• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 06


I’d started shopping days before. Grapes translucent green and pale purple, crackers and dips dull red and white, golden cape gooseberries shielded by fragile beige petals. I’d baked a quiche, and a chocolate cake with pastel sprinkles.
I dragged the kitchen table into Ann’s room. It was the brightest room in our flat, with glass doors opening onto the balcony. I had insisted that we each have a space of our own when we moved in together, and we were lucky to find a place with two large rooms. We’d tossed a coin and the heads had smiled upon me, so I’d chosen that bright front room, and she’d seemed fine with it, at first.
I manouvered the table up against a wall and covered it with a long white lacey tablecloth, its ends flapping down to cover the flaked-paint legs. I put a vase of pink camellias in the centre. I’d gotten them that morning to make sure they wouldn’t wilt and scatter before it was over. I had also bought four matching candles that I arranged around the table. A stack of small plates, cutlery, and serviettes at one end so people could help themselves. Glasses and wine at the other end. I opened a bottle of red to let it breathe.
She’d invited 10 guests; mainly people I barely knew. I had no idea if they knew about the clinic, or anything else.
I heard music through the bathroom door and the occassional ripple of her bathwater moving.
I put the dishes between the candles and scattered grapes and cape gooseberries between them.
Only the cake remained waiting in the kitchen, with 30 candles on top, plus one for luck in the coming year. A lighter at the ready.
She’d said that the dark room made her ill. She’d said I was cheating on her. She’d said that non-organic food gave her a cancer that the doctors couldn’t find. She’d said the neighbours were listening, and watching. She’d



said she won’t live to 30. That she’d known it all her life. But she’d also said, now, maybe, with me, there was a future. Maybe. But not every day. And only if I didn’t mess it up. Only if I was to be trusted to not turn on her and float away.
The late winter sun was low. A sliver of silver behind the clouds, making them iridescent, like the smooth inside of a shell gathered up on a quiet beach far away.
I lit the candles and switched on lamps in her room, not all of them, just enough to give ambient lighting that would hide the shadows on our faces.
She’d only been back from the clinic for a week. We’d barely spoken. I couldn’t grasp any words, or feelings. Except surprise she wanted a party, and apprehension. The psychiatrist had encouraged her, she’d said. “Celebrate, push at your comfort zone.”
The room looked good. Festive.