They took it with them. Flora hadn’t wanted it as a blight on their new life but the image of it lying in the skip at the recycling centre was too hard to contemplate and she couldn’t, right now, open it to sort the clothes for the clothes bank. Not today, not the day she was moving on and breaking free.
Carol carried it out of the house and stowed it in the boot as Flora took one last look. The walls in the hall with blood splatters under a couple of coats of paint, the kitchen floor where she knew, no matter how hard it was scrubbed, the gore was forever part of the tile grout. She felt her stomach begin to flutter and the prickle of sweat on her forehead. The forerunners of a panic attack. She dashed out, slammed the door behind her and pushed the keys back through the letter box.
It was over, she was out. There was never any need to go back there again.
They were busy, they were happy and at last they felt safe. Best friends forever, closer than sisters and moving through life on their own terms.
And then, in the garage, thrown in the corner, under a couple of old garden umbrellas and a bundle of magazines was the suitcase. Carol had forgotten it, it wasn’t part of her history after all but Flora felt its presence, its vibe. Her eyes would swivel towards the pile of detritus and her skin would prickle with fear and the stickiness and the horror crawling around the edges of her mind.
Several times she walked into the corner, lifted the rubbish on the top and reached to it. All that was required was to take it to the tip. It had been months now and it was hard to remember just what was inside. His clothes, some of his medals and sports trophies, bits and pieces. The police had taken his laptop, the paperwork from his desk, a diary, anything that might give them a clue as to what had happened. At first they had looked for evidence that she had hurt him, damn it, killed him. Two nights shivering and sobbing under a thin blanket in a cell, many nights afterwards at her mum’s house, sleepless and bewildered and yes, feeling guilty. Never being happy again in the house that they had once shared and in the end giving up moving out.
There had been visit after visit from the investigative team. Fingerprints, DNA samples, questions, questions, questions. And then in the end they had only been able to conclude that yes, it was his blood, but mixed with someone else’s, not hers. Yes, it had seemed that there had been a lot of it but in the way of blood, not as much as it had appeared to her on that morning when she had woken with a hangover and the living nightmare of at first thinking she knew what had happened, the relief of knowing that she was wrong and then ultimately the unending torment of not knowing.
If he were still alive how come no-one, not even his sister or mum and dad had heard from him? If he was dead, then where were his remains? This was the thing that came to her in the darkest of nights. The visions of his body thrown out on the moors, bloated and dreadful in a river, the sea and sometimes, which woke her screaming, his body thrown into a furnace, the skin popping and splitting, his bones blackening and all that he had been, eaten by the flames.
One evening, a few weeks after they had moved in together and seemingly with no real preparation she blurted it out. “Will you do us a favour Carol?”
“Yeah, what’s up? Hey are you okay, you look a bit wobbly?” Carol dashed around the table, wrapped her arms over Flora’s skinny shoulders.
“I’m okay, really I’m okay. It’s just that I need to do something and I need help with it.”
“Okay. Spit it out?” She lowered to the spare dining chair and reached across to take hold of Flora’s hand.
“Well, I need to do something about that suitcase. It’s sort of haunting me. I go for a few days at a time now, and it all fades away and then…”
“Well then I go out to the garage for something and I remember it’s there. I need to get rid of it.”
“No probs. We’ll take it to the tip. It’s too late now but tomorrow, tomorrow for sure, I’ll pick you up from work and we’ll go straight down there, fling the bugger into the biggest skip there is.”
“That’s great, that’s brilliant. Only thing is… before I do that I really need to go through it. When I look back, I was in a shocking state when I stuffed all his stuff in there. I am so much better now. It’s only when you get better you see how bad you were. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes. I know. But, why? I mean, why put yourself through it?”
“I have to. I just have to. I think that if I just throw it now it won’t go away. I’ll keep on, wondering if there was anything in there that might give me a clue about what happened.”
“There can’t be. The police went through his stuff with a fine toothed comb. I was there remember, me and your mum, we were there.”
“I know and I can never thank you enough for what you did but I need to do it. If I’m going to put it behind me then I need to look at it all and be sure.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want, I think you’re daft but if that’s what you want we’ll go through it together. Do you want to do it tonight?”
Flora nodded, her eyes filled with nervous tears and she reached out and gulped down the last of the red wine in her glass and then she squared her shoulders and nodded again. “Yes please. Let’s do that, let’s do it tonight.”