The front door banged shut behind Nick, and Alex slumped against the half-empty bookcase, fighting the urge to go to the window and watch him leaving. Nick had spent the day, tight-lipped, flinging his possessions into boxes by the handful, while Alex hovered behind him offering apologies, then promises, to no effect. Alex scowled, turning to run his fingers along the edge of the shelves. How was Alex supposed to have known that this time Nick had really meant it when he said he’d had enough?
A slim book caught his eye, fallen on its side on a shelf which had previously held a long run of Nick’s SF paperbacks. It was bound in battered green leather, and the spine was blank. Alex picked it up, curious. He didn’t remember buying it; had Nick left it behind? On the front a few specks of gilding clung to an indentation in the shape of a horned half-mask, and the spine cracked slightly under his fingers as he opened it.
The title page read simply Rituals and Bindings, and Alex rolled his eyes. Some religious nonsense, then. He flicked through a few pages which looked almost like recipes, each page bearing titles like Of Commanding Others, Of Calling Across, Of Minor Harm, with ingredients and instructions underneath. He stopped on one which read On Excision of Memories, his mind full suddenly of three years of living with Nick: the way he always left his damp towel puddled on the bedroom floor, the way he ducked his head when he laughed…
Alex thrust the book back onto the shelf. If it was Nick’s, the stupid bastard could come and ask for it back, and Alex would tell him to get lost. He didn’t need Nick. He went to the kitchen, where half a dozen bottles of cheap red stood in the wine-rack-shaped patch of dust on the floor, and settled in to an evening of self-medication.
Juliet Kemp lives in a narrow house in London with two grownups, one baby, a dog, and the ghost of Isambard Kingdom Brunel trapped in a tea-cosy. The tea-cosy no longer works particularly well. She likes plants, but only if you can eat them, or sometimes if they’re a particular shade of purple. She has travelled to Singapore by train, and spends the small hours of the morning digging very small tunnels under the Thames. She eats a huge amount of dark chocolate and stays up too late. She has had previous stories published in Obverse Quarterly’s ‘Tales of the City’, the Drollerie Press anthology ‘Hellebore & Rue’, and the Journal of Unlikely Entomology.