Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Short Story: Ball-Joints


'Ball-Joints' is a short story I wrote for my Introduction to Fiction module at university. I enjoyed writing it and still rather like it now, so I thought I would share it here as a glimpse at what I've been doing this past year. 

Ambrotypes - Photo by Ellie Morris


"The money’s in the teapot."
Of course it is. Only an idiot like Anne could think of such a thing. Girl said it like I was the fool. We could be twins, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified in mindreading.
Imb├ęcile,” I told her. I was grinning, but she couldn’t hear the grind of my gritted, pearly teeth.
“Just grab it,” said Anne. “My hands are full.”
Her arms were piled with fabric. Jacquard skirts, lacy underpinnings. She really did look the part of the fool, swimming in a sea of silk, though I was the one dressed as a Pierrot, white face and a tear drop on my cheek. I pushed her through the window where she hissed at me, her skirts riding up as she scrabbled for balance. The sound of china scraping against brick was muffled only by the abundance of fabric pooled about her knees.
There was a swimming pool below, flooded with lights, and shadows like devils dancing on the tiles. A party, brooding and deadly. People swigging whiskey in the foyer  ̶  they had long given up their nonchalant taste for champagne. Watching, waiting. Looking for any signs of movement. Music played in another room, but it was distant, dreamy, like the sickly pale moon above. Somebody sobbed by the pool: “I haven’t slept in days!”
Anne swayed, murmuring her fears. We had to get out, even if she shattered into shards on the concrete. In any case, her frock would act as a parachute. So I pushed and pulled her, up against the ledge. Her legs ground in their joints.
“Get off me! Down, Adelbert!” She tried to keep quiet. Her foot swung at my chest.
I grabbed the teapot, stuffed notes into my pants. Taking the silver gilded thing along with us was something I debated, but most of the damage had already been done. Fripperies would only delay us.
“Hurry, get out!”
“I’m trying. I’m stuck.”
Anne climbed onto the sill and balanced on the outside ledge. Creeping on her knees, fabric tied like a baby’s nappy around her rump. She wavered. Her gloved hands shook, and on the slab of stone she froze. Gasped. Rattled.
“What are you waiting for?”
“Can’t. Go. Adelbert, it’s like sandpaper on here!”
“You can, you can. And you better.”
“At least you’re wearing pants,” she griped.
We were fashioned from the finest materials available in a village atelier by the Black Forest; but poor Anne, her legs were moulded two inches shorter than my own, and the meringue-like attire she was given only hindered her further. While our brothers and sisters were jesters and country maidens, held up with strings and wires, we were strung together with elastic and porcelain ball-joints.
The pair of us were gifted to some spoilt little Biarritz girl. She took us home, and what a gift we turned out to be! Suzette’s face, when auntie’s coral earrings were found buried in the bottom of her bonbon dish, could’ve been painted by a master. The girl’s ears were boxed, and Anne was confiscated as an exercise in discipline.
“See how you like it, when something precious is taken from you!” said Suzette’s mother.
Anne being moved to another room was no heartbreak for Suzette  ̶  the girl had plenty of toys. Rather, it was a punishment for me. I’d sooner fling myself from the shelf than spend another day without my sister. And how Anne wailed, rattled, and sobbed in the night! They soon saw enough sense to keep us together, and reunited, our games turned to malice.
Earrings, silver, banknotes, signet rings, lockets… Filching small trinkets in the night was a decent enough way to pass the time. Anne had a penchant for the love letters passed between house guests; a cheating wife soon found her billets-doux in the hands of her husband. A couple of nights later, the wedding ring disappeared from her finger, although Anne never told me where she managed to hide it.
I liked heirlooms with sentimental value, and sapphires the shade of my sister’s eyes. But mostly, I liked the uproar that came from our adventures, the threats and booming, bellowing voices that echoed through old walls. If only I could stay! To hear the furious cries of Suzette’s family, when they find themselves bereft of a small fortune, would almost be worth the risk of separation.
 “I can’t see anybody down there, Adelbert,” said Anne. She teetered over the edge, spurred on by my hand on her back. “They’ve gone.”
“Then now’s our chance. Go!”
Anne’s stumpy legs wrapped around the drainpipe.
“Quick, quick!” she cried.
I clung to her back and we slid down together. Banknotes flowed through the air like confetti from my waistband, settling like lotus flowers on the surface of the pool. Anne grabbed my hand. We looked to one another. We ran. Through the trellis, our freedom appeared in vague nocturnal brushstrokes.

 
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