On the weekend I entered my first creative writing competition! Furious Fiction is hosted by the Australian Writers Centre and the rules are simple. The story must be called The Elephant In The Room, be 500 words long and contain the words: key, emerged, busted. And the final four words must be: The clock struck four. So here’s my story! Would love you to leave a comment.
“Where is it?” she muttered, tossing clothes haphazardly out of the suitcase.
She turned and pushed past her husband. He sighed and surveyed the bedroom chaos.
“When was the last time you saw it?” he asked. Weary. It was late.
“Bloody hell, James, I don’t remember! Last night? I don’t KNOW!”
Down the hall, a door creaked and a tousled blond head appeared, thumb tucked in her mouth.
“What are you doing up?” James scooped up the toddler.
“Can’t sleep,” she said, dried tears on her face.
“No thumb. You’re a big girl now,” he said, pulling her thumb out. Swollen eyelids and the glistening trail of snot the tell-tale signs of harrowing sobbing.
“Come on, let’s get you back to bed,” She shook her head and popped her thumb back in her mouth.
“Too scary,” she said.
James was exhausted. It had been a slow drive home from their beachside holiday and it was almost midnight.
Janine had barely spoken to him. She seemed to be permanently pissed off lately. The getaway had been an impromptu decision, a failed attempt to reconnect.
“Come on, bedtime,” he said to his daughter.
Sounds of the desperate search floated down the hallway. He tucked Melanie into bed and tiptoed to the door. She started to cry, the clock chimed 12. Sigh.
James made a decision. “OK, let’s go.”
He picked Melanie up and strode to the garage. Ignoring Janine, James strapped Melanie into her car seat and reversed onto the street.
By 2am he was back in Noosa.
“We checked out of Room 303 today. Is anyone there now?” he asked the receptionist while he held Melanie, perched on his hip.
“I need to get into that room.”
“Um, I can’t do that.” The girl was maybe 22.
“Look, it’s really important, I’ll just be a minute,” he pleaded.
“The room has been cleaned,” she said, looking at her computer. “Oh, actually, it’s being done now.” She looked at James, exhaustion etched into his face.
“OK,” she said. “I’ll take you up.”
Cleaners’ carts cluttered the hallway. At Room 303 James pushed past the receptionist and surveyed a spotless room. A cleaner emerged from the bathroom.
“Did you find anything here?” James demanded.
“Oh, yes, I did,” she nodded. She walked to her cart and James followed.
“Was there an elephant in the room?”
“Yes,” she offered a tattered Babar the Elephant.
Melanie squealed. “Babaaaar!”
James sighed with relief. Melanie slept all the way home, clutching Babar. James called Janine but got her voicemail.
It was almost 4am when they arrived home. The mess had been tidied, calm had been restored.
In the kitchen, James found a note. A lone earring was beside it on the table. The ticking clock became deafening.
It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Our marriage is over. This earring belongs to your mistress. I found it in our bed weeks ago. Busted.
The clock struck four.