SCREAMING RED PAINT • by Sophie Playle

She keeps being sick. Sometimes she locks herself in the bathroom for the whole morning. I’m not allowed to lock the bathroom door.

“Is it the dinner?” I ask. “Has the dinner made you sick?”

“No, Jimmy, it isn’t the dinner.”

I want to make her feel better, but I don’t know what to do. I make her a cup of tea. I’ve never made a cup of tea before, but Sarah always makes me one in the morning. When she isn’t being sick. People always make tea when something bad has happened, so maybe tea will help.

I fill up the kettle with water from the tap and switch it on. Nothing happens. I realise that I haven’t put it back on its stand, which is connected by a wire to the wall. The wire has electricity in it. Electricity is dangerous and it scares me. I don’t touch the wire.

The kettle starts making a loud hissing, bubbling noise. I don’t know if I am meant to make it stop, or if it stops on its own. I don’t like the noise, so I make it stop by picking it up. I fill the mug and stir the teabag with a teaspoon. I put the teabag in the bin and get the milk out of the fridge. I am very careful because I know tea is hot. It looks a different colour to the tea Sarah makes me.

In the evenings, Sarah likes to drink wine. She let me try it once, but it was horrible. Like when you put a battery on your tongue. One time Sarah drank a whole bottle and started to cry. I didn’t like the noise, so gave her a cuddle, because that’s what people do on TV when someone is crying. She said that I was the only good person in her life, because I was too stupid to be evil. I don’t like it when people call me stupid, but I forgave Sarah because she’s nice to me. Sarah doesn’t like to talk about that night anymore.

I bring the tea to her.

“Jimmy, you know you’re not allowed to use the kettle.”

“Will it make you better?”

“Perhaps. Come on, let’s get you washed and shaved for the day.”

I don’t like having my face shaved but Sarah says it makes me look neat and handsome. It stings. I’d rather look messy.

Maybe Sarah is sick because she eats too much. She doesn’t take me out any more, either. The Tesco man brings our shopping to us every Wednesday. I once ate a whole chocolate cake and was sick in my bed. Sarah is getting very fat.

***

Today Sarah has been screaming, which makes me scream. It’s much, much worse than when she cries. There are lots of people here I don’t know. They are wearing green. I don’t like green because that’s the colour of mould. They broke the door down after Sarah had been screaming for a long time. It scared me. They must be hurting her because they are all around her and she is screaming even louder and they won’t let me in. I want to get into the room to save her but I can’t move, apart from rocking. Someone is talking at me and trying to pull my hands away from my ears.

I hope the tea didn’t make Sarah worse. Did I do it wrong? I just want all the people to go away so it can be just me and Sarah again.

Sarah has gone really quiet. There is a different noise, a crying noise not like Sarah at all. A person comes out of the room holding a blue blanket. The blanket has a face and the face is crying.

“Is that the father?” someone says.

“Yes.”

“We’ll have to take the baby with us.”

Someone sits beside me and puts their arm around me. I flinch. They say something but I can’t hear the words. I just look at the tiny face in the blue blanket.

I want to ask Sarah what is going on, and how the baby got into her room. But when I look past all the people and through the door, Sarah’s bed is covered in red paint and she isn’t moving.

I hope this means she is better now.


Sophie Playle lives in the South East of England, UK. She has a BA in English Literature with Creative Writing from The University of East Anglia. After working full time in the publishing industry, she is now studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University of London. Her own novel-in-progress, a steampunk horror, gives her nightmares.


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