The Perfect Couple. Short Story.

I’m starting college again today, it’s kinda weird, but good in a way. I have to finally do that buffer I was threatening to create for the last while. I think the updates will be a little more scheduled too, I’ll probably start having them up by 9 A.M. or so, but we’ll see, I’ll figure out a definite time, it might be slightly later or earlier. It depends really. I’m quite lucky this year, I only have 3 exams, the rest are essays so that is fairly handy, especially if winter is a bad as last years (which I hope it is cos snow is awesome) so it will be easier for me to get in an out of exams.

Anyway, on with the show!

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A slight breeze rippled across the grass, it was a warm, clear, night. He lay on the grass, looking up at the stars, it was quite comfortable, or it had become so. When he first lay down there were tiny little undulations in the ground, bits dug into him here and there but now, that all seemed to have faded away. The grass was dry and he was comfortable, that’s all that really mattered to him. The stars were bright tonight, shining down on the world, twinkling and shining. The stars had never been so abundant in the past few years. He knew it was due to light pollution, but tonight he had driven out to the country, to a park he used to frequent with his family, and found a semi-comfortable place to sit and watch. He could see where the stars started to disappear and the sickly yellow aura the city projected began to take over. Still, it was beautiful.

He’d had an argument with Stacy, again. They tried not to argue in front of the kids, or within earshot of them, but they knew. He knew it. Kids always picked up things like that. Whenever things got really heated, he left. He didn’t leave dramatically, slamming the door and screaming, he’d creep out, like a thief in his own home and quietly reverse out then drive aimlessly or he would find somewhere to sit and think. Then, after his anger abated, and he hoped Stacy’s had too, he would return home and slip back inside, where he would join her in bed. It occurred frequently, far more frequently than he would like to admit, but the arguments were usually forgotten in the morning and they’d be able to discuss whatever it was. They both had just needed to let off a little steam.

The kids had loved the park, when they were still young enough to come here. They’d tried bringing the kids on picnics, but the kids didn’t seem to be into it too much so they’d stopped. They went once or twice themselves, but things always came up and they would feel guilty for not bringing the kids, despite the children’s emphatic protests that they certainly did not want to go. He stood and brushed at the back of his jeans, then carefully stretched, allowing some of the pangs to recede. He began to walk towards the playground, though it was dark, he knew the way well and the stars and moon would help light his way.

The playground looked as it always had, maybe a little more worn, a little more faded, but still, the same. The equipment glowed in the silver light of the moon, turning them into dark, hulking sculptures, high frames twisting above the earth. The swings rocked gently from the breeze. He walked over to them, and sank into the hard wooden seat, before beginning to sway back and forth. He could see now how old everything looked and how much worse it would look in daylight, the paint was flaking, the metal underneath was rusted, perhaps during the day it didn’t look so bad, the screams and laughter of children might provide some kind of protective coating that helped hide how old and tarnished everything was.

He looked at the wooden structure, remembering how he’d play there with Scott, who would scramble to the top to be king, while Jessica would first try to play, then, angry at being relegated to a maid or servant, would stalk off and find someone else to play with. She’d love going on the slides, especially the big one. He looked around for its presence and instead only saw an empty hill where it had been ripped out. He wondered why briefly then cast the thought aside. Things change, they always do. The bark and chipping that coated the ground muted his footsteps as he walked away, leaving the dark and mysterious place. He didn’t want to stay long, teenagers probably hung around, drinking or doing drugs, they’d probably come to the playground sooner or later. Using the swings and slides. He hoped they enjoyed it.

Though he was alone in the park, he didn’t feel frightened or threatened, everything was quiet, the light, though casting everything in mystical shadows, gave him a good view, no one could sneak up on him. Perhaps it was foolish, being in this park after dark, but he felt safe, relaxed. Something rustled in the bushes and he glanced toward them, hoping to see a fox bounding out, or perhaps a hedgehog, trundling along. When no animal was forthcoming, he slightly sped up, the wind had begun to pickup, bringing with it a chill that cut through his jacket. Around him, one or two lonely birds called out to one another before falling silent again, crickets chirped and sang.

He reached his exit, all he had to do was go through the trees and he’d be at the car. He could have climbed over the wall, but it was high and he didn’t want to get dirty. It was quite stupid, the wall, built to keep people out, was built right next to a small, unfenced patch of trees that someone could easily walk through. The trunks grew far apart enough that the light filtered down through the leaves, he didn’t have far to walk, but, underneath the canopy, he felt nervous. He was boxed in. the leaves crunched and cracked beneath his footsteps, seeming so loud in the enclosed space. He reached the other side and breathed a sigh of relief, there was the car, the metal gleaming in the light of the moon. He stepped out of the mini-forest and onto road. The tarmac was smooth and quiet compared to the forest. He slid the key into the slot and unlocked the car, pulling the door open he slid into the seat. The car had become slightly chilly while he was away from it, turning it on, he turned up the heat and waited for a few moments, while he waited he flicked through radio stations, trying to find something that was playing music but, only finding chat shows, he rifled through his C.D’s before selecting one and popping it into the slot. He kept the music low, only loud enough to be heard above the noise of the engine. He sat in the almost silence, enjoying the time alone. He’d go back to Stacy now and they’d discuss what they’d been arguing about, redoing the kitchen, then they’d come to a decision and there would be peace, until the next time. And that was the problem, There was always a next time. every time he felt horrible, sometimes for a few days. Did he really want to live like that? Did she? Sighing, he glanced in his mirrors and pulled out into the road. He didn’t, neither of them did, they couldn’t live like that, but there was the kids. He liked almost everything else about his life. Maybe they could get therapy or something, find some way to replace to arguments or head them off before they happened. Maybe they were necessary, like a vent in a volcano, letting off steam to prevent an eruption. Maybe they both needed hobbies, something sporty with high energy, burn off the excess adrenaline or something.
They’d figure something out, they usually did.

The drive home was uneventful, the city seemed to be asleep and, at least on the outskirts, it was. He drove along by himself, the lonely traveller, passing no other cars. Finally he turned onto his road and pulled into the driveway, getting out quietly and closing the door softly. It was late and he was considerate to his neighbours.

He closed the door and shrugged off his jacket, draping it over the banisters, he moved into the kitchen, it was dark inside, but Stacy had left on a light in the hall, he was able to use its illumination to move through the house. Even if it was off, he doubted he would have a problem, after all, he knew the layout by heart, they all did, just in case anything happened in the night and they had to run. It was unlikely, but, fortune favours the prepared. They each had a backpack they could grab with clothes and a small supply of energy bars. There was more food and water in the car, stashes of money dotted around the house, everyone having their designated spots where they could grab some.

The kitchen was dark, the only light from the clock above the oven and the gently green glow of the buttons on the fridge. He got a glass, then getting the orange juice from the fridge, he poured himself a glass, then sipped it. He smiled, he really loved orange juice. Taking another sip, he replaced the carton back in the fridge, and went towards the basement. He was surprised that a light was already on, normally it was dark down here. He went down slowly, the stairs creaking beneath his weight. He’d have to fix it, or get new stairs in, better stairs, but there could be problems with that.

Stacy was sitting on a stool, concentrating fiercely, he stood on the stairs for a moment, atching her, a small smile playing across his lips. She was beautiful, her brow furrowed slightly in concentrations, her eyes just barely squinting. They were a perfect match for each other, they really were. He stepped onto the basement floor, it was poured concrete  and very smooth. Stacy jumped slightly, finally aware of his presence. “I didn’t hear you, you startled me.” “I’m sorry.” “M too. You were right.” “W can work something out. The kitchen is a bit dated, we might not be able to get workers in, we could always do it ourselves, maybe, if you really wanted, we could find someone to do the work. Keep it out of the way.” Stacy smiled, “You were right though, it’s not safe. Maybe before the next one. We can bring in someone to do it, it’ll be faster and probably cheaper. We’d probably make some expensive mistakes.” He feigned being hurt. “Am I not a master craftsman? Skilled in my trades?” She stood, smiling and hugged him. “You are an exquisite artist, but I think kitchen creation goes a little beyond your specialised skills.” He looked at their work, “hmmm, I suppose your right. Though I think I could do a good job painting. We’ll get a nice design.” “Something new, something fresh.” “Of course, though we’ll need someone to plan it on, someone new.” They glanced at the girl, she was naked and chained to the ceiling. Her skin, once clear and pale, was twisted and knotted with scars, thin flowing scars that swirled and swooped in brilliant designs. Fresh blood, startling and red against her skin flowed from the new cuts Stacy had been making. The girl’s head drooped forward, her lank, greasy hair, hanging in front of her face. “It’s late, how about we get some rest?” “Sure, just let me finish up here. The kids wanted to have a go as well, but I wouldn’t let them. I’m almost done my section. The screams of two people working on her distract me. I know you guys enjoy them, but I prefer the quiet.” “Don’t worry about it, they can finish in the morning. I think we’re all almost done, then we can set to work on the face.” Together they unhooked her arms which were chained together, high above her head, then gently they laid her onto the cot. It was slightly above the ground so it wasn’t in contact with the chilly floor. “I’ve been thinking, perhaps we should do up down here.” He glanced at her, seeing his expression, she smiled nervously “not much of course, maybe put down a mat or a small bit of carpet, make them last longer. The last one got sick and I don’t want to lose another project.” “Of course honey. We’ll put something down, but you can’t get to attached to them you know. Our pets only last a few years at the most. You know that.” she smiled. “I know, I guess I just feel bad for them sometimes. Like that time with the dog.” “But you can’t forget, they’re just wild animals.” they went up the stairs, the argument over and mostly forgotten. On his way out, he flicked off the light, plunging the basement into darkness. Below, on the cot, the girl began to cry softly. They’d chained her down before they left, she couldn’t move, couldn’t escape.

Upstairs in the warm house, everyone was snuggled into their beds, sleeping deeply and gently dreaming.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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