Little Black Box by Warren Tang

It was their favourite part of the old tenement flat. The bay window provided a beautiful panoramic view of Glasgow. It was always adorned with comfortable cushions and elegantly draped at the sides with silk white curtains.

Many a lovely time had been had there. People watching the folks down below, making up fun stories about them. Following the straight fuel smoke trails in the sky drawn out by airplanes on a clear blue day. Prosecco induced laughs. Comforting snuggles when it was needed most. A cosy sanctum where life was lived by the only two members of the Dalhousie Street Bay Window Club, the young loving couple.

Arguments have a habit of fading such pretty pictures.

The walls are now bare of the curtains, the plush cushions are hidden from view at the bottom of cardboard boxes about to be removed.

She's nearly done packing, save for the trusty old kettle, her big 'I'm The Boss' mug, and a little black box perching, for the moment, on the window ledge.

She had boiled the kettle for one last time in the old flat. For one last time, she wanted to sit on her self-designated side of the arc. Her soft, small dainty hands wrapped around the disproportionately large piece of porcelain. Containing her favourite breakfast tea, accompanied by the usual milk and two, it was her reassuring go to beverage. It's the only source of heat in the whole echo empty flat. It was the see your own breath type of cold that filled the flat today, a lonely chill. The old fan heaters have been packed away also. No point taking them back out just for a short little expensive blast. She was wearing her cosy, thick, off the shoulder white fuzzy jumper. It happened to be his favourite. It complemented very nicely with her beautiful long, straight mahogany hair, bronzed complexion and big brown doe eyes. The light that caressed her face was of a soft white hazy pastel shade created by an overcast winter's afternoon.

Her heart was heavy, weighed down with pain. She stares blankly out. The condensation on the window was starting to run. Her eyes wanted to do the same, but she has held on to them the best she could today. God knows she has already cried too many times over the past few weeks. Sitting here this final time was getting a little too overwhelming.

She gripped her sleeve and rubbed a circle on the window. She peers out below but her Romeo was nowhere to be seen.

She knew all too well that he was the absolute love of her life. Through him she would experience her happiest days. 'Living isn't so much about what you do', he would say, 'it's about how much fun you have while doing it'. He was a man like no other, in a relationship like no other but somehow it slipped through her fingers.

She had played things in her mind many times over. Things weren't that bad, were they? A continuous looping phrase that had become some sort of annoying persistent mantra. Of course, all couples argue but things seemed to descend at an alarming rate over a very short period of time. He just wasn't himself anymore, the man she had so easily fell in love with when they first met. Erratic, snappy, then quietly introverted for long periods of time. She couldn't get through to him no matter what she tried. He refused to open up. For him to vanish for no rhyme nor reason did not make any sense. Not even a note. Being considerate was one of the characteristics that he possessed in abundance, but to leave her in the manner he did didn’t make any sense.

Numerous voicemails, messages ignored. Social media mysteriously blocked. He had treated his closest friends with the same radio silence too, something she had discovered during her frantic flurry in the first few days after his disappearing act.

She finally conceded that maybe, it was because of her after all. A very, very tough acceptance, especially when she had done nothing conceivably wrong to him, she never could.

There was at least one small mercy during this tough time. Her mother had promised to offer her short-term refuge. Mum was exploring her own new life with Charlie, a retired accountant and now, cabaret singer. She had jetted off recently for their very hastily planned Spanish timeshare excursion. His rendition of 'Angels' must have been really that good when they first met only a fortnight ago. She is looking forward to meeting her Mum’s new beau.

She takes the little black box off the window sill and opens it. It truly is the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Sparkling majestically, she never tired of observing at how the intricate lights would dance so gracefully within its precious, precise cuts. A true work of the highest craftsmanship, a gift symbolising his love and lifelong commitment to her.

This was her dilemma.

Keeping it would be a lovely reminder of what they had, but by keeping it would also be a reminder of what tantalisingly could've been and her recent excruciating heartache.

But, how could she part with it? It's the only thing left of him.

She holds the little black box. She resumes her soft sipping of her comforting tea.

Suddenly, her trance is broken when she hears the familiar prolonged screech of the front door opening.

No matter how many times they tried to fix the hinges, nothing worked.

A few slow, eternal floorboard creaking steps later, their eyes make contact.

They weren't meant to see each other again.

Never have her eyes and mouth been so wide open.

The 'I'm The Boss' mug falls and shatters on the floor.

They stare at each other.

But, before she has a chance to speak, she can hear another set of footsteps behind him.

Her Mum walks in, linking arms with him.

Selected: 24th Short Story
Published in Issue #30

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