Beep, the dryer dings in a high pitched tone that somehow drills through your ringing migraine and brings you crashing back into reality. Perfect timing. You just finished putting the other clothes away so the empty bucket is in your hand, ready to be refilled.
The little light next to the temperature knob flickers blue and you zone out again, staring at it. It reminds you of police siren flashers. They give you headaches too. Sighing, you blink yourself out of your daze and shuffle across the kitchen floor, careful not to fall since the tiles are still slippery from the mop. When you squat down, your jeans pinch your inner thigh. If you could be bothered, you’d adjust them.
The dryer door opens with a satisfying click and your next inhale is blessed with the scent of orange blossom. Laundry detergent smells like a bath bomb if you close your eyes and imagine hard enough. For a fleeting moment, it soothes the throbbing at your temple.
You reach your arm into the dryer. It’s like that game, the one kids play at school fairs, where you reach blindly into a box, feel around and try to guess what’s in there. Ah, yes, that’s a sock, and that’s Destiny’s Disney underwear. You can tell because it has little bows around the hem. They make you quite jealous. Why don’t stores produce Disney underwear for adults? It’s not like they wouldn’t sell.
You sigh again, an exhale that spans several seconds, and begin to drop clean clothes into the bucket one at a time. Disney underwear, a sock, a pink sock, a t-shirt, and – oh, that’s a blanket. A fluffy blanket, and you know what that means. Static. But you’ve started pulling now and you can’t stop, it’s already half way out. You brave it. One great tug and it’s in the bucket. The other clothes scatter like dandelion seeds. It’s a good job the floor’s clean.
The laundry is soft and warm. The blanket, or blankie as you have always called it in your house, is your daughter’s. It used to be the vibrant colours of the rainbow, but it’s since faded to muted pastels. You lift it to your cheek and close your eyes, feel the love and memories preserved in the worn, ragged material.
When she was a toddler, your daughter clutched that blanket as though her life depended on it. She pushed her thumb through the stitching for comfort whilst she slept and sometimes even chewed the corner whilst watching TV. Now that she goes to primary school, she’s been brainwashed into thinking blankies are for babies. So blankie is just a blanket and it’s new place is in a pile at the foot of the bed.
It’s a shame, you think, that children are in such a rush to grow up. You’re hardly one to talk. You couldn’t wait to be grown-up so you could have your own house and do everything you wanted without anyone saying no. And it’s fun. It is. They just don’t tell you, when you’re that age, that grown-ups get bored after a while. Even of colouring. Even of children’s TV.
Childhood is a treasure and, like treasure, it’s missed when it’s gone.
You pull back as your fingers shock with a tingle of electricity. Stupid static.
When you finish emptying the dryer, you rise with a long series of grunts. You’re only thirty, but feel the need to be dramatic sometimes as though you’re an exhausted mother of four who’s been doing housework since the crack of dawn.
Acting tired is a game. If you do it well enough, you’ll fool your husband, then maybe he’ll treat you to a nice dinner. Or even better, give you a day off.
You always talk about having “a day off” but, be honest, the last time he gave you one, you spent the first half of it trying on clothes in M&S and the other half wandering around town watching the clock until it was time to go home. And you couldn’t stop thinking about what you were going to make for dinner.
The clothes fold themselves. You are so zoned out, so not-there, you can’t possibly be controlling the hands that craft them into perfect quadrilaterals. You don’t remember walking to your room, emptying the bucket on the king-size bed, or opening your husband’s wardrobe. But you must have done it because you’re here now. Folding.
Seriously, does he wear any colour that isn’t black? His shirts are black, so are his trousers and blazers, even his hoodies – oh no, that one’s grey. Well, that’s hardly better. You understand that he has to look smart for work, but is smart synonymous with mourning? NEXT makes a sophisticated navy suit for men. You saw it in a magazine. You make a mental note to bring it up at dinner.
He got a job promotion last month which was great financially, but now he has to work six days a week. Last night you noticed a burrowed line between his eyebrows you’re certain wasn’t there before. You didn’t want to mention it in case he got upset, so you offered him a mug of tea and talked about good things, happy things. Destiny got a sticker at school today, you said, I pinned it on the fridge with the letter magnets so you can’t miss it. Mhm, he said. Mhm.
Beep! Something sounds, seemingly from downstairs.
Didn’t you just empty the dryer? You definitely didn’t put another load in. You have to think about it, but no. It sounded too loud and high-pitched, anyway. It doesn’t help your migrane.
The t-shirt in your hands slips from your grip. Man, you’re really out of it today.
What is making that noise?
Your head pounds like there’s no tomorrow. You try to walk but your feet don’t respond and you sway forward. Instead of a room, before you is a blurred kaleidoscope of colour. The walls and carpet contribute a deep purple; the lampshades are red; the dressing gown draped over the chair throws bright blue into the swirling, dizzying mix.
Your daughter’s rainbow blankie is still in the bucket. God bless those faded stripes. You reach for it, but your vision is unreliable and your hand sweeps through thin air.
You’re lightheaded. You should probably sit down. Just grab blankie first… just…
You can’t see anything. Can’t even feel your hands. You’re not hot or cold. Kind of numb. How odd.
It sounds like an alarm. Definitely not the fire alarm, which rings persistently every time you grill sausages. Maybe, actually yes, it sounds like the carbon monoxide…?
Deborah Rose is the Managing Editor for Hey Young Writer. She is the author of YA, fantasy novels Dragon Pearls (2019) and Crown My Heart (2020). You can follow her on Instagram at @authordeborahrose or visit her website, deborahrosegreen.co.uk!