BOOKS IRELAND FLASH FICTION
The Reminiscing of a Student House, by Lorna McGrath
The house misses the girls. Misses their laughter and sharing secret moments with them. The evening they’d popped open a prosecco, the cork flying across the room to lie forever behind the kitchen table, celebrating the end of exams. Nail polish remover stains on the desk. Period blood on bedsheets. Birthday cake crumbs on the floor. Tears softly muffled into pillows.
When Ginger appeared bloodied and bruised, cleaning up the evidence was good practice for the girls.
Many a party was thrown in the house. College students stumbling about, spilling their drinks on the furniture, making anything a bed. A jumper from an old boyfriend is still hidden under an armchair. Stained with cider, sticky with guilt, it holds onto the memories of a wild youth, the owner long forgotten.
The house creaks. There’s a storm brewing inside. The girls are panicked but disciplined. Ginger has the cleaning supplies and is scrubbing the kitchen floor. Hard.
If the house could speak, it would apologise for soaking in blood as good as it does. For retaining smells too. Blondie sprays her Febreze bottle around the kitchen furiously, a coconut scented candle lighting on the table. The rotten stench of death doesn’t fear candles. Glasses is on her phone, trawling the internet for information. She shouts when she finds something. Her face is sombre.
The house remembers when the girls were happier. When there was always an easy smile or a cheeky wink to be had. They’d gather on the worn leather sofa, throw a pink fluffy blanket over their legs, and laugh along at a movie, popcorn droppings on the ground.
Sometimes, the couches were pushed aside and yoga mats unfurled; their sweaty determination dripped onto the wooden floorboards, the green of their homemade smoothies staining the mugs.
None of the previous occupants had been like these three girls: late-night study sessions in the kitchen, angry visits from loud boyfriends, Sunday brunches with friends, thumping bedframes—all added life to the old house.
Then, they added death.
Dozens of friends had tried to ring the broken doorbell before resorting to the iron knocker. When the Gardaí went through the same procedure, the girls were ready. Blondie answered the door, her hair newly dyed red. Glasses was cooking eggs in the kitchen, her smoked salmon sitting out on a plate. Ginger was in the shower, hiding her bruises.
They answered the Gardaí’s questions, nodding at the right parts, wiping tears away with a delicate shaking finger. They gave over their details. The house was silent for once, no creaking floorboards, no squeaking doors. The Gardaí left.
When the girls moved on, boys moved in. Their smells overpowered the rotten stench: a dozen cooked eggs every morning, sweaty gym clothes, Lynx deodorants, weed, and cigarettes. The boys, in their innocence, would never know what had happened.
But the house remembers.
Lorna McGrath is a native of Galway, recently graduated from NUIG, who is now working as an English Language Assistant in Germany. In 2020 she was long-listed for the Merky Books New Writers Prize for her fantasy novel, which is currently a work in progress.