Half an Hour to Pack

One of the exercises at the CityLit course I did a few weeks ago was to write a piece about only having half an hour to pack, that focused on the senses. It was my first inkling that Ally and Chris had plans to take over large portions of my brain at unexpected times.

Ally closed the front door and leaned against it. Work had run late, she had half an hour to pack and go. No time to waste, she took a deep breath and pushed away from the door.

Into the bedroom, she pulled the old chair over from the corner to climb on and pull her suitcase down. She half dropped it onto the bed, it landing with a pouf of the duvet and a muffled bomp. The zip sounded loud, as if all other noises had stopped to listen. She threw the lid open and turned to the chest of drawers.

Old, wooden, smelling of beeswax and dust, it had belonged to his grandmother, yet another stamp of his family, dominating what had been their home. She pulled open the drawers, one after the other and threw the contents of her side into the waiting case. The cupboard stayed closed. She had no use for the tight, tailored formality of the dresses and suits in there. She was glad to be free of their bindings.

Clothes done, she was through to the bathroom. Toiletries into a ziploc bag and she was done with the basics. Now for the decisions.

The kitchen was irrelevant, she was no cook and there was nothing dear to her in there. Her favourite mug was the one she kept at work, now wrapped in tissues and snugged into the bottom of her handbag.

So, the sitting room. Sofas from his mother’s house, table from grandma. Ornaments and knickknacks brought by his adoring relatives whenever they visited. Their cold, slippery surfaces repelled her, no sorrows in leaving them behind. It was the books. She could only take a few, only what could fit in her case.

She ran her hand across their spines, stroking the smooth edge of a paperback, not often read, then onto the cottony softness of a much-loved novel. In the end she took ten. The ones that spoke to her of childhood, of hope, of adventure and happy ever afters. She closed the case, left the letter on the dining table, turned off the light and closed the door behind her.

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