Whitechapel Bedroom

In the sweaty cold of the duvet, once plump and ripe hanging limp from the bed like a loose limb, Helen lay silently. She pushed the pillows up to the wall, trying to give them lift. It reminded her of the time she worked in a butchery, stringing up white, lifeless chickens. She would pull the string tight underneath the breasts, lift them up until they were round and succulent, securing it around the legs with a tight knot. She had amused herself by pressing down a palm on the birds’ carcass – when the soft bones gave way and air rushed through the cavity, it would squeak like a mouse. Alone, downstairs in the chill of the cold room, she would push and push at the chickens until most of their backs broke under the weight of her hand. No one noticed, though, she tied the string even tighter.

She desperately didn’t want to be hot. With the window wide open, reaching out into the night air of the city, she had tried to sleep swaddled in the bedsheets. She wanted to be cool, to feel fresh, not sweaty and sticky in the summer. Once inside the bedsheets, strategically tucked away, she couldn’t move to close it. She lay awake for hours waiting for the wind to drop.

Down the street in the middle of the night, a few Asian men began to shout and yell. They said ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ and ‘shit’. They shouted it loud into the London of three in the morning to no one. And then, when they realised that no one cared enough to stop them, they got into their car and revved the engine until it felt like the ground was shaking and let go of the accelerator and sped off. She had imagined their bodies slamming back against the leather seats with the force of speed. They came round and did it again, twice, whilst she listened, and then they left.

When Helen woke in the morning and swung her legs over the side of the mattress onto the floor, she remembered the night before. She had spilled sunflower seeds all over the carpet and she had not cleaned them up. In a fit of boredom, Helen had waited to see if they might grow into anything, remembering the story that her mother told her years ago about watermelons. Never eat the seeds, because a tree will grow inside you. Helen was always very careful to pick them out after that. If she ever did, by accident, swallow one whole she would feel it in her stomach when she lay in bed. It stretched her abdomen, and she would dream of bushes sprouting from her belly and large watermelons weighing down the branches until they got too big and fell to the floor.

The duvet warmed up a little, she shrank underneath it. The weather was gloomy. Whitechapel felt grey. The hospital stood proud against a backdrop of the old buildings, helicopter pad glowing thoughtlessly in the daybreak.

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