The Chair

Do you have malevolent furniture-how do you know?

There’s a wooden chair in my kitchen. Actually there are four, a set, around a little wooden table. We use the table and chairs at breakfast but otherwise eat in the dining room.

There are three of us. Which means there is one chair that is never used. One left over chair. A solo. A loner. But its become obvious to me that it is more than each of us just having a favourite spot. If you move the chairs, that chair is still the chair that everyone avoids. No one has sat in that chair. Ever.

It’s like it has human repellent sprayed on it.

Not a family member, not a guest. No one. Ever. It is an unused chair. It has experienced a total failure to fulfil its reason for existence. I wonder if there are other chairs like it. Elsewhere. In the houses of other people.

People I don’t know.

Even at parties, and we’ve had a few, that chair is avoided by those reprobates who hover in the kitchen, the ones avoiding the dancing and drinking everyone else enjoys. It is so repellent that I never even offer it to guests anymore. I have thought of selling it but then I think of it alone without its wooden siblings. I can’t seem to part with it. Plus I have high hopes for its reform. I have been thinking about it. I am sure it just needs to be sat on once and then.

Then everybody will want it.

Anyways I have decided this week I am going to break with tradition. I have invited my very obliging friend Bea around. And. I am setting it up so she must sit in the chair.

You heard me, I am setting it up, so she MUST SIT ON THE CHAIR.

She is arriving at 10 past eleven. Which is very soon. I have put the other two chairs in the dining room. I have put a cake in the oven so we must drink tea in here until its cooked. Me in my chair and her.

Her in that chair.

I look at the chair. Bea is so eager to please. It seems such a nice idea that she should be the one to break it in. I am not manipulative you know, its just she is the most obliging of my friends.

IT’S ONLY A CHAIR.

That’s the doorbell. Time to swing into action. I invite her in and head for the kitchen. So far, so good. I see her look slightly disconcerted at the chairs. I ignore it. I begin to make the tea. I have sat my scarf over my chair as a point of ownership. I can see her hesitate. Look at the chair. Hesitate. But I know she will not take my chair. She is too polite to move my scarf plus I must sit next to the oven to observe my precious cake.

I invite her to sit down.

She shuffles her feet a bit. I invite her to sit down again and point at the chair. She says she’d rather stand. I am not defeated. Not yet anyway. I put the water in the tea pot and wait for it to brew. We are both standing. I can see the look of reluctance on her face. She does not want to sit in the chair.

I will not be diverted, I will succeed.

I put biscuits at the centre of the table. She has to lean across the chair to get them. I see her recoil as she touches the back of it. It is an odd chair. We are at something of an impasse. Both of us standing, pretending this is not happening.

But this is happening and I will succeed.

She suggests moving into the dining room. I say no. My daughter is carefully placed there doing homework plus I need to stay with the cake. Honestly I tend the cake as if I am giving birth to a child.

I make the tea and put her cup down on the table. I put mine down and sit down in my chair. I sense her desperation, her confusion, I see it being overridden by her desire to please.

Her desire to be liked.

I can taste victory. She looks at me with a plea for reason. I pretend not to see it. I look into my tea nonchalantly. I take a bite of my biscuit. Nonchalantly. Triumph is within my grasp. That chair will be sat on before this cup of tea is finished.

And then she does it.

Slowly. But she does it. I see her reach for the back of the chair. Pull it out. Slide into it. My face breaks into a triumphant smile as hers distorts as if I have betrayed her. It’s a chair, I want to say.

Momentarily there is a vision in my head.

A child. My child, a child I know is mine but a child I no longer have is sitting in that chair. I am pushing her into it because someone must use that chair. That chair. I feel horror. Its momentary. It passes. I look at the chair.

The empty chair.

I blink and look into my tea. I feel sure of a triumph that eludes me somehow. I have won something but I don’t know what. My mind goes blank. Oddly there is another cup of tea across from mine.

I seem to have made myself two cups of tea.

How weird. I have put one on the other side of the table. As if someone were sitting in that chair. Which is odd because no one ever sits in that chair. There is something totally repugnant about that chair.

That chair.

I pour the tea down the sink. I get the other chairs back from the dining room. I can’t remember why I put them there anyway. I look at all the chairs in the kitchen. The fourth one, the odd one, always looks fatter than the others. As is its just eaten something.

I must get rid of it one day.

Later that day I have to call the police. There is a strange car parked in our driveway. I really should sell that chair I mutter to myself as I cook the dinner. Yet somehow I feel like it has a part of me, a part of my life in it, despite never having sat in it.

Gap Girl

They are arguing!

Pulling.

Apart.

She sees it.
Watches it.

Slides into the gap.

Slips into the blankness
Where their friendship was.

Fills it.
Folds it.

Holds on to it.

Wraps herself in it.
Expands out to form herself in it.
Waits patiently.

Loiters there in the space.

She knows.

She will be squeezed out the other side
As they hedge nearer
Mend their friendship again.

If she had to describe herself
She would use the word ‘space’.

She does not describe herself.

She sees them talking again.
Knows its time

Feels their happiness
Butt against her nothingness

Can’t imagine.

In her wildest dreams
How you come to deserve either of them.

Portrait of a town: After School

There’s a new child at school. She heard it on the grape vine. That can only mean trouble. There will be a parent, most likely a woman. That can’t be good.

She stands, there absorbed in the conversation, lightly touching an arm when required. Enthusiastic. Laughter. ‘We must do coffee.’ She says it knowing the listener will be honoured at such an invite.

She spots the child before she spots the parent. Seeing the parent is positively shocking. It always is. Nothing can prepare you. She takes in the clothes (autumnal colours), the hair (average colour), the total lack of makeup! On a Tuesday too. She watches the woman collect her child, look around her for a face that might smile, someone that might catch her attention.

This is the danger moment. She knows that. That point in which it can all unravel. It will be Charlotte’s fault. Charlotte likes strangers, she can easily be drawn into a conversation with that woman. And then bang! Things will change. She will seep into the friendship group. They won’t be this tight knit circle. She will have to admit someone new. Uh Uh.

She looks at the woman hoping it is her eye that is caught. Because she will give her daggers. These are my friends and you can’t have them, not a smile, not a word. They are mine and this is my world. And you are intruding and don’t think you can change anything because you can’t. She wants to pierce her heart. You can do that with newbies.

She can see that other frump magnet standing off to the left. The frump magnet has been here a whole 12 months and whilst her children have made friends she absolutely has made sure that frump magnet never has. She can taste that victory, see the forlorn look in that woman’s eyes everyday when she comes to pick up her child. It makes her smile inwardly. The outward smile is perfect. The inward more twisted. She does not let on.

This is her playground. She was always popular at school. The pretty girl with the swinging hair. And now she is popular in the playground and no saggy boobed badly dressed newbie is going to ruin it. The new woman was thin she had to admit that, and those breasts may have been real. But wait –her teeth, oh dear god, unwhitened teeth. There should be regulations. She hoped her child never made friends. Her child never did. She was loyal like that.

She made a note to look out for what kind of car she drove. She suspected, horrified- that it may not be a 4 wheel drive. There was no way this woman could ever join her friendship group. Ever. She watches Charlotte closely. Charlotte had invited the previous newbie child to her daughters party. She’d even engaged that frump magnet woman in conversation on the door step.

There had been nothing else for it, she’d had to stage an intervention. Made it look like the newbie child had deliberately spilled something on Charlotte’s carpet. The frump magnet and her daughter were never invited back. To any party. Ever. It had been a close call. The child had cried, said it was not her fault. She had to insist she had seen it deliberately done. The child had simply poured the red cordial onto the white carpet. When in fact she had to twist the child’s hand to pour it out.

It was a horror story. She had very nearly been caught by Amber. Amber was her best friend but she wasn’t always sure that Amber lied on her behalf in a way that indicated the commitment required from a best friend. Amber’s husband was not as attractive as her husband but Amber’s husband found her attractive. Wasn’t that the key to a best friend? She doubted that her husband found Amber attractive. Although she did note how they sometimes seemed to laugh together. She must talk to Amber about that. It was important Amber understood who was more attractive.

She swished her hair. Flashed her teeth. Glad she was wearing heels because that very tall thin woman with a daughter in the year above was here again. She hated her. They all hated her. Even more than the newbies, they all hated her. She was so nice as well. She always smiled and said hello. But there was unanimous agreement she could never be part of the group. Ever.

Her husband doesn’t understand. He thinks her obsession with women in the playground is childish. But his fashion sense has failed since they had children. He wears a lot of beige and brown. She isn’t sure how much longer she can be married to someone who wears brown. The whole house is white and charcoal, which is a problem because white and grey are this seasons colours.

Charlotte. She is watching Charlotte and the newbie just in case. Charlotte still has a beige bathroom, which is at least 5 years old. It might be time to find a way of getting Charlotte out of the group. Charlotte is a risk. She doesn’t follow trends. She hasn’t read the latest magazine and she suspects Charlotte might visit a unisex hairdresser.

She smiles, she talks. She simpers. She smirks. She thinks about strategy. She looks at Charlotte, is that camel she is wearing? So last season. And leopard print when snake is in?

She watches her own child run towards her and is struck by how much prettier her little girl is compared to everybody elses. Thank goodness, she can’t imagine what it would be like to have an ugly child.