'Dust' by Bridget Arregger

Dr Elizabeth Rictus sat stooped over her desk like a desiccated praying mantis, elongated legs entwined under the bespoke orthopaedic swivelling office chair, elegant long fingers stretched over the keyboard. Her long painted nails would have made typing difficult but they were needed only to hit a few strategic keys before activating the voice recognition software.

Dr Rictus tapped in the letters, ER, selected today’s favoured username from a list of anagrams and watched two more dots add themselves to the row representing her hidden password. She waited the briefest of moments as the website calculated her matches. She had 1000 matches available. Some, unknown to the website, were no longer viable. Her profile stated that she was an historian. Why would she lie? It wouldn’t appeal to all men but she didn’t want all men. She was taller than average; fit, active and very comfortable. She made sure that her photographs showed her luxurious home to its best advantage. There would be men who would wish to marry her for the house alone. She did not hide the fact that the building was in a remote part of the Fells where mobile phones did not work.

She selected a few likely matches as favourites. Waited to see who responded. Dusted the house while she waited. Needed to dust. While the builders had been busy, she had developed a most irritating allergy to dust.

Three responses. A good number. She chose one and tapped on ‘send an email’. Relaxed, swivelled and dictated. She told him a good deal about herself: her failed marriage, disabled son, daughter in Australia, house rules for the singles parties she organised. She could let the words flow. At the end of two crammed pages she stopped to allow him to catch up. There would be a few voice recognition errors but if he was as intelligent as his profile suggested, he would be able to work out the intended meanings. The more intelligent the better, she had found. Not streetwise. Or suspicious.

He responded in kind: his expensive divorce, his craving for adventure, his dream of moving to the countryside. He could touch type, he told her, with his eyes shut. An usual and delicious image. She sent him more photos. He responded with details of his city flat.

Before long, he requested that they meet, had found it surreal to correspond so fully without really knowing each other. They arranged a date in a convenient pub half way between their respective homes. Better for you, he said, to be cautious. She did not contradict.

She allowed a suitable time to elapse after the appointed time, phoned in a message to the bartender that she was running late and would the single man wearing a dark blue overcoat with white carnation please either wait or make his way to her house.

She had good feelings about this one. She folded a duster on her desk, swivelled gently and waited.

Comments

  1. Bridget's story demands to be re-read. Wonderfully subtle and sinister. I'll never look at a duster the same way again. And certainly never use one.

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