+Ah, well, I'm having trouble with my Skyrim story right now. I watched the last episode of Sherlock, it was mind-blowing, yada yada. I simply couldn't resist. Review so I know if this has any potential.


Listen to: Le Moulin, by Yann Tiersen

London glowered moodily through the flat's windows. The sky, previously just a ceiling of gray, had given way to windy bursts of rain that spattered violently against the glass. Cabs buzzed by on the street below, splashing through puddles in the asphalt. There were few footsteps, but occasionally frenzied, rushed people unfortunate enough to be caught in the downpour sloshed past. Inside the flat was warmer, but lit only by a short candle that slowly melted whitish wax onto the dark wood desk upon which it sat. Papers were scattered messily around the room, some crunched into balls and stained with ink, some folded once and tossed in unorganized piles. A faded poster for Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album was peeling off one wall, being held there primarily by a pair of scissors.

A figure was sitting in a tall chair that had been turned around in front of the desk, hunched over a stained sketchpad. She slapped a piece of charcoal down and rifled through the mess on the desk too find a lighter-weighted pencil that had been sharpened down to a stub the size of her little finger. When she finished with that one, she tossed it aside. A faint plunk broke the silence as the pencil fell into a week-old mug of cold tea that had only been partially consumed. The woman looked up and muttered a swear, reached up and ran two fingers along her eyebrows before stopping to rub her temples.

As if suddenly realizing she were sitting in almost complete darkness, she stood up and walked to the window to peer out the shades. The thin light cut a white bar across pale, almost pasty skin and eyes the color of coffee grinds. She narrowed her eyes and let the shades snap back to where they were. She shuffled to the light switch and flicked it on, squinting against the sudden onslaught to her retinas. Moving then to her desk, she looked over the despicable mess. Half-finished portraits, dried out glasses that had once held scotch, and an orange ashtray filled to the brim on one side. She plucked a cigarette, burnt half to the butt, and lit it up again just as the mobile on the kitchen table buzzed, the quiet ringer whispering the chorus of Guns and Roses' Highway to Hell. She sighed upon seeing the ID on the screen, but unlocked the phone and muttered out a half-hearted hello.

"Hi! Roxy, it's me!" The voice on the other end threatened to blow out her eardrum and she held the device away from her head as the yipping on the other end continued. "I need you to do something for me; I'm a bit tied up at the moment."

She stepped over a toy piano that was lying on the floor but tripped anyway and growled something unintelligible, almost throwing the mobile as she bent to rub her throbbing toe. "I told you not to call me that. What do you need?"

"Mum wants us to visit, but I'm staying at Thomas's at the moment. Do you think you can go instead? Maybe bring her some sweets? And why can't I call you that, it's a nice name, I think it's nice to say, too, and I don't know why . . ."

She sighed as her sister rattled on. The girl could go like that forever. She set the phone on the table and checked the kettle for water. She put the heat on and opened the pantry. It was modestly filled with various canned goods, bags of crisps and almost empty packages of biscuits. She looked through them disinterestedly, and the kettle whined at her. She grabbed the mug from her desk, fished the pencil out and tossed it across the room, then dumped the contents in the sink and filled it with the fresh water poured over earl grey leaves. After letting it steep for a few minutes she walked back to the kitchen table, sat down and picked up her mobile.

". . . think it would be rather nice to holiday somewhere warm. I've never been to America, either, but Sophie went there that one year for her cousin's wedding—"

Roxanne took a scalding sip. "I'll go if you take some classes on how to shut that trap of yours."

"Oh, sod off."

"It's true. I don't know how Thomas puts up with you, I was glad to get out of the house when I could. So much racket."

"At least I have a boyfriend. You don't even have a pet."

"You know Mr. Cane won't allow anyone but Ringo." She looked up at the fat goldfish lazing in his tank on the opposite counter. "If the rest of this conversation will only consist of you insulting me, I think I'll go. I have boxes of Branston Pickle-filled sweets to buy."

"Roxy, don't you dare!"

"Goodbye, Bailey." She ended the call as her sister began to screech something. She stood and put her mobile on her desk with all the pencils. A partially completed portrait of a cawing raven was smeared across the paper. Roxanne rubbed a thumb across the drawing absently, not wanting to leave her flat. She stripped off her shirt and rummaged through her clothing to find another that didn't smell too repulsive. She ran a hasty line of eyeliner under her short lashes and ran a hand over her hair. It was messy from sleep and there was no way to fix it, it being far too short to brush out.

Her mother's house was within walking distance of her own flat, though it was a bit of a stretch. As she strode along the street, she supposed Bailey was right about the sweets. She stopped at a hole-in-the-wall shop and bought a box of chocolates. Rain pattered down on her as she left the store, soaking into her clothes and running, itching, down her spine. She put the chocolates under her coat to shield it from the worst of the rain. Her mother's house was a little thing, little and old enough that it was a good walk from her flat. The house was tiny and almost quaint, though after Roxanne's father had died her mother could no longer be bothered to keep the place up all the time. The paint had peeled in places and the wood was a bit soft and the grass a bit overgrown, but it was somewhat pleasant.

She jumped up the steps, skipping one, and knocked on the weak wooden door. A few minutes passed with no reply, but it was common. Her mother had a bit of narcolepsy, and tended to sleep at strange times and very deeply. She pulled an old spare key from her pocket and opened the door. The house was quiet and dark as she stepped in and closed the door behind her.

"Mum, you there?" She pulled the box out of her coat and held it up as though it were a treat for a dog. "I got you some sweets . . . I'll let you eat them all!"

She rounded a corner and came face-to-face with her frail, hunched mother. The woman let out a little gasp, but smiled and patted Roxanne's shoulder happily. "I think I fell again. Didn't hear you knock . . . oh, you got some sweets just for me!" The old woman grinned mischievously and snatched the box away. "Come sit down, Roxy, let's hear what's going on with you."

She reached up and pulled at the thin chain to the light and sat at the kitchen table, pulling her sweets closer to her and sniffing the air suspiciously. "Ugh, you smell like cigarettes again. I knew I never should have let you stay at Marge's all those years ago."

Marge had been Roxanne's father's mother. He had inherited her stubbornness, her passive-aggressiveness, and ultimately her smoking habits. Roxanne, having lived near her for some time as a child, would visit her often. Now she was left the same way. Marge had died at sixty of lung cancer.

"Mum, just ignore it. I came to visit to see how you were holding up here by yourself."

The older woman put a chocolate in her mouth. "I still miss your father."

"We all do."

There was a pause, occupied by the little sounds in the room. The quiet buzzing of the overhead light, the gentle smacking of her mother eating. "So," Her mother started casually. "I hope you have some grandchildren to show me."

Roxanne sighed. "No, mum."

"Well, I hope that—"

"We're ending this conversation right now. I'm not going to be drawn into this whole mess again. I've already made it very clear that I never want children. When did I make that clear? Ah, yes, I believe it was when I went in for surgery."

"Well, excuse me, then." Her mother said defensively, holding up her chocolate-daubed hands in surrender. "At least your sister and that dorky boy she's with will give me a little one." She smiled kindly, her eyes crinkling. "Do you want some wine? I've a good bottle of merlot . . ."

Roxanne glanced at her watch. "It's nine in the morning."

"Oh, so it is." She laughed. "Well, it's getting a bit hard to care these days." Roxanne watched as her mother poured a glass, her thin hand weaving slightly. Sighing, she stood and helped her pour the glass, but picked it up when it was filled and held it above her head. "I'll let you drink if you let me smoke." She flicked out a cigarette from her pocket to show the stakes.

Her mother frowned. "You aren't fair. Fine! Go ahead, stink up my house." She grabbed her wine back. "Girl, how did I raise you?"

Roxanne sucked at the thin white stem and exhaled out her nose. "Well enough." She answered.

She left about a half hour later, promising that next time it would be her sister that came to visit. The rain had stopped, and the streets were quiet as she trundled home. Her mobile hummed with a text in her pocket, and she picked it out to scan it over. It was from her only friend, Kathy, who wanted to go get a pint later. Roxanne began to text back and accidentally bumped into another person walking the opposite direction.

"Er, sorry." She muttered absently, still tapping the flat screen in a blunt denial of the invitation. She tucked away the mobile and continued on, hunching her shoulders against the wind.

It was three days later when she got another call. She was watching An American Astronaut, in its bizarre, original black-and-white format on her computer. Roxanne enjoyed the movie greatly. It was strange and seemingly random, but it all made an absurd amount of sense.

She reached an interesting scene during which a character was singing and dancing about in the ashes of a thousand disintegrated people, when her ringtone interrupted the odd, off-key wailing. She pushed back her chair and picked up the phone, already knowing who it was.

"It's your turn."

"No, it's not."



". . . Fine, you win." Roxanne crushed some flaky food into Ringo's square tank and watched him puff out his cheeks and suck at the surface of the water. "I like Mum, but I have a life too, you know."

Her sister replied with a splutter of laughter. "Okay, Roxy. Just wanted to remind you to go down there today." The other line came to a buzzing end. Roxanne stopped her movie and began her walk. The skies hadn't cleared yet, but the rain had momentarily ceased. She arrived at the house half an hour later. It was dark again, as she suspected, and she unlocked the door again with the old key.

"Mum!" She took a step inside. The floorboard creaked under her foot. "You're asleep again, aren't you?" The sentence was sighed under her breath as she crept forward. The house was very quiet, very dark. A slight flicker of light made her jump slightly, but it was just light reflecting off a tipped-over wine glass. Roxanne stopped in her tracks and looked back at the table curiously. The thin-stemmed glass was lying on its side. A trickle of red was dried on the rim. She reached forward and rubbed the old wine. She knew days-old wine when she saw it—it was her mother. She looked up, unable to prevent the toxic bubble of worry that had formed in her stomach. "Mum?" About to turn the corner into the dining room, she stumbled on the folded corner of a rug. She snapped out a curse to herself and, frustrated, slapped on the lights, intent of correcting that damn rug.

Her eyes rolled down to the floor, to the offending rug that was not a rug at all but a frail hand. In a sudden burst of both stupidity and blind panic, she thought her mother had decided to sleep on the floor. She poked the old woman's side with her toe. "Come on, Mum. I'm tired of waking you up."

An hour later, the house was buzzing with police and forensics, stamping muddy boots and shoving through the little house that was as gentle and frail as the mother who had lived in it. Roxanne was sitting on the end of an ambulance, frowning at the bright blanket someone had draped over her when she had been in a daze. Her mind was strangely blank. Blinking a few times, she wondered if she should call Bailey, then decided she had already been contacted. She sighed heavily and pulled the blanket around herself. It was a little chilly; the wind had picked up.

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