An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

>Daisy Chained

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Daisy Jenkins lies on the floor of her bedroom. Her naturally blonde hair, straight from the bottle, spills over a face that rests on folded hands. Sprawled across the floorboards, her legs twine around themselves. The dusk light, filtered through half open blinds, bathes the room in ochre; twinkles from the handcuffs that attach her ankle to the radiator. She would appear to be asleep except for the quivering in her slender frame.
Slapping the alarm clock as if it were a personal assault on her ears, Daisy allows herself a groan and five more minutes. She uses the time to doze over who should occupy the empty space beside her.
            Out of bed and into her robe.
            Her morning ablutions she performs on auto-pilot, staying half asleep even as she brushes her hair and cleans her teeth. Not until she shambles through the kitchen does she open her eyes. Swaying in front of the boiling kettle, Daisy perches tip-toe on the cold tiles. Her coffee is bitter and adding milk does little for the taste, neither does sugar. She promises herself to splash out on better next time. Her face scrunches with each reluctant sip, but the murky liquid rouses her senses for the next delicate task.
            Her make-up bag sits beside yesterday’s paper which she ignores, as she did yesterday. She pours out the contents, but selects only mascara and foundation. Paying particular attention to a small blemish in her jaw line, an old scar, Daisy checks her mirror but doesn’t linger on the reflection.
            A grid of November grins at her from the far wall. Crosses scar the grid, ending in a red circle. Daisy slashes it through, almost tearing the page, and turns away.
            A knock at the door. Daisy checks the clock, and answers.
            “Good morning, young lady. Did I wake you?”
            The old guy from next door. She has no idea what his name is, but her mind calls him George.
            “I was up.”
            “Slave to the corporate wage, eh?” He laughs at his own joke. “Can I interest you in-”
            “No,” says Daisy. “You can’t. I am not, nor have I ever been interested.”
            “Well, there’s no need to be like tha-”
            “I’ve lived here for three months, and never, ever have I let you in, accepted your leaflets or listened to your drivel. Jesus does not want me for a moonbeam. He is not on my Christmas list. The only Holy Spirit I ever come in contact with is a double of Russian Standard. Please leave me alone.”
            The door clicks in the jamb, leaving the neighbour to regard the woodwork.
            Daisy bites on her lip, letting pain dull her anger. The circle on the calendar turns to watch her as she crosses the living room.
            She plucks her work clothes from the wardrobe door, trousers stowed inside blouse inside jacket, shoes underneath.
            The bedside clock gives her an hour before work.
First scuttling back into her flat for the folder which was impossible to forget, Daisy darts down the stairs cursing the second cup of coffee and Philip Schofield. From his doorway, the neighbour spies her leaving and creeps across the hall to slide his leaflet beneath the door.
            Daisy dodges raindrops and puddles.
            The commute is an easy one. The bus route takes her into the town centre, a place built with a grey on grey motif, and a brisk walk brings her to the door of her building. Despite the short journey she manages to be drenched by a passing taxi. Turning to protect the folder, she gasps as the water sprays her back. For the rest if the day, her left shoe squelches; when she sits, the damp patch on the seat of her trousers soaks further. Daisy mutters threats to the folder until Damian finally arrives to claim it.
            He slurs her name in country drawl. A childish taunt. Daisy is well aware that she shares her name with a battalion of Somerset cows and doesn’t need anyone to remind her. She smiles politely as he patronises her.
            “You know, Daisy, one day you might be in my position and you’ll understand why I’m so hard on you. It’s a lot more responsibility being supervisor, you see. It’s my job to make sure you do your best-”
            Daisy’s heart races. She can feel her face tightening, drawing the smile into a grimace. Her jaw clenches until her gums ache with the pressure.
            “-At the end of the day, I’m doing you a favour.”
            Realising that Daisy is looking at him, he stops. His brow furrows. He steps back. Snatching the folder from her desk, he retreats across the office, throwing backward glances. His door slams closed.
            Daisy can taste blood.
            She spins around, searching for the mirror in her handbag. She checks her mouth, wincing as her finger probes the cut in her cheek. Her tongue feels rough, a little too big for her mouth. She stumbles from her cubicle, and gulps three cups of water from the cooler.
Rain drums the window.
            The coffee wore off an hour ago.
            Daisy’s eyes stray to the clock on her monitor for the hundredth time.
           
At four-fifteen, Louise’s head rises over the cubicle wall. At first Daisy makes excuses. She’s tired, she doesn’t feel well, Damian has broken her will to live. Louise only becomes more adamant.
            Daisy spends their time in the café-bar checking her watch.
            “I’ll have a hot chocolate,” says Louise.
            “Would you like cream and a flake with that?” asks the waitress.
            “Why not! I’ll re-start the diet Monday.”
            “And for you?”
            “Double vodka and coke. No ice,” says Daisy.
            The waitress scribbles, and leaves.
            “Bloody hell, Daze. You starting early?”
            Daisy checks her watch.
            “You shouldn’t let Damian get to you, you know. He’s a prick. Not worth worrying about. You want something to eat?”
            “No thanks,” says Daisy. “I’ll probably eat later. Do you have the right time?”
            “Am I boring you?” says Louise through a smile.
            “Course not. I’m just tired. I should get an early night.”
            “Well just for the next half an hour, forget about everything, ok? Drink your dirty coke and relax. Consider this an intervention, Daze. We need to get you out. We need to get you a man. We need to get you a life!”
The vodka, and the next, smoothes the edges of Daisy’s nerves. Louise talks and Daisy listens. She even laughs. The bar fills with the post-work crowd, and empties again.
            “…I swear, it was like a baby’s arm holding a peach!” says Louise.
            Daisy snorts, a little of the drink rising in her nose. She laughs until tears form in her eyes. Wiping them with a napkin, she spots the clock above the bar.
            All the blood drains from her face.
            She dives from her seat, knocking a pile of plates from the waitress’s hand as she stumbles.
            “Daze, you ok?” says Louise.
            Daisy makes a sound in her throat, but nothing that resembles a word.
            “Daisy?” Louise starts to follow, but stops.
            Daisy spins about, knocking the waitress from her high-heels with a yelp, and darts for the exit. The fascinated clientele begin to murmur; those in Daisy’s way scrape their chairs and move aside. She hesitates at the door. Looks back. A crowd of curious, furious and confused faces look back.
            I’m sorry,” she mutters. “I’m sorry. Have to go.”
            The door jingles and slams.
People walk too slowly. Daisy drops from the curb and overtakes them, ignoring her sodden feet as she traipses through the gutter.
            At the bus stop, she jigs from foot to foot like an addict. Others in the queue give her a wide berth.
            The bus gets struck in traffic.
            “Please, just let me off.”
            “I’m sorry, love. I can’t. If you get run over, I’ll never forgive myself.”
            Daisy’s hand slams on the driver’s booth; her breath fogs the glass in huffs. The driver slips back in his seat, despite the barrier. Daisy says something the other passengers don’t hear, and the bus door clacks open.
            Daisy leaps out, and sprints away.
Despite her adrenalin, the run has made Daisy sluggish.
            The climb to her floor seems like a mountain.
            Her door sticks in the jamb.
            The second-hand makes easy work of the clock face.
            Panting, sweat coursing down her neck, Daisy is in. Stamping on the leaflet with a snarl leaves a muddy shoeprint across Jesus’ face. She kicks her shoes aside. One lands in the living room, the other in the hall, dripping water and mud. Her jacket and trousers she throws through the bathroom door, and snatches a towel. The bedside clock sounds its second alarm as she fumbles in the drawer. With handcuffs in hand, Daisy sits by the radiator. It’s an old, wrought iron affair. Brackets like girders and god-knows-how-many years of paint have set it like cement to the wall. Daisy rests her burning face against the cold metal.
            The tiny keys go above her on the window ledge. She’s confident she won’t be able to use them until morning. Slipping her ankle into one ring, she winces with each tightening click. With quivering fingers, she manages to unbutton her blouse. She tosses it as far across the room as she can. It lands on the far edge of the bed.
            She sits for a while; allows her heart to slow, her head to loll. Beads of perspiration line her neck and shoulders. With arms wrapped around her knees, she releases a long, shuddering breath.
The door bangs.
            Again.
            The sound echoes around Daisy’s flat.
            Across the living room, through the door, the landlady’s voice carries.
            “Are you in, love?”
            If I was in, I’d have answered.
            “Daisy? Are you in?”
            Obviously not. Now go away.
            The sound of hefty shoes withers to silence.
            Daisy lays herself down.
            She thinks of anything except the failing light. She thinks about the folder at first, the proposal, and what Damian will say. She thinks about Louise and what to tell her. She thinks about tomorrow as if tonight doesn’t exist.
            She thinks about the cruelty of moonlight.
            Her family. Daisy thinks about her family. Her mother and those who care for her, a father long gone. She tries to remember his face but the details are slipping. Her brother, and if he’ll come home safe. October is so far away.
            As dusk fades to night, Daisy can think of nothing but the darkness. The Moon rises somewhere beyond the windowsill. She watches stripes of silver light creep across her room. First over the bedcovers, then across the wall in slanted hound’s teeth.
            The Moon sings to Daisy.
            She buries her head in her arms and shivers violently.
            Prayers for a swift dawn.
            A strangled whimper.
            The Moon takes her.
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