by Lynsey May
Edith’s voice is a traitor to the cause. It’s always prepared for a moment of weakness, a chance to do her down. It waits until she is defenceless, sitting in her favourite café struggling to cut her panini in half, before making itself known again.
Stupid bitch, her voice says. Edith gulps, and stops cutting. Stupid, forgetful bitch. She feels the words scramble for footholds as they fight their way out of her throat.
She ducks and covers, considering her recent transgressions. She’d gotten that old friend’s name wrong; her niece despised the birthday present she’d bought her; two people had to chase after the money she dropped all over the supermarket. Stupid, clumsy bitch.
Edith risks a look around the café. No one is paying attention to her, or at least they are pretending not to. She puts down the knife, which has snags of sundried tomato in its serrated edge, and picks up her napkin.
Once, the voice was faint, a worry on the outskirts of her mind, but now it has worked its way to the centre. It wants to be able to stop her from scurrying to the bathroom or some other quiet corner, a hand pressed over her mouth. It wants to stop saying and start shouting. It wants her to suffer.
She dabs at the skin around her mouth, removing the chill of sweat and making sure she looks as nice as the next person. She is normal, or she puts up a good front at least.
But when she reaches for her coffee, the voice betrays her again. The mug is almost at her lips, and still it is muttering: Who do you think you are? Stupid bitch who talks to herself in cafes, that’s who. Edith lowers the mug and swallows, grits her teeth.
This is what it does, lets her hope she’s free, then it attacks without warning, shouting out all of her secrets for anyone to hear. One day, everyone will find out the truth – the voice will keep going until they do, and no one will believe she is a nice lady who’s worked hard, raised her children well and deserves to sit and eat her panini and her cake in peace. They will listen to the enemy and then they will all know that she is, like it knows, a stupid bitch.
But she has tried hard, her home is clean, her hair is washed, she put money in the Red Cross box beside the till. The voice may be right, but Edith does not believe it deserves to win. She sits in the café and plots an ambush.
A slice and a plunge, that’s all it would take; a serrated edge and an ugly gasp of air. A flutter of her white napkin, a false surrender, and the voice would be cut free. She could trick it into believing it had finally won, if she had the guts.
Lynsey May lives, loves and writes in Edinburgh. You’ll also find her doing much the same online here.
#1 by Sal Page on August 11, 2011 - 8:36 am
Really enjoyed reading this, Lynsey. Excellent. Absolute spot on, with the voice, those ‘recent transgressions’ and the desparately trying to appear normal to others.
I like the ending, the, is she going to do something terrible … or not? The best sort of ending is always one that leaves the reader wondering …
#2 by ramseaLeah on August 11, 2011 - 8:37 am
#3 by mariann on August 11, 2011 - 10:23 am
What a wonderfully disturbing piece. I cannot get it out of my head. Well done.
#4 by John Ritchie on August 11, 2011 - 1:43 pm
This is clever, disturbing and somehow darkly funny.
I enjoyed it.
Thaks for the read.
#5 by Lynsey May on August 13, 2011 - 4:13 pm
Thanks very much folks!
#6 by Pete mowat on May 20, 2017 - 3:02 pm
Love this story, like the ambiguity so can read as depiction of actual psychosis or someone broken and exposed. Great lines such as ” a worry on the outskirts of her mind”. A short disturbing and true work of rare insight. Ta. Pete.