The Apartment – chapter five

Esme wakes up in her bed, her mother and father are in her bedroom. Her mother has her back to Esme, looking the apartment up and down and poking around with her fingers at Esme’s personal things. Esme looks at her dressing table that is now filled with coloured perfume bottles, a vase of flowers, photographs of her with happy people affixed around the mirror. Esme’s father is sitting at the end of the bed on a little chair that is too small for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He is smiling at Esme. He calls out to Esme’s mother and tells her to smile at Esme too. Esme can hear his voice, but his lips don’t move. Esme’s mother turns around and smiles. A smile that Esme has never seen before, radiant and warm like the abundant sun. Esme jumps out of bed and walks towards her mother with outstretched arms. Her mother takes Esme and holds her tight. Esme has never been held so tight before, and a tear escapes her eye that soaks into her mother’s jumper. 

“Happy birthday, Mother,” says Esme.

“Thank you, Esme. Are you going to come and see me today?”

“I want to. But I can’t right now.”

“We’ll always be here for you.”

“Mum, I need your help.”

“I know you do. I will always take care of you.”

Esme feels the hug get a little bit tighter. 

The voice becomes a droning sound, “You provide me with such nourishment.”

Esme opens her eyes and sees that she is resting against a familiar grey bikini top. Esme pushes herself out of the grip of the hug. Sally is standing in front of her, that same face and eye contact that drains power from Esme like a battery. Esme looks around to her father, but all she sees is the empty chair. 

Esme runs out of the bedroom and into the living room. Sally follows her and says, “Tell me what you want Esme, tell me your desires,” Sally holds out her hand as her ruffled hair blows wildly from an imaginary wind, “What do you want most of all in the world?”

Esme closes her eyes, trying to think of anything but the question that Sally is invading her with. She opens her eyes again when she senses movement, wide open with fright. A young man has appeared next to Sally, around twenty-five years old, marginally taller than Esme, dark hair, jewel blue eyes and athletic looking, well dressed and a good looking smile that shoots towards Esme like an arrow. As Esme gawks at him, he flicks his eyebrows up and his smile deepens, making Esme’s heart beat faster. 

Esme closes her eyes again, presses her palms into her eye sockets and shouts, “No, no, no, no NO!” She hears Sally’s voice, “I know what you want, Esme.”

Esme opens her eyes again, unable to defeat her curiosity, standing on Sally’s left-hand side is Esme’s mother, healthy and radiant, wearing a 1950’s summer frock that emphasises her waist. She’s holding a jewellery box, different from the one already on the dressing table in the bedroom, equally stunning with crystal walls, a handle, a locking mechanism and a ring of encrusted diamonds that shimmer in the light. 

“It’s a present from me to you, my love,” says her mother.  

Esme screams, “Get out of my head, you bitch!” and swipes her hand to knock the box out of her mother’s hands. It falls to the floor and smashes. Esme looks at the fragments on the floor that are still sparkling, then looks up to her mother again who is still holding the crystal jewellery box, causing tears to stream down Esme’s face. She cries out in anger, but the echo swallows the sound up like a black hole. 

Esme looks at Sally, “Get away from me!”

“Come here and give me another hug.” Sally extends her arms, mimicking Esme’s mother. 

Esme runs to the balcony, whimpering and crying. 

A voice comes from the doorway to the apartment, “They cannot help you now. I will keep an eye on you. I will mother you.”

“No fucking way,” Esme screams. She pulls herself up to stand on the iron gate of the balcony, facing the French windows she balances on top with her back to the city. She looks over her shoulder and sees the drop below her. Maybe she will survive the fall, but broken bones are a certainty. 

“Stop, don’t be stupid,” demands Sally as she glides towards Esme, her hands holding the crystal jewellery box. 

“Don’t come any closer, or I’ll jump.”

“It won’t help you,” replies Sally as she draws in closer to Esme, still holding an arm out. 

“Fuck you, this will break your contract.”

Esme relaxes the energy from her feet, her shoes lose their grip on the iron gate and she tumbles backwards over the balcony. She feels a warmth sliding around her skin as if it were bubble bath. Esme’s body succumbs to the flight, her hair falling upwards that whips her cheeks and eyes. She looks up at the image of Sally peering over the balcony above her. Esme awaits the crack of bones on the ground that is inevitably looming up on her. 

The ground never comes. 

Instead, Esme wakes up in her bed, her body stretched out taught, her hands tight in a fist. She is alone in her bedroom. She stands up and looks at her dressing table, now empty of bottles, lotions and perfumes, except for her mother’s jewellery box, still in the same place after Darren threw it over the side of the balcony. 

Photo by Sean Mungur on Unsplash

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