I lift my eyes from the computer screen to focus on the books on the shelves behind. They’re tightly packed and I’m too short-sighted to read the names on the spines. Except for A Beginner’s Guide to Plato, which lurches from behind a half-empty bottle of schnapps. I wish I could remember how that got there.
The big pink chair that we bought from Laura Ashley sits alongside the books. When I first saw it in the shop in Canterbury, I had the vision of curling up on the cushion and reading the Penguin Classics. But it’s really only used by the cat, who now sits there primly and stares at me with challenge in her eyes.
I turn away and look at the piano. Can I smell the dusty keys from here? At least the wood looks polished, although it’s difficult to tell because of the shiny reflection from outside. I narrow my eyes to study the wood more closely, scanning it for clues until I see the smudged edges of a small handprint. It’s been years since the kids played. But I still remember my pleas to them to practice; alternately making threats and promising Maltesers as I watched their stubby little fingers stretch across the keyboard. I’d have to tell them: “Stop swinging your legs.” And “Sit up straight” as they wiggled on the pile of music books that gave height to the piano stool, and looked wistfully out at the garden.
I stare into the garden now. John is putting up a gazebo. If we want to have visitors, we’ll have to be prepared for rain. He takes a screwdriver from his pocket. It’s an easy weapon to conceal. I bring my gaze back again to the piano. You could slide a screwdriver under the lid. I pick up a whiteboard marker – roughly the same shape – and walk over to the piano to test it out. Yes, it fits but the wood creaks. The cushion of the piano stool might be better. Then again, noise won’t matter if the victim is dead. Is a screwdriver a reliable murder weapon? Lots of room for error if the stab is to the stomach. Neck, then.
I return to my seat behind the computer, not sure if I’m ready yet to commit my thoughts to type. I look up at the bookshelf. A book by James someone is right in my eyeline. The cover is dark red. Then I notice there’s a line of small holes running vertically down the sides of the bookcase; you can move the shelves up and down and secure them in place by inserting small screws in the holes underneath.
“Sit up straight,” I tell myself and I return my focus to the screen and start, at last, to type. And over in the pink armchair, I hear the cat sigh and settle into the cushion.
Belinda Saddington grew up in southern Africa, where she trained as a journalist. Now based in Wales, she has recently completed her debut novel, Lessons in Dying, shortlisted in the 2019 Big Issue crime writing competition.