The Therapy Squad – Isla’s Tale

Isla’s Good Reasons

There were four good reasons why Isla’s trolley contained two six-packs of diet coca cola, a toothbrush and a large medicated bandage. Firstly, Coke was on offer: buy one get one free. Secondly, since yesterday, Isla was on a diet. Thirdly, Isla’s toothbrush was broken. And, fourthly, the gash on Jake’s forehead ought to be properly dressed to guard against infection.

Isla proceeded towards check out. She watched the fat woman in front of her load items onto the conveyer belt. Amidst the mountain of food and too-close cleaning products, Isla noticed a pack of fresh-cream chocolate éclairs jolting its way towards the assistant’s careless hand. Jake loved chocolate éclairs. Isla wondered if she should break away from the queue, push her trolley back towards the delicatessen and select a similar pack of éclairs. To make Jake feel better.

No.

That would mean walking back past the cereal, or the tea, or possibly the detergent.

No.

Not twice in one day.

Of course, she could walk right round through stationery, but then someone might notice.

No. She had made her choice.

The woman in front of Isla pushed her emptied trolley past the check-out assistant then reached back across the tail end of her pile of shopping . . . family sized cornflakes, beefburgers, a plastic bucket of chicken wings and a tin of assorted chocolate biscuits. She snapped up a plastic divider that said THANKYOU FOR SHOPPING AT SAINSBURY’S. The layer of unattractive fat beneath her upper arm wobbled as she turned to engage with Isla.

Smiling:

‘This should last them ‘til tomorrow,’ she said.

Then she glanced down into Isla’s trolley:

‘You should have gone to basket only!’

Isla saw no point in mentioning that she had a trolley and not a basket. So instead she smiled back and said, ‘Thank you.’ She began to place her items on her side of the plastic divider. She concentrated as they moved forward, the two packs of coca cola leading the way. They came to an abrupt halt as the plastic divider hit the end of the conveyer belt. The fat woman forced her shopping into her bags and then scrabbled to retrieved her purse from her bag. Isla waited being careful not to watch. Being careful not to draw attention to herself.

The reason why the coca cola was on special offer was economic: the manufacturer needed to shift more sales, the supermarket was responding to a directive from the manufacturer, and both the manufacturer and the retailer could still make a sizeable profit selling this product at half price. But not as much profit as either of them usually made. The reason Isla was on a diet was narcissistic: she wanted to look the way she did before Abigail. She hated being this size. Jake said she’d be back to her right size in no time. But he was a man. What would he know? The reason why Isla’s toothbrush was broken was physical: toothbrushes are made of quite brittle plastic. Hers was bound to be crushed when a heavy object, such as the bathroom sink, fell on top of the tooth brush holder in which it stood. The reason Jake had a gash on his forehead was also physical: a human head, or rather a human skull, is also quite brittle and is also likely to be crushed if a bathroom sink falls onto it.

The fat woman pushed her shopping towards the exit. The check-out assistant smiled at Isla and then manouvered the first of the coca cola packs across the bar code reader. Then the second. Then the toothbrush and then the bandage. Isla watched her eyes but they revealed nothing, not the slightest suspicion. Isla pulled her purse out of her bag and paid with Jake’s credit card. Again the assistant’s eyes revealed nothing. Isla took the receipt and Jake’s card, placed them along with the bandage and toothbrush into her bag, balanced the coca cola packs one on top of the other and left. The Fiesta was parked over the far side of the car park. The reason Isla always parked on the far side of the car park was that it was the side closest to the recycling area.

Today she had no recycling.

Isla hurried over and, balancing the packs of coke precariously on her hip, she unlocked the driver’s door. She heard the central locking system unleash her car, leaned through to load her things onto the passenger seat, then, without glancing back at the supermarket, which was what she really wanted to do, just to be sure, she got inside, fastened her set belt and drove away.

As Isla pulled into her small drive, Mr Stebbing from next door was hovering in his garden. He looked up and waved at her. Due to his low Escalonia hedge, Isla could not be sure, but she assumed that Foxy, Mr Stebbing’s Jack Russell, was squatting at his feet, effecting his twice daily defecation. It would be the reason why Mr Stebbing was holding a plastic bag and a small metal scoop. Isla waved back at him and then loitered in her car pretending to look for something in her bag, so that she wouldn’t have to engage Mr Stebbing in conversation.

The reason Mr Stebbing was a dog-owner was that his wife died two years ago and if he didn’t have Foxy he would be on his own.

Eventually, from the corner of her eye, Isla noticed Mr Stebbing lean over, fumble around mostly out of sight and then usher Foxy inside. Isla terminated her pretend search and got out of the car.

As Isla stepped into the hallway she called up the stairs:

‘Jake, I’m home!’

There was no reply.

She kicked off her shoes and carried her shopping through the darkened passageway and into the kitchen. She stowed the coca cola packs in the larder cupboard, righted the upturned ironing board and hurried over to fill the kettle and put it on. Because the indicator light no longer worked, Isla looked inside the kettle and waited to be sure. Almost straight away, the water burst into life against the kettle’s corroded element.

The reason Isla was boiling the kettle was that everyone feels better after a nice cup of tea.

Reassured, Isla removed the toothbrush and the bandage from her bag and walked back along the hallway. Again she called:

‘I’m coming up, Jake. Is everything OK?’

Still no reply.

The carpet felt soft beneath her bare feet as she climbed the stairs. She went to steady herself on the post at the turn of the staircase and then pulled her fingers away to avoid touching the blood that was smeared across it. She felt a wave of nausea and paused to recover herself before stepping onto the landing. The bathroom was straight ahead. Perhaps a metre away. There were still wet footprints marked out in the carpet pile. Again she paused, this time to read the label on the bandage, check the active ingredients, the manufacturer, the instructions. She looked up and focused on the bathroom door. It ought to be white but there were dirty, red handprints and smears all over the bottom half of it. They would probably come off with warm soapy water. No need to use an abrasive on the paintwork. She stepped forward and knocked.

Twice.

The reason Isla knocked twice was that Jake might not have heard her the first time.

‘Jake, can I come in?’

Jake still wasn’t answering. Fortunately the door wasn’t locked. Isla stepped inside. Jake was still lying where he had been lying half an hour ago. His head was still bloody but the bleeding seemed to have stopped. She stepped closer, moved the sink with her foot in case it was crushing his hand.

‘Jake, I’m back.’

She pushed his shoulder but he was unresponsive.

‘I know you didn’t mean it. But you shouldn’t have said it was my fault. It wasn’t my fault.’

She pushed his shoulder again.

‘The reason I did it was because you said it was my fault. And she was perfectly alright. I only turned away for a few minutes.’

Isla began to pull at the cellophane wrap.

‘I’ve got you a bandage. It’s medicated. In case of infection.’

The cellophane split and the bandage spun from her hand, trailing itself across Jake’s motionless body.

‘She was holding on to the side of the bath strong as anything.’

Isla stooped to retrieve the bandage and caught site of Jake’s uncrushed hand. He was holding his mobile. She grabbed it, pressed it back into life, read the number across the screen.  She fell to her knees. What possible reason could he have for calling that number. There was nothing anybody could do about it now. She turned the phone off and threw it onto the landing but as she did so a noise came from inside the bath. A rasping cough and then an infant cry, abrupt, and then another harsher cough and a scream. And then banging on the side of the bath.

Isla crawled over to investigate.

Abigail’s tiny, wet corpse was not a corpse at all.

She was alive and crying, thrashing her arms about which was causing her to slither around in the small amount of water that remained trapped beneath her abandoned body. Isla clutched the edge of the bath, clenched her hands together too afraid to touch, hoped she wasn’t imagining it. The reason she was reluctant to believe her eyes was that the mind is only too keen to deceive.

She turned to tell Jake, to ask him to come and check she wasn’t mistaken, that her mind was not deceiving her. But she froze as she heard the front door crash open. She looked down at Abigail and Abigail looked back. Then Isla lay down very close to the floor and listened as heavy boots lumbered over her soft stair carpet.

 

© Jean Levy/ 2013

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