Beattie M. Cartwright
Ten minutes ago Beattie had woken up in the cupboard under the staircase. She was thankful that she hadn’t wet herself during her sleep, ashamed that it had happened again, and wondered what had happened in the interim. Now she was sitting on a sofa, legs curled beneath her, looking out of the window towards Huntley Bay. Her arms were folded and resting on the ledge, the early morning sun caught her cheekbone exposing a smattering of freckles that balanced on the edge of their sharpness. Her lank hair, once a glossy mane of chestnut curls, was hastily pulled into a ponytail, emphasising her profile; it didn’t seem to match her conventionally pretty face. Her nose, which under normal circumstances looked untoward, on closer inspection had a slight bump just below the bridge and seemed to fall short, making her chin jut out. Her mouth was determined: set. There was an angry scar below her lip, a reminder of her previous life with Tom.
She looked wistful as if in contemplation or perhaps it was something akin to sadness. Her protuberant eyes, the colour of moss gave little away as she listened to a message from her mother; a brittle voiced, pious woman whose familiar words ‘possibility’ ‘hopeful’ and ‘God’ clung to the stale air like smoke in a gentleman’s club. Some remains had been found near the reservoir. It could be Fliss.
Her mother’s voice came to a rude halt courtesy of Beattie’s ancient answer machine that she’d picked up at a car boot sale during her university days. She’d found it in her parent’s loft when she was searching for old photos of Fliss; there were few possessions from her previous life; the most precious being a lock of hair from her sister. She was glad the machine cut off. She couldn’t deal with her histrionic mother. Not today.
Beattie stood up and deleted the message. Her hand shook slightly as she did so, its pallor made the blue veins seem more prominent against its creped skin. She was wearing a long grey cardigan that hung from her body, underneath it a t-shirt, an old castoff from Tom, and a pair of faded denim shorts. There was nothing to suggest that she had once lived a life of excess, not in her appearance or surroundings. Her tiny sitting room was in doleful need of painting, the wallpaper had started to peel giving it a shabby appearance and the furniture was of the same mode. The large threadbare sofa sat under the window with a patterned throw well used when Beattie didn’t make it to her bedroom upstairs; an old leather armchair that once belonged to the previous tenant, sat in the corner neglected, and a coffee table piled with books and magazines that remained unread and coated in a thin layer of dust. She was self-contained and solitary, a shadow of her former self.
Beattie M Cartwright used to look like someone on a mission, those who knew her said she was born with a pair of balls. She possessed an air of authority, was hard and sharp as a razor, and walked the tightrope of the corporate ladder in heels, watching her fellow colleagues cling on; some of which were not so lucky. She carried with her a temperature that caused men to sweat in an air-conditioned boardroom and women need their jackets in the desert.
Beattie lived life to excess. Why not? She’d spent enough of her young rigid life in a small hometown with its incessant gossip and uncongenial relationships. Her parents were pillars of the community; her dad a headmaster of the local high school, her mother a loyal housewife; all cupcake but without the buttercream. They drummed into their children the necessity of an education for which she was thankful. As soon as she could she left. She never looked back until her life changed in a heartbeat.
She would wake up in the strangest of places; she’d cook dinner in the middle of the night and on more than one occasion had driven her car. Tom, a heavy sleeper, was unaware of her nocturnal habits at first until one night he woke to find what he thought to be an intruder in their bedroom. When he realised with some relief that it was Beattie, he managed to wake her, they both thought nothing of it and laughed about it for days. The second time she became aggressive when he found her at the bottom of the stairs, she lunged at him and caught her mouth on his watch strap as he tried to protect himself. The third time he found her, she broke his ribs.
She walks into the kitchen, her gait once self-assured and possessive is now diffident. There is a plate on the counter congealed with egg and ketchup and the frying pan is in the sink. She checks that the car keys are still stuck to the wall with duct tape. Thank God, she thinks as she fiddles with the locket around her neck. The heavy kitchen table is against the back door. It’s where she left it before going to bed. Turning on the tap she watches the water hit the rendered fat and looks out of the kitchen window.
She thinks it started when Fliss disappeared. Or soon after when she realised she wasn’t coming back. She knew she was dead. She knew because they were born from the same womb, two minutes apart. She also kept asking herself what if? What if she had something to do with her disappearance?