In haste today, a post for InMon, courtesy of bekindrewrite. It’s not my favourite story ever and I’d love to hear your constructive criticism about how I could improve it, but I hope you enjoy it too.
Sarah tipped her handbag out on the bed. “It’s in here somewhere,” she said.
I thought about my Grandma Rita. She used to say a cluttered bag was a sign of a cluttered mind. Sarah’s mind clutter was probably normal for a girl our age, but it was overwhelming to me. Paper hankies mingled with empty sweet wrappers; crumpled receipts and shopping lists were jumbled together and a toy mouse with a broken feather for its tail scuttered across the duvet onto the floor. The college cat, Joey, appeared from nowhere and set about it with relish.
In truth, Grandma Rita wouldn’t have been focusing on the handbag or its contents – a hairbrush, now, and three sets of keys, one of which had a boiled sweet stuck to the fob. She would have been far too outraged that I had a girl in my room at all. Beds, she believed, were a source of temptation and therefore shouldn’t be even glimpsed by the opposite sex until marriage had been discussed.
I smiled at the memory. Sarah and I live in a different age, and the single-room living of university makes it difficult to avoid rooms with a bed in them. I wasn’t convinced Grandma Rita was right anyway, but then two condoms tipped off the pile and I tried not to look at them, the bed and Sarah in the way Grandma Rita had feared. We’d long since established that she didn’t see me that way.
In years gone by, my sisters subjected me to Disney movies more often than I care to mention. Now, I found myself half-expecting Sarah to pull hat stands and umbrellas out of the bag, Mary Poppins-style. Instead, she’d begun to put things back, unfurling each piece of paper in turn.
“I know I put it in here,” she said, stuffing the condoms in with everything else. Obviously Sarah wasn’t looking at the bed the way Grandma expected. “You should have just come to the Grad Hall yourself.”
“I know.” I should have, but I didn’t, and she’d picked up the tiny slip of paper holding my results and my future. You’d think she’d have been more careful with it: tucked it in her wallet or something. You might think she’d have read it too, but I knew she hadn’t. In spite of her cluttered bag, Sarah is so smart, she doesn’t stress about results; she trusts they will always be fine.
“I really should sort this bag out.”
I didn’t reply. Nothing I could have said would have helped.
“There’s loads of money here.” She’d found a twenty wrapped into a receipt, and there were coins all over the duvet. “I’m rich!”
“You could keep your money in your wallet,” I offered, my mind wantonly rolling on the bed with Sarah amid piles of cash. Blame Grandma Rita, she put the idea there.
“I do normally. But then I get given a pile of change and I just stuff it in the bag in a rush.” She was stuffing everything back in, still not sorting it. “Ah!”
My breath caught. She’d found the results. I needed at least a 2:2 in every subject to keep my career dreams alive and now I’d find out.
“I’ve been looking for that for ages!” She pulled the back off the oversized butterfly earring and stuffed it into her right ear. There was nothing in the left one to match and it made her look unbalanced.
“My tripos results?” I reminded her, becoming aware that she seemed to have forgotten the purpose of her search.
“Oh, I think I must have put them in my folder.” She zipped up the handbag and slid off the bed. Five seconds later, she pulled the tiny blue slip from her binder and handed it to me with a flourish. Grandma Rita never worried that having a girl in my room might tempt me to murder, but at this moment that seemed infinitely more likely than sex.