The Evening Shop. Short Story.

This weekend was fairly tiring, my sister was here though, so that was fun. Also, I was able to sleep in. Also, I’ve started watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Netflix, it is quite hilarious, possibly my new favourite tv show.

Also, apparently, the movie, The Importance of Being Earnest, is actually the word Earnest. I had never seen it in print and assumed it meant Ernest the name. As in he was someone really important. I had assumed it was a It’s A Wonderful Life type scenario.

Anyway, on with the show!

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The Evening Shop

Walking down the brightly lit aisle, she stopped, scanned the shelves, then reached out and grabbed a tin of tomatoes, she held it for a moment, as if considering its weight, then put it into her trolley. As she placed the can on top of the growing mound, she sighed, it was only going to be a quick shop, grab a few essentials, but instead, it had turned into her getting everything she could think of. She wasn’t too surprised really, she didn’t want to go home after all. Eric’s parents would be there and they never really liked her, in fact, it seemed to go beyond simple dislike, a stance Helen could never quite understand. She had always been nice and polite to them, there had never been any horrifically embarrassing experiences, it was just always there. Subtle in the beginning as they seemed nice enough the first time she met them, they had even seemed to like her, but it slowly changed. More subtle digs that Eric didn’t notice, or claimed not to notice. It wasn’t that she herself didn’t like them, she just didn’t want to deal with them after a long stressful day. Helen knew she had every right to hate them, but she couldn’t bring herself to, she felt a strange need for their approval, some weird desire that was always there, but the harder she tried, the more they seemed to dislike her. So her new solution was to just avoid getting into those situations. It wouldn’t always be possible, but there were times when she could do her best. Now for example, Eric had rung to tell her they were there and to ask if she could pick up some stuff on her way home, which had morphed into a full on shopping trip. They would claim they were sorry they didn’t get to see her, but really, they would make sure to leave before she got back, just as she would check to make sure there car was gone before pulling in.

Helen pushed the trolley a little further down the aisle and mulled over which type of pasta to get. She could never remember which ones went with which sauce. She picked one up, choosing it because of the multi coloured pasta inside, then looked at the price. She was about to put it into the trolley, then stopped, replacing it with cheaper, plain spaghetti. They were trying to save money and the coloured pasta would be a useless extravagance. It wouldn’t add anything to the flavour, at least not that she could see. She paused, listening to the song playing from the overhead speakers, it had been playing when she had come in. As she began to walk, she wondered just how long those loops were, and how long she had been here. Her phone was in her pocket, but she wanted to see if she could at least estimate. Lost in her thoughts, she slowly pushed the trolley, leaning over the bar, had she been paying attention she would have noticed the man leering at her, staring at her cleavage. Finally, she guess about half an hour, then looked at her phone, surprised to see she’d been here for almost an hour. There were no messages from Eric, so he was probably distracted by his parents and hadn’t noticed the time that had passed. She paused at a display, bright yellow signs screamed that there were savings to be had, 25% off, 50% off, buy one get three free. She looked at everything, then started to pick up some of the items, she stopped. Would she be buying these things if they were not on sale. She knew she wouldn’t and guiltily put them back. They would never be eaten, she didn’t even like olives and Eric only ate them on pizza. It would be a stupid purchase. They had to save money. They were getting married in just over a year. It was a long engagement, almost two years at this point, but they were in no rush, they wanted to be able to save for the wedding, which they had only really started doing recently.  Eric’s parents had reluctantly offered to help out, probably out of some sense of duty or propriety rather than wanting to see them happy, but Helen had refused, she didn’t want them paying for anything, she knew Eric’s mother would try to take over everything if she let them pay. She could see it now, “No dear, you don’t want orchids, you want violets, they’re so much prettier.” “No dear, Pale pink would be tacky, fuchsia would be better.” “No dear, you shouldn’t have that band, they’re not appropriate for a wedding, you should get this one.” “No dear, the cake should be vanilla, not chocolate.” Hell the woman tried to do the same with their house. Helen had regretted that twenty grand loan almost instantly. They had said it wasn’t a loan, that they didn’t have to worry about paying them back, but Helen made sure they did. She wanted to make sure his parents had no sense of ownership over their house. It was lucky for Eric she loved him as much as she did, otherwise she would have left long ago. It wasn’t his fault really, he had a younger brother who had died, before Eric was even old even to really understand what was happening, but it was like his parents shifted all their love and expectations onto him. He had to marry the perfect woman because there would only be one. His wedding would need to be perfect, because they would only have one chance of attending their child’s wedding. It was sad, and she did feel bad for them, but it in no way gave them the right to try to control their lives. It wasn’t healthy, for them or Eric. They had been over protective too, she had only met Eric because he had snuck out one night to go to the movies with friends. He was twenty years old and sneaking out of his house and though he was only gone for three or four hours, his parents had already rang the police. They probably blamed Helen for his independence, she was the one to convince him to move out, to convince him to travel. Of course his parents didn’t know about her at the time, they had been dating for almost two years before they had met her.

She had wandered into the ice-cream section and stood, staring at them longingly. It had been a terrible day, likely to get worse if Eric’s parents were still at the house, but they were trying to save money. She looked at everything indecisively, then finally opened the cabinet and took out a tub of chocolate ice cream. It was worth it really. Besides, it was cheap enough, it was on sale. She put it in the cart, on top of everything else, then decided it was time to go. If she lingered any longer she would just buy more useless stuff. Helen stood up properly and after checking her phone to see if Eric had called or texted, she went to the checkout.

She walked out of the supermarket, slightly disoriented by the darkness, there was still daylight when she went in. The parking lot itself was well lit and she quickly found her car. She put the bags into the car, then brought the trolley back to the storage rack, once in the car, she locked the doors, then began to put on her seatbelt. It was a habit she had picked up recently, after some crazy homeless man had tried to get into the car. He was probably drunk and meant no harm, but it had freaked her out. Of course, the next morning she had to see a special about women being raped and how they could be dragged from cars. So began her habit of locking the doors. She started the car, then flicked through the radio stations until she found the one she liked. She checked her mirrors then reversed out slowly, just in case. Once free of the space, she drove off, not too quickly though, she didn’t want to get home before Eric’s parents left.

The trip home went by all too quickly, though she had driven back maddeningly slow. She was getting tired now, and pulled into the driveway without thinking, her headlights illuminating the front room, and Eric’s parents car, which they had parked on the road. surprisingly considerate of them. Normally they’d park in the driveway, forcing her to park outside and then repark the car once they left. She turned off the engine and sat for a few minutes, gathering her thoughts. Then she sighed, opened the door and slid out of the car. She grabbed a few bags from the boot, and went up to the door, it was open as she expected, Eric usually left it open if she was on her way home. She’d really have to talk to him about that. One day he’d forget to lock it while leaving and they’d get robbed. She dumped the bags in the hall, then went back for more. Once she was done, bags crowded the hallway, she locked the car then closed the front door. She paused, listening, trying to figure out where everyone was. They were probably in the kitchen, though she couldn’t hear them talking. They were probably talking about her when she came in. She picked up two bags and smiled widely, trying to look pleasant and happy to see them. She nudged the door with her food, expecting it to swing open, but it was closed. She rolled her eyes, he’d leave the front door open but close the doors in the house. She awkwardly leaned over, trying not to overbalance and opened the door with her elbow. If his parents weren’t here she’d have just used her foot, but if they saw her doing that they’d have something to say. She pushed the door open, surprised to see the kitchen was in darkness, she flicked on the lights, then put the bags on the counter. She looked around, surprised. There were two coffee mugs sitting on the table. She sighed. God forbid Eric actually put something away. She grabbed the cups and put them in the dishwasher before going back to the hall.

Once everything was put away, she began to wonder where everyone had gone. She hadn’t seen Eric’s car, but that didn’t mean anything, it might have been in the garage. She took out the chocolate ice cream she bought and while it was still soft, she quickly dug out a few spoonfull’s, relishing the thick chocolate taste that flooded over her tongue. When done, she put it back in the freezer, feeling slightly guilty. She put the spoon in the sink and went to the sitting room. Maybe it was some kind of weird surprise party. She opened the door, expecting them to be sitting there in silence, but the room was dark and empty. She turned on the light, to make sure, but there was no one there. She closed the door and went back to the kitchen. She dug her phone from her pocket and as she filled the kettle, she rang Eric. She listened, waiting for him to pick up until it just reached his voicemail. She put her phone down, then looked at it distastefully. Did she really want to ring his parents. She caved and dialled Eric’s mothers number, with the phone pressed to her ear and a slight scowl creasing her features she waited. Again, voicemail. She put the phone down and shook her head, they were probably off doing something together. Something that didn’t include her. She tried to tell herself she was fine with that, but she had still felt a slight sting of rejection. She pushed it away, trying to convince herself she didn’t care, because she didn’t. Not one bit.

Helen walked up the stairs, feeling tired, she would have a shower, it would make her feel better, then she could eat ice cream and watch TV until Eric got back, then they could get a take away for dinner. She didn’t care about saving any more, he owed her for this disappearing act. She went to their bedroom and began to undress. A hand clamped across her mouth, a body pressed against hers, Helen jumped, struggled, fought. Then she relaxed. Eric was probably playing some game. The hand slowly moved from her face, “Eric, what the hell, that wasn’t funny.” Something wasn’t right, normally when he did something like this he laughed, loud and obnoxiously, she tried to turn but the other arm was wrapped around her stomach. “Seriously Eric, I’ve had a long day, I’m not in the mood. I just want to relax.” The grip tightened slightly. She tried to push him away, but he was too strong, too solid. She began to panic. “Let me go. Seriously. This isn’t funny. I swear to god Eric.” she felt a face press against hers, his stubble scratching at her cheek, she could feel the cheeks stretch, he was smiling, “Guess again.” Horror struck her, her skin going cold, she began to struggle, trying to elbow who ever it was in the stomach, suddenly a knife was at her throat, cold and sharp, a slight prick of pain as it cut through her neck slightly, drawing a thin line of blood. “Now now, calm yourself. I don’t want you to be too tired. We have a lot of fun to get through.” “Where are they? Eric and his parents?” “Oh, they’re just hanging around. I can bring you to them if you want. I have to say though. It was really nice of them, inviting me in like that.” he started walking her forward towards the door, “what do you mean?” “leaving the door unlocked, it’s an open invitation. Everyone knows that.” He continued to walk her forward, down the hall, towards the spare room. The door was closed, she didn’t want to go in there. “He left the door open for me, not you, it was a mistake.” “There’s no such thing as a mistake. What’s been done is done. Open the door for me, would ya sweetheart.” She shuddered and reached out slowly, grasping the cold door handle, it turned easily under her hand. She pushed the door open and saw them. All three, tied up and hanging from the ceiling, the smell hit her, thick and heavy, the smell of blood. Their necks were slashed, blood dripped from their lifeless bodies into large buckets. Beside them there was another bucket, this one empty. One that was meant for her.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 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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