Prompt 861 - First Line: The door creaked open revealing the blood spattered on the floor like carelessly thrown rubies in the first rays of the sun.
Warning: Probably best not to read this while eating if you are squeamish!
The door creaked open revealing the blood spattered on the floor like carelessly thrown rubies in the first rays of the sun. I quickly shut the front door behind me. It was still early on a Saturday morning - just before seven - and I didn’t want any nosy neighbours seeing what a mess the place must be in.
Last night - well, even earlier that same morning, to be precise - it had been such a panicked rush to get out of the house, bundling him out to the car, I’d not noticed how much blood had been spilled. Now it was clean-up time. The hall floor was laminate; it shouldn’t be too hard to remove all traces, but what about the stairs? Some might have fallen there on the way down.
I traced the route back upstairs. There was a reddish brown smear on the banisters, vivid against the white paintwork. Still, it should wipe off easily enough. Droplets that had landed here and there made vivid splashes against the wheat coloured carpet covering the stairs and the landing. I idly wondered if I should Google the best way to remove bloodstains from pure wool carpets and even reached for my phone before I remembered that every search you made was there forever. Probably not a good idea, then.
The bathroom was going to be bad, I knew. That was where it had all started, after all; where the worst of it had happened. I’d been in such a hurry I’d not even turned off the light when leaving the house. Behind the half-closed door, the extract fan still hummed. A horrid splatter and the smear of a handprint marred one of the panels and a blood soaked towel lay draped over the step into the shower cubicle. A little blood - like love - goes a long, long way, I thought, surveying the damage and not really sure where to begin. Even the soap on its dish had a ruddy tinge. Might as well chuck everything, I supposed, trying to summon that dispassionate frame of mind where I could forget that all this mess was Elliot - my former lover’s - blood.
There was the party, later on. Couldn’t cancel that with no good reason. People would ask questions. I was tired and drained from lack of sleep; from the whole awful night, but I needed to pull myself together and clear all this up. No good crying over split blood, I told myself, deliberately mangling the saying.
Down in the kitchen I packed a plastic bowl with everything I needed. Rubber gloves, sponge, cleaning spray. I began to formulate a plan. I’d get it off all of the easily cleaned surfaces first before tackling the carpets. The towels could go in the washer with some stain remover…
A sudden noise made me jump guiltily before I realised it was just Billy, my cat, returning home. He’d been freaked out last night by it all; the noise and the panic. Now he purred and rubbed around my legs as if nothing had happened, expecting breakfast. I opened a sachet of salmon and trout flavoured food and left him eating while I went about my gory clean-up.
It had all started so well, I mused, as I rinsed out the sponge for the third time after wiping down the shower cubicle. I’d been looking forward to seeing Elliot again. Back in the old days, at university, we’d lived together for almost two years. Life and work had made us drift apart, but when I’d decided to make my thirtieth birthday a sort-of reunion, he’d accepted the invitation. Perhaps I should have been more cautious, I reflected. Maybe I should have booked him into the same hotel as everyone else, rather than let myself be persuaded it was a good idea for him to stay here. But then, how could I have known?
The bathroom was beginning to look slightly more respectable now and less like Sweeney Todd’s barber shop. I kept getting flashbacks to the early hours, somewhere between two-thirty and three. Everything always seems worse at that time of the night, when the streets are silent and the clear light of day is still a long way off. I’d over-reacted. Well, who wouldn’t? Prior to that, everything had been going so smoothly.
Elliot had arrived just after eight. It had been so easy talking to him again, as if all the years between hadn’t happened. We’d had some supper, a few glasses of wine and caught up on all of our news. Like me, he was single again, although his recently ended relationship had sounded a lot more dramatic than anything I'd experienced. I’d made up the spare room for him, but by the time we decided to turn in, it was clear that the spark was still there, just waiting to be re-kindled. We’d both needed it; the familiarity of an old love who knows exactly what you like. My body remembered how good we’d been together. So did his. Afterwards, we fell asleep in my bed, sated.
I’d woken around two in the morning to find his side of the bed empty and the bathroom light on, the door slightly ajar. I’d dropped off again, presuming he’d just gone for a pee, but I’m a light sleeper and I soon awoke a second time when he didn’t return. Something uneasy had prickled the back of my neck; something had felt wrong. I remembered going to the bathroom door; the light leaking out through the gap, illuminating dark spots of blood on the limed oak flooring.
I’d tapped once, twice. He’d made some kind of muffled noise I didn’t like the sound of. That was when I’d gone inside. I wasn’t sure what I’d expected to see. The imagination provides all kinds of gruesome scenarios in the middle of the night, like a waking nightmare. What i didn’t expect was to see Elliot sitting on the closed lid of the toilet holding a towel up to his face already partly soaked in bright blood.
His eyes were full of fear. ‘I didn’t want to wake you,’ he said in muffled tones, bringing it away from his face as he did so, upon which his nose began gushing more blood.
‘What happened?’ I asked. I've always been slightly squeamish when it comes to blood.
‘He pressed against his nose again. ‘I dob’t know. It won’t stop.’
I thought frantically of all the remedies I’d ever read for nosebleeds. Pressing hard against the bridge of the nose. Ice. Yes, that might work. ‘I’ll get some ice,’ I said.
He shook his head, lowering the towel again. ‘This happened once before. It didn’t stop that time, either, until they cauterised it at hospital. This has been going on for a good half hour.’ The blood was flowing freely again by then.
I panicked a bit; well, who wouldn’t at the sight of all that blood? How many pints could someone lose before they collapsed? I grabbed some clothes, helped Elliot to get dressed - we spread a bit of it around doing that - and then led him downstairs. That had been when we scared Billy away, with all the noise and trying not to get blood everywhere.
Arriving at the hospital had been weird. At first they’d assumed we’d had a fight. I’d had some funny looks from the staff even after we’d both explained what had happened, several times. They’d tried a few techniques to stop the bleeding before eventually calling in an ear, nose and throat specialist. Finally, around six-thirty, they’d managed to stop it, although they wanted to keep him there under observation for a couple more hours in case it started off again.
I finished cleaning the bathroom and began wiping the stair rail. As soon as he called, I’d go back to pick him up. He could have a quiet day watching TV while I got ready for the party. It would be great to see all our old friends again and catch up. The story of our disrupted night would surely be told a few times, probably getting more exaggerated on each re-telling. Not exactly an ice-breaker, I mused. More of a blood-gusher.
I found the poem I was thinking of when I wrote a little blood - like love - goes a long, long way.