Breathing suspended, heart thundering and knees threatening to let go at any moment Fiona forced herself forward. The rose was central on the little round table, lighted by the glow of the moon through the window. The cork mat and the salt and pepper shakers lay on the floor in the corner. It registered at the corner of her terrified brain, spilt salt, well that’s bad. The table was within reach now. Feeling more an observer than a participant she watched her quivering hand reach towards the grey stem. One finger touched it. The solidity of it shocked her. It shouldn’t be real and solid. She pushed it a little and it shifted slightly leaving grey dust on the pale wood. Her fingers curled around it. As it was lifted from the support of the wooden table it crumbled and dissipated and spread a circle of dust even the black ribbon disintegrated, there was nothing solid now.
Fiona looked down at the table, she felt surprisingly calm as if her nerves had given up and ceased to register the fear, as if she had blown a fuse. Her index finger traced a line through the dust as a sound escaped her. Almost a laugh it manufactured itself somewhere in her throat and was expelled as she breathed for the first time since she had pushed herself away from the wall and taken silent foot steps across the tiles.
She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the table top, rational thought was unable to find a way into the maze in her mind. Lifting the grimy finger to her face she peered at the dust. Suddenly horror overtook her and she rubbed at the stain and cried out. She was aware her body was trembling, tears were rolling down her face and she was sobbing as her lungs struggled to feed her blood stream with oxygen.
Leaning forward she swept both hands across the table top, the dust clouded around her fingers and then dissipated leaving a small dark stain the only evidence that anything had been there. As this action found purchase amongst her addled thoughts it was followed immediately by the knowledge that she had destroyed any evidence that the rose had ever existed. Overcome with the passion of the last few minutes she lost the ability to remain standing and flopped onto the floor banging hard against the chair and jolting her spine. She leaned over with a moan and let go the weeping that had built in her throat.
For long, long moments she slumped on the floor under the kitchen table, her overstretched brain slipped into self-preservation mode tuning out and sending her into a state of half faint half dream. When she came back to herself the intense fear seemed now to have dissipated leaving her drained of all emotion. She couldn’t tell how long she had been there, she realised that she was intensely cold and stiffening from the immobility.
Using the table leg as a help she pushed herself back to standing. Her eyes were closed until she was completely upright and only then she forced her lids apart. The table was empty now, the innocent surface clear in the brightness of the moonlight. Had she imagined it? Maybe a trick of the light had fooled her, she looked at her finger end, there was nothing there. Maybe a draft had moved the curtain and scattered the condiments and then a shadow had tricked her over active mind. Maybe it was all just her silly imagination a result of the nervousness. She began to feel a little stronger. Perhaps this was just a really nasty half dream. After all what else could it be, for goodness sake ghostly roses – please.
She fetched a damp tissue and wiped the now clear table top. Bending to retrieve the salt and pepper she saw that in fact the salt wasn’t spilt at all but both little glass pots were upright, as if they had been carefully placed. “Well there you are that’s really lucky isn’t it.” Again the sound of her own voice was reassuring in the empty room. She replaced the mat and positioned the condiments. No, this had all been imagination and really she did need to get herself sorted out this would not do at all. Squaring her shoulders she marched across the room and then with firm step she climbed the stairs turning out all but the landing light.