She wakes to the howl of the neighbour’s vacuum cleaner; a high-pitched whine that burrows deep within her head. She lies flat on her back and contemplates the swirls, dips and grooves in the white Artex ceiling. The faint eggy odour of yesterday’s poaching water hangs in the air.
Flipping back the covers, she slides her naked legs over the side of the bed and sits up. Chaos stretches before her, spread by the alternate waves of energy and despair that had come over her yesterday. She remembers the ups well; the downs, not so clearly. Discarded on the table are half empty tubes of acrylic paint, thickly daubed onto the pallet and mixed into various shades of grey, brown and puce; a tall glass of muddy brown water; a canvas erratically marked with paint slashes.
Moving away from the bed, she slowly navigates her way through the detritus to the kitchenette and puts the kettle on. A cup of Typhoo is quickly brewed and slowly sipped as she meanders from each mini land-mine to the next, making insignificant attempts to put things right. She stops trying.
Picking up a brown plastic bottle, she shakes it - three quarters full. Pushing down on the cap, she removes the lid and shakes out two Co-codamol, 15/500 printed on the label, and swallows them with the aid of the now-cooling tea. Twisting on the cap, she re-engages the tamper-proof seal and puts it down next to the envelope on a breakfast bar tattooed with coffee rings and peppered with miss-flicked ash.
She stops moving, and waits. Silence now, the cleaning upstairs has finished. Slowly, her eyes flicker around the room, pausing occasionally, before blinking and moving on. Decision made, she finally reaches for the pain-relievers and a half drunk bottle of Riesling, dumps both into her lap and rolls herself toward the bed.
The flashing red light on the answer phone makes her pause and weigh up its urgency. Leaning forward she presses the play button.
‘Hi, Rach, it’s just Mum. Must have missed you. Give us a call when you get back in. Love you loads, bye.’ The machine clicks off, the sound echoing slightly around the room. Starlings squabbling on the bird table outside finally break her stillness.
Rachael leans forward and puts the Riesling and pills on the bedside table, then bends from the waist and slowly, awkwardly, picks a discarded jumper up off the floor, folds it neatly on her lap and places it carefully on the bed.
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