It started with the kitchen drawer. She threw away takeaway menus, kebab skewers and appliance instructions. That night as she drank a gin and tonic, she said, “I'm chuffed. You put these things off for so long. It feels nice when they’re done.”
I sipped wine, nodded, attention focused on the murder mystery on TV. I thought nothing of it.
The following Monday, when I got home from work, there were four black bin bags in the hallway. She was standing in the hall wearing rubber gloves. The smell of disinfectant.
“Some things for the charity shop,” she said.
“No point sitting about moping.”
“No. You’re right.”
Dinner wasn’t ready.
That night, while she was in the bath, I untied the bags, peering in. There were lots of things from before, things that wouldn’t be worn again. It was best to be rid of them.
We watched the next part of the murder mystery together.
The next day she packed books into boxes and drove to a charity shop with them. They had all been hers. She’d always had her head in a book when we first met.
“I’ll never read them again,” she said.
While we were watching TV that night, I could tell she was looking around the room, trying to decide which things she could dispose of next.
She called up a company that took away furniture for free. The bookshelf, an armchair and the coffee table all went from the living room.
“It’s nice. Spacious,” she said.
The pictures came off the walls, leaving marks where they’d hung for years. She disposed of ornaments and collectibles, wrapping them in paper and driving to an antique shop and selling them all for a fraction of what they were worth.
I focused on the murder mystery. I like to lose myself in these things, following every twist and turn.
I suppose I should have spoken to her about it but it was what she wanted.
Anyway, there was no stopping her now. She ‘decluttered’ the kitchen. No table or chairs, no toaster or kettle. The ironing board went. I went to work in creased shirts. My colleagues either didn’t notice or just didn’t want to mention it.
She ripped up the carpets. Our voices echoed in the empty rooms.
The day I came home to no TV I searched the house for her. I thought she’d hear me coming, my footsteps loud on the bare floorboards but even when I found her, she didn’t seem to notice me arrive.
I looked around the little room: a box spilling over with dolls and trolls with big, bright hair, shelves of tightly packed books, a gathering of soft toys at the foot of a bed covered in rainbow coloured sheets.
She was almost completely covered, two bright yellow gloves covering her face, only a few strands of hair spilling through. Only when I sat on the bed did I hear her sobbing.
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