by Matt Kendrick

A discarded knife on a chopping board; the cold metal of its blade shimmering against the rough, stained wood. From its cutting edge, the shards of an onion dribble onto the worktop; sliced like rose petals; like tear drops; like acid rain. They were destined for the pot on the cooker’s front left ring which carries the charred smell of burning. Its insides are lined with blackened oil. An unidentified something is cremated in its depths. Close by, the sink’s washing up bowl is half-full of water. Tap not completely turned off so that a drip, drip, drip hacks into the silence. It crashes with the force of a falling piano. A dull F sharp plucked against the liquid’s membrane; onomatopoeic plop of the gobbled up droplet disappearing in an outwards ripple. And as the drips grow bulbous on the tap’s spout, they split apart the evening sunlight. A spiteful green; yellow-bellied cowardice; red like blood. Other reds are in the wilting roses in a window sill vase and the puddle of burgundy liquid soaking into the kitchen table’s paisley tablecloth. It is Merlot from a broken wine glass. Toppled by the sweeping gesture of an angered hand, the stem sits surrounded by shattered fragments. Biting words in a woman’s voice linger above the wreckage. And the ghost silhouette of a defensive man hovers uncertainly. His younger self is on show in an artistic photograph on the bookcase in the corner; loving gaze into the eyes of a flame-haired firecracker; foreheads touching, lips reaching towards a post photographic kiss. Through other pictures, they mature into their present selves – the hour-and-a-half ago phantoms that tiptoe around the imminent argument; the snappish tone of indignation that leads into burnt-dry saucepans, broken glasses, raised voice counterpoint. Their two spirits are variously sat and standing as a gaping chasm of mistrust extends between them. An unspoken patch of no-man’s land is marked onto the fabric of the living room’s second-hand sofa. In the ceasefire that follows, a single word leitmotif emerges. ‘Sorry,’ says the man. ‘Sorry,’ says the woman. Hesitant hands stroke tensing shoulders. Fingers interlock. Eyes, thoughts and lips follow. On the coffee table, a smartphone betrays the genesis of their altercation – the chain of messages, flimsy like paper, that ask innocent questions about the intensity of hangovers; a joke about balls and chains; a remark on last night’s attractiveness in a satin dress. And from these small beginnings, the theme of accusation takes its root. From here, the unfaithful allegation framed; denied in a heartbeat; twisted into an assertion of privacy invaded; trust scattered; lips pursed; combat engaged. These little squalls blot the edges of their relationship. They are like the patches of damp whose persistent return accompanies the first notes of wintry mists no matter how well they are scrubbed away. In the bedroom, there is a crack along the ceiling that has been covered over with cheap plaster. It will only hold until the next small tremor in the Earth’s crust. Beneath it, two bodies intertwine in naked reconciliation. Their kisses are hungry from the dinner abandoned and the after-the-argument pulse-racing rush. They have a burning desire to atone. But still, some discretions are omitted from confession. They are banished to the dark corners of their minds. Whilst in the kitchen, the discarded knife still sits on its chopping board, the pool of wine stains further into the essence of the paisley tablecloth, and a smoke alarm catches the scent of burning oil.

Matt Kendrick is an author and illustrator based in the East Midlands, UK. His stories have been published by Storgy, Lucent Dreaming and Collective Unrest. Connect at www.mattkendrick.co.uk or Twitter @MkenWrites.