Written by Rob
This is a two-part short story, Part One of Heidi can be read, here.
Once Michael was installed in a new bed beneath the front window, David called Heidi in, to make the formal introductions. She was tall, straight, slim and she moved with the quiet graceful force and control of an athlete or gymnast. He gazed at her impassive face, tanned and healthy looking; only the slightest hint of a smile as she shook his hand with cool fingers and scarlet nails, “Hello” with heavy accent and Scandinavian up-tone inflection. He didn’t want to let go of her hand but she looked down, puzzled, and he shook himself out of his reverie and let her go. He noticed what dazzling white teeth she had. Her perfume lingered.
Heidi’s duties were not onerous. She looked after Michael for five days whilst his father was at work, usually 7:30 am to 6 pm. She had weekends and evenings to herself, in theory. In practice, she spent most of her time off in Michael’s room, much as she did when on duty, reading to him, watching television with him, talking to him. Occasionally, David would insist that Heidi accompany him to the pub for dinner, joking that he needed looking after too. Michael didn’t see the joke and seethed with jealousy.
In their time together, Michael probed Heidi to find what made her tick. Although she was caring and attentive to his needs, he found her distant, cold even. She regularly expressed gratitude for the opportunity that Michael’s injury had afforded her. This puzzled Michael greatly – opportunity for what he wondered? A 22-year-old Norwegian, from a bustling port town, looking after a teenage lad in a rural backwater; it made no sense. But he kept prying, even though she tended to clam up, and discovered she meant “opportunity to escape”. She would not say what she needed to escape from, but he noted she would not speak of her father, even though she spoke fondly of her mother. He sensed a secret.
Heidi seemed to get on well enough with both of Michael’s parents, though rather better with David, since she had so much more opportunity to see him and Molly was missing for the working week. She tried to tell Michael how lucky he was to have such a caring father but he didn’t want to hear it.
Prior to his injury, “love” meant the convenient fit Michael enjoyed with his parents. He sometimes overheard the other sixth-formers talking about their latest crushes, jealousies, lusts, and found them puerile. Now he couldn’t bring himself to even think of the “L word”. Heidi had infected every cell of his being and every cell yearned for her. He examined her for hours at a time, particularly over the top of the book he was pretending to read; never tiring of finding new minuscule details. The cut of her short brown hair; the tiny mole on the lobe of her left ear; the enticing way she looked above his head when she finished speaking; the slope of her not quite straight nose; the scent of her; her beautiful, long, clever fingers. He found every detail perfect. What was happening to him? He’d liked girls before, but had never taken the idea of a relationship seriously. He’d experimented with a snog and a fumble, mostly driven by curiosity at a couple of parties, but then lost interest.
Michael endeavoured to recover his previous calm and resolve. He tried to concentrate on his A-level studies and catch up on the lost weeks but it was hopeless. Heidi did her best to help, though her English was not really up to science studies. Hadn’t people suffered far worse catastrophes than his, yet gone on to lead full lives and successful careers? Michael could not wrench his mind away from Heidi long enough to make sense of words on the page. When she left the room, he suffered an anguish and agitation he could not explain. He wanted to touch her and devised plans to make this possible: offering to hold her tee-shirt down while she removed her sweater, placing a book for her to read on her lap, putting his hand under hers when she handed him his lunch plate. At night, when she was upstairs and he was supposed to be sleeping, he tossed and fretted with imagined romantic scenarios, where he thrashed her bullying father and she fell gratefully into his protective strong arms.
He tried to entice her into discussing romance. She wasn’t interested. He asked if she had a boyfriend; she gave him a flat “no”. He asked her what kind of boys she liked and she said “older ones”: it was like a slap. She must have been aware of his pain, yet she still looked at him as though nothing had happened, with an ice-cold stare.
One evening, she came to collect his discarded dinner plate from atop his bed quilt. As she leant over the bed, he had a perfect view down the v-neck of her blouse, to her bra-less brown breasts and tiny dark nipples. As she bent, she turned her head and started to ask why he had eaten so little, then caught the direction of his ogle, dropped the plate, clutched her arm across her chest, turned and ran from the room. He called after her but to no avail: she did not return. He hadn’t meant to look down her blouse but he couldn’t help himself.
Later, he heard her chatting with his father, watched them wander down the garden path together and away down the lane to the village, probably to the pub. He heard his father laugh out loud beyond the hedge, presumably at something Heidi had said. Michael darkly imagined she’d said “I caught him looking at my tits!” Michael wept with anger and frustration. He was sixteen years old, yet crying like a baby! “Take a hold of yourself” he shouted then wept all the more. The pain he had suffered from his leg injury was nothing compared to what he felt now. He wanted to die, he wanted everyone to die, the world to end, his father to crumble to dust, and still he wept and wailed like a wounded animal. His grief utterly overwhelmed him. He cried until he was exhausted, curled up like a puppy in the middle of his bed, where he fell asleep.
Michael woke with a jolt. The house was dark and silent. He shivered with cold in his sweat-soaked pyjamas. He groped for the quilt but it had fallen to the floor. He succumbed to an involuntary sob then quickly held himself still. He resolved he would not go down that road again. He must speak with Heidi. She must understand, be made to understand, that he needed her and she was his. He tried to crawl off the bed but fell in a heap, the quilt saving his shoulder. He crawled to his crutches by the door and used the welsh dresser to lever himself upright, grunting with exertion as the plates rattled in protest. Out into the hallway, then the slow painful fight up the stairs, sweating and swearing under his laboured breath. At the top of the stairs, his bedroom door was open. He swung himself inside and switched the light on. He winced in the sudden brightness, then took in the surroundings, familiar yet not familiar, his room but her things. The bed was empty and still made. He felt a stab of pain: she had left! But no, all her stuff was still here.
Michael heaved a sigh of relief, backed out and struggled down the landing towards his parents’ room. He must ask his father where she was. As he grappled with crutches and the searing pain in his leg, a guilty memory invaded his mind. He remembered abusing his parents’ bed as an impromptu trampoline when he was young. He remembered the squeak of the springs and the flap of the headboard. Then another sound came, like a moan or even a whimper, in the same rhythm. He nudged the door to his parents’ room open with his forehead. His father’s rather spotty bum was pounding away between Heidi’s thighs, urged on by her scarlet finger nails. His face was turned away from Michael, issuing grunts of exertion. Heidi was looking at Michael with her usual cool stare.
The conclusion to Rob’s short story is rather bleak. The abrupt betrayal tears into Michael like a hot knife gliding through butter. Though a rather cruel place to leave the teen, it’s also a cruel place to leave the readers. Perhaps we’ll just have to persuade Rob to write another part; the aftermath. There are far too many questions left unanswered, but maybe that’s how it should be. If you liked Rob’s two-part drama, make sure to read some of his other work including, “Coach” and “Mirror, Mirror”.
Featured Image CC // Brandon Warren
[…] Rob’s flash fiction was written as part of a previous Half Hour Challenge. Though it’s one of his older HHC works now, it’s a great way for us to kick off our content for August. We rarely think about what’s on the surface during the summer, usually we’re just hoping we don’t recognise anyone from back home when we go on vacation. Tan lines and bulgy bits are a constant worry but they rarely keep us from having fun in the summer. If you enjoyed Rob’s work, you can also view some of his recent published fiction such as “Heidi”, parts one and two. […]