By Christopher Axe
©2015 Christopher Axe, all rights reserved.
The apartment was clean, precise, carefully ordered. It wasn't clinical, not OCD clean and tidy; rather it had the serious minimalism of a boutique hotel, the warmth and comfort found in the consulting room of a successful law-firm. There were few personal touches or decorating flourishes to hint at the character of the owner; a bedside-table - still as unmarked and free from dust as when it was first purchased – held a single studio-portrait in a dark-wood frame; several small, expensive ornaments were arranged by shape and colour above the fireplace in the living room; the faux-granite work-surfaces in the kitchen were empty, free from all clutter. No dirty pots and pans sullied the stainless steel sink. A solitary, plain, mug rested - upturned - on the draining rack. Behind the sink, a window stared onto the uncontrolled world outside.
This was a place in which to dwell while waiting for life to begin.
On the window-latch hung a bunch of mismatched objects, gaudy and frivolous, as striking as the first defiant green shoot in a dead forest, destroyed by fire. These were gifts from far-off places given by a cherished friend, each a souvenir of some holiday, now only half-remembered; a miniature house made from matchsticks, badly painted, drips of glue distorting the walls; a bottle-opener shaped like a dragon’s mouth, all teeth and fire, now with only a single, emerald eye; a tiny bunch of dried flowers, sun-bleached and brittle; a brightly-coloured, enamel cartoon dog, holding a knife and fork; a shell, complete but for a small, worn hole, hung on a scarlet ribbon.
On this trip, he knew exactly what present to bring back for her. He knew long before he’d seen the market. He’d known while he was still at home, even before he’d booked the flight. It was just finding the right one, the last item to complete the set. It had taken years to build up all the components, each given, and freely received. He was surprised it took no persuasion for her to display them; perhaps, deep-down, she knew. A few careful words to bind them together, was all it would take.
His eyes flicked over the display, searching for the right ingredient. He saw nothing that would work and, with a quick nod to the owner, he moved on to the next stall.