rational part of her mind said damp. Mould. Structural problems. The less rational part said ghosts. It was silly, she didn't even believe in ghosts, but there was something about this house. The huge, castle-like mansion that sat on the edge of the lock, just metres away from falling into its black depths. It felt like the first ten minutes of a horror movie.

The door at the end of the corridor was unlocked, but it stuck as she tried to open it. The wood had warped into the frame. She pushed at it, throwing her shoulder in for good measure, and the door popped open. She stepped into a small, warm room. The lemon-waxed floorboards creeked underfoot as she walked towards the crib under the window, the bars of which were splintered and crooked. Quinn felt a shiver unfurl down her spine. The walls were painted a soft yellow and decorated with little ducklings in a row around the centre of the room. Quinn smiled, but then leant forward to get a better look. The ducklings looked angry, their little faces painted with harsh black lines.

Quinn hurried out of the room and back down the stairs to find her husband. There was just something about those ducklings that set fear gnawing at the pit of her stomach. She found Andrew and the estate agent standing in the hallway.

"Oh, there you are, dear," the estate agent said. "We were just wondering where you'd gotten to." She smiled warmly at Quinn and then turned back to Andrew. He'd already viewed the house twice, even though this was Quinn's first time seeing it. "Here are the keys," she said, handing them over. "I'll just get you the paperwork."

"You bought the house?" Quinn asked, stunned. She knew Andrew loved the house, but she couldn't believe he'd buy it without at least asking her first.

"Don't you like it?" he asked. "Can't you just imagine raising little Leonard here?" he added, placing his hand gently on her stomach.

Quinn didn't say anything, but she could feel the baby kicking in protest.

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