Ink Stain

Cleo sat up in bed as the light streamed in through the window. She chewed at the end of the pen as she shuffled against the pillows, trying to get comfortable. As she shuffled, her gaze never left the Sudoku puzzle in front of her. She bit down as she scanned the puzzle, trying to figure out where a particular number four should be placed, when the taste of ink flooded her mouth. She spat as a reflex, sending ink all over the duvet cover. 

Jumping up from bed she bundled up the duvet and strode over to the door, with the intention of immersing it in water immediately, but the door handle didn’t turn. She looked up at the caged clock behind her then dumped the duvet by the door and went and sat back on the bed. 

She sat there shivering as the whir of the aircon began, the sun streaming in through the window doing nothing to prevent the goose pimples, but she couldn’t allow the tainted duvet back on the bed. She brought her knees up to her chest, hugging herself. After a while her right hand wandered down to the tattoo of a microphone that was on her side. Despite the fabric of her top between her hand and the tattoo, it felt like she could feel it under her fingertips, and she began humming to herself. 

Although she was tone deaf, her rhythm was impeccable and she began tapping out a tune on the side of the metal bed frame, rocking back and forth in time with the beat. She gazed at the duvet on the floor by the corner and imagined the ink stain had begun to spread. Centimetre by centimetre, she could see the blackness engulfing the duvet – the floor would be next. 

She walked back over to the duvet and tentatively moved it closer to the door, then began pushing it under. Centimetre by centimetre, she edged the duvet under the door, until the duvet bunched up and got stuck. 

Still humming, she undid the buttons to the duvet cover – not able to look at the stain – she felt along for each button, before ripping the duvet out of the cover and proceeding to feed the rest of the duvet cover under the door, being careful not to touch the ink. 

When she had successfully extricated the offending duvet cover from the room, she bunched up the duvet, then sat back down on the bed, wrapping it around her shoulders. The sudoku puzzle book lay next to her, each square completed, as she hunted again for the space for that illusive number four.


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