Northwords Now Issue 39

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Shattered Dreams

by Hazel Urquhart

It’s three in the morning, Jen should be fast asleep dreaming of Tom Hardy. Instead, she’s plotting the demise of her cheating husband.

Today was one of those rare Sundays where she cleaned every inch of the house. She found it under the bed?the perfume. Perhaps her subconscious knew of the secret hiding, waiting to bring her life crashing down around her. She thought nothing of it. Gave it a quick wipe, she sat it on her dressing table and carried on cleaning.

It wasn’t till five minutes ago, almost drifting off to sleep, the name on the bottle flashed, like a cheap neon, sign advertising pleasures of the flesh for half-price. Clinique Happy?she’s never owned Clinique Happy. In fact, she’s been asking for Clinique-effing-Happy for the past two years and he’s never bought it for her.

Jen shoots out of bed at the speed of a circus cannonball act, grabs the bottle masquerading as her own and glares at it. No question - this is not her perfume. Where the hell is Dan? He’s been coming home late for months now. She reasoned it was down to overtime, saving money for their holiday to Mexico in November. It’s now obvious where he’s been.

Her brain goes into overdrive. Rifling through every memory of not knowing where he was. There have been many?too many. Last week, when he came home after midnight. She’d waited up, dressed in her leaving-nothing-to-the-imagination nightdress?his favourite. He’d brushed her off, saying he was too tired, hard day at work. Now it made sense.

Now, worked into a frenzy of emotion, one minute she’s howling, snot running down her upper lip, and the next laughing, face contorted like a moon-crazed psycho. Connecting with the mantlepiece across the room, the bottle shatters, like her hopes for the future. The expected subtle notes ravage her senses, smelling nothing like the upbeat emotion suggested. Jen staggers towards the window, opening it wide and gasping for air.

Jen realises, it’s not perfume, it’s petrol?chemical, flammable petrol. She swings round, hearing a noise behind her. Dan stands in the doorway, a smug smile on his face.

“You bastard,” she spits, curling her hands into fists.

He doesn’t respond. It takes longer than it should to register what’s happening. By the time he’s let go of the match all she can do is watch it fall, in slow motion, to the floor. A look of shock flutters across her face and she collapses. Her screams pierce the night air as she braces for the violent flames to strip the flesh from her bones.

The lack of pain soon filters through the fog in her brain. Jerking upright, a strangled scream still held in her throat, Jen realises she’s still in bed. She’s not on fire. She’s still alive. Panting, she stands on shaking legs and staggers to the dressing table. The perfume that consumed her nightmare is still there. Taking the bottle, she inhales, relieved to smell its delicate, floral scent.

Still, she can’t ignore such a vivid dream. Jen grabs handfuls of clothes from Dan’s wardrobe and throws them out the window. Jeans, t-shirts, the dated suit he wore to their wedding, the expensive jumper she bought him last year that still has the tags on. The last thing she discards is the perfume. It shatters spectacularly on the patio, shards sparkling in the moonlight. She’ll buy herself a bottle of Happy tomorrow, Jen thinks. She owes it her life, after all.