“Do you think she’s dead?”
“The girl across the hall?”
“Oh fuck you!”
Laura lay on the bed, an ashtray balancing between her sagging breasts.
Laura said nothing as she lit a cigarette from the stub of the one she had just finished, crushing out the latter’s remnants.
“Do you think she’s dead?”
“I don’t fucking care. You’ve wanted to shag her since she moved in. Why don’t you just put you tiny little friend away and go over there if you’re that desperate to find out.”
“Don’t be stupid. I’m not going over there. It’s just I’ve not seen her for a number of weeks and her mail is piling up downstairs.”
“Maybe she’s away. People do go on holiday without asking your permission first.”
“Well this is a bloody stupid conversation,” Laura said as she stubbed out her cigarette and put the ashtray on the beside table, rolling on her side and pulling the bed clothes over her. Dale coughed.
“Will you turn that fucking thing off,” Laura said pointing at the TV, “nothing but white noise for the last hour. Not sure what you’ve done to it! Actually, while you’re at it, sort out the heating. Those pipes have been making a god awful noise all week.”
Dale went to interject as Laura continued, “Turn it the fuck off. I want sleep.”
A shoe flew across the room and buried itself into the box’s screen. Laura nestled into the pillow as Dale stroked her shoulder before lightly kissing it.
“You’ve got another thing coming if you think you’re going to get any. There’s a sock down here, try that.”
Dale shouted a stream of expletives at Laura before rolling over and off the bed. He slept on the floor.
Number 47. The paint on the number was peeling away and it could be barely made out in the dimly lit hall. Dale raised his hand and paused before bringing it down lightly on the wood.
“Get a fucking grip. There’s no way she’ll hear that,” he muttered to himself.
He knocked harder, three times. In between each attempt he put his ear to the door but heard nothing. After the fourth attempt he turned and started walking down the corridor on his way to see what meagre breakfast he could afford. He had only gone a few steps before he heard the door open, he turned. It was slightly ajar. He walked closer and heard a voice.
“Quick. Get in here now.”
Dale stepped closer to the door as a slender arm came flying through the gap, grabbed his arm and dragged him through the opening door.
There was no light in the hall so he followed the person ahead of him who still held his arm. A door opened ahead, the grip on his arm was released. He walked up to the door and pushed on it and walked into a dimly lit room. Bookcases covered one wall, old battered furniture was spread about the room. There was a staleness to the air in the room and a faint odour of something having been burnt. She stood in one corner, facing him, wearing shorts and a loose shirt secured by a couple of buttons.
“Oh, it’s you.”
“I’m not who you were expecting?”
“Not who I hoped. What do you want?”
“I was concerned about you. I’ve not seen you for weeks.”
“What do you mean. We’ve never spoken, why would you be worried about me? You some kinda perv?”
“No, no. It’s just I am used to seeing or hearing you on occasions and that has changed. I was concerned, as any neighbour would be.”
The woman shrugged, her hand moving to a bottle on the table next to her.
“Do you want whisky?”
The woman picked up the glass, spat on it and the wiped the rim with the sleeve of her shirt. She poured and passed him the drink.
“I was going to….”
“Sshh,” the woman said, “be quiet and still.”
Dale felt compelled to obey. As time moved his senses heightened. The smell of stale fat, burnt paper, he could hear the rodents in the walls. A flash of light across his retina, a clown’s mask passed as a cackle struck his ears then he moved.
“What did you feel?”
“My dream, the one in which you appear, but I didn’t know I dreamt about you. How..?”
“Because you are close to her. You feel me through her.”
“You know Laura?”
“Know her? She’s in love with me.”
“How? What? Fuck off!”
“Calm now. I imagine this is a shock.”
“She’s never talked about you.”
“So? What significance does that have?”
“We meet all the time: the stairs, the corridor, the elevator – when it works – the store below.”
“The same places I see you.”
“Yes, but I’ve never noticed you. Laura however: her beautiful lips, the way her hair moves, the curve of her luscious hips. She’s gorgeous.”
“I don’t believe a word of it. You’re making all this up. I don’t believe you’ve ever really met.”
“We hadn’t until yesterday. She came in, we spent a good couple of hours together.”
“That’s what she did. I thought she had gone to the library.”
“She meant to but I was too much of an attraction. Can’t you see why?” the woman said as she tugged at the bottom of the shirt so that the material tightened over her breasts.
“This is all bollocks, Laura’s not gay. This is a wind up.”
“Maybe. What do I know? I had the sense that there’s something, something for me. A gap that I can meet. This is something I’ve been searching for, she needs someone. She needs somebody who understands her, who will meet her needs.”
“That’s me. You said she loves you. What complete shit. You barely know her. This is all a wind up.”
“Maybe! What do I know? I just know she told me something she’s never told anyone, not least you.”
“She told me something so personal that she would only tell someone she feels close to, someone she loves.”
“What? What on earth could that be? What’s so damn final?”
“Before I kissed her she told me…”
“That a relationship with you is where dreams go to die.”