"Sweetie, I forgot to do the shopping so the fridge is a little embarrassing." Sean's voice floated through the open door from the kitchen.
"That's okay, hon."
"Do you fancy pizza? We can order something in."
"Yeah, I haven't had pizza in ages. Have you got a menu?"
"Try the telephone table."
Alicia saw no flyers on the table, only an ancient Bakelite telephone. She pulled open the drawer, and was confronted by a mess of old receipts, batteries of assorted voltage and takeaway menus. A leaflet for Raymondo's Pizza lay on the top, pinned down by a silver plastic hairbrush. Alicia thought of Sean with his close-cropped blond hair, and gazed at the long red curls entwined in the bristles of the brush.
"Found it," called Alicia. She closed the drawer and set the flyer beside the phone. Sean appeared in the doorway, drying his hands with a scarlet towel.
"I feel really silly about this," he said.
"It's okay, it happens," replied Alicia. She forced a smile.
"What kind of pizza do you fancy?"
"I'll let you choose. I'll eat pretty much anything. I'll just nip to the loo while you look at the menu."
Alicia ducked out into the hall and padded up the stairs. She found herself torn between relief that she wouldn't have Sean's infamous cooking inflicted on her just yet, and annoyance that he hadn't planned ahead. He could have at least bought something to chuck in the oven – it wasn’t like he didn't know she was coming.
She pushed open the bathroom door and movement in the mirror caught her eye. Alicia started to apologise, sure she'd walked in on someone, but scanning the room, she saw it was empty. Must have been my reflection, she thought.
After flushing the toilet, Alicia looked for the soap, but saw none on display. She opened the cabinet above the sink, wondering if Sean put it away between uses. Her eyes roved across shaving foam, shampoo and spare razorheads. She paused when she reached the pale lavender bottle of violet-scented shower gel. Testing the weight with her hand, she guessed it was half full. Behind it lay a packet of makeup remover wipes, dried out with age.
They must be Manda's, she thought. I doubt that shower gel is Sean's - look, there's his Lynx Africa gel. And unless there's something he's not telling me, he doesn't look like he wears makeup.
Alicia squirted a blob of Sean’s shower gel into her palm and washed her hands. She closed the bathroom cabinet, and started when she caught sight of a figure behind her. Sunlight glinted on long red hair, but when she looked again, the bathroom was empty.
Alicia backed out of the bathroom. Downstairs, Sean ordered a pepperoni and Cajun chicken pizza over the phone. A sharp bang to her left made Alicia jump. She looked around and saw that a small photo frame had fallen from on the bookcase at the top of the stairs. She picked it up and peered at the photo; Sean and a beautiful redhead standing on a beach at sunset. Sean wore a tuxedo, and the redhead wore a wedding dress.
Alicia frowned. She turned to look back in the bathroom, and glared at the mirror. Alicia screwed up her face in a silent snarl, and put the photo frame face down on the bookcase. The redhead in the mirror’s reflection glared back.
Sean stood at the bottom of the stairs, still holding the phone.
“I’ve ordered the pizza.”
“Oh. Erm, I’m really not feeling well, I think I might have a lie down before it gets here.”
“Are you okay?” Concern clouded Sean’s face.
“Yes, it’s just been a long day, that’s all.”
“Alright. Well the bedroom is the room on your right. I’ll come get you when the pizza arrives – he said it would be about forty minutes.”
Sean ducked back into the living room. Alicia headed into the bedroom, and scanned the walls looking for more photos of Sean and his dead wife. She heaved a sigh of relief that only landscapes adorned the walls.
She clambered onto the bed and lay back, her head sinking into the pillow. The firm grip on her stomach relaxed, and she stretched out.
Alicia was on the cusp of drifting to sleep when a knock on the wall jerked her awake. Condensation fogged the glass of the photo frame opposite the bed, obscuring the print of London by night. Alicia hauled herself upright and stared as letters appeared in the moisture.
Alicia didn’t remember the flight down the stairs but she found herself in the downstairs hallway, pulling on her shoes and reaching for her coat. Sean poked his head around the doorframe.
“Alicia? Where are you going?”
“Home. I can’t be here.”
“It’s your wife.”
Sean sighed and a pained expression settled across his features, adding ten years to his face.
“She’s dead, Alicia. She died nine months ago. I’m over it, honestly. I’ve told you that.”
“Try telling her that, then.” Alicia gestured to the grinning reflection of the redhead in the hallway mirror. The front door slammed behind her before she registered the surprise, and fear, on Sean’s face.
She didn't hear him beg for mercy.