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September 9th, Christine

Maurie’s dress was her mother’s with the seams loosened, but no one needed to know that apart from them. Ma had said that through gritted teeth the first time Maurie had tried it on. Maurie hadn’t mentioned the Coty stain on them, right above the chip. It was the same colour as the wine stain she’d gotten on the dress about an hour ago, and the blood stain she’d gotten on her new especially for the day knickers the moment she’d tried them on. (Ma wouldn’t let her wear tampons. Not until this day’s over, she’d said). It was the same red as the hotel room carpet and the cushions on the bed. Dan still hadn’t seen them, but Maurie knew he’d think they were hideous.

Hideous. She could’ve once attached that to the image she saw in the mirror, but Dan wouldn’t marry someone hideous, she now realised. The Grand Hotel was etched into the corner, and Maurie couldn’t help but think what a peculiar thing that was. So desperate they were to keep a frame of glass that they branded it with that pretending-to-be-fancy-but-really-cost-as-much-as-a-bottle-of-Champagne-a-night name. Or maybe it was petty. Petty, yes, she decided. For those who managed to steal it to hang on their wall, only to be reminded of the crime every day with copperplate lettering alone. Maurie couldn’t imagine wanting to steal a mirror as ugly as this one. To each their own, she supposed.

Dan still hadn’t come to their room. He was supposed to carry her over the threshold (or maybe that was just for their new house). They were supposed to be drinking wine and un-looping her dress buttons and doing the thing that Ma said would come next but hadn’t actually gone into detail about. Painful, she’d said. Not too painful, Maurie hoped. 

But he wasn’t here.

Maurie sat on the vanity’s chair. She straightened out her skirt and crossed her legs in the way Ma would never let her. Sed-uc-tive. She’d chew it out like tobacco because Ma had always hated tobacco and she hated being sed-uc-tive even more. But Dan would like it. Dan would know how to do the thing too, because Dan was twenty-three and Maurie was eighteen and you could learn a lot in five years. Maurie wondered what she would know in five years. Maybe how to do the thing. The wife thing. 

She smiled. Dan would like that very much, she was sure.

“There’s my beautiful wife.”

And there was Dan, standing in the doorway, arms stretched out. The key was still in the door, his tie was loosened, his hair was falling from its quiff - everything about him now was undone, pulled about and tired and rugged and a great number of other things that Maurie felt unladylike to say. So, instead, Maurie stood. Maurie walked to him. Maurie kissed him on his flushed cheek. 

“You were a long time.” Maurie said.

Dan pulled her closer by a cinched waist and a grasp of rough hands. 

“I was making the most of the bar.” His face stretched into a tilted grin, one that smelt of liquor and cigarettes and a perfume that Maurie didn’t recognise but knew wasn’t her own. He had a stain on his collar. Red like hotel cushions.

Her own smile tilted. Teetered on the edge of a million different ideas. But she hiked it back up like she had been with her dress all day.

“We should go to bed.”

Yes, Dan would like that, she knew. Maurie wouldn’t, in the end, but that didn’t matter. She was a wife now. It was what she was for.

November 31st, Louisa

Maurie and Dan had their honeymoon in Skegness. The B&B had pictures of boats on the wall. When they got in the Escort to drive home again, it smelt like Yves Saint Laurent. Maurie had never worn Yves Saint Laurent.

February 5th, Anne

Holden Caulfield wasn’t a very likeable character, but Maurie got the impression that that may have been the point. Or maybe it wasn’t. Maurie really didn’t understand literature.

A mature book for a mature young lady - that’s what Dan had said with that slanting smirk when he’d handed it over to her two days ago. He hadn’t made her a cake, hadn’t ordered one, because cakes were childish things and Maurie was certainly, certainly, certainly no longer a child. She was nineteen. She was a wife. Dan’s wife. The best person anyone could be a wife to because there were men and then there was Dan. Tall Dan, dark-haired Dan, charming Dan who had chosen Maurie over every other woman north of the divide.

Dan, who had given Maurie a book even though she didn’t like to read.

She read it anyway.

She bundled herself onto the settee, in fact, and stitched her eyes to words she didn’t care about on a page she cared about even less. She drank PG tips. She ate a Rich Tea. She ate another Rich Tea. She ate the entire packet of Rich Teas and realised that she’d been sitting for two hours and was only ten pages in. 

Maurie turned back to the front page instead. She’d already seen the chicken-scratch it was branded with, had done the minute Dan had given it to her, but she read it again. She read it over and over and over and over again. She read it more times than she’d read the rest of the book entirely.

This book belongs to Anne Lawson. If found please return to 32 Abbey Avenue, Burngreave, Sheffield.

Maurie caught the bell before the name could ring it. She crushed it to nothing but a ball of crunched, imaginary metal. She tore up the photo in her mind too - the one of pinned-up hair and a toothy smile and cheeks rosier than Maurie’s had ever been. And then, in a way that was actually real, she got up from the settee and pulled open the kitchen drawer. 

The Tipp-Ex hid behind a ball of rubber bands.

Anne Lawson’s name vanished behind a shakily painted strip of white glop.

Maurie smiled. She was getting rather good at this wife thing.

March 15th, Kelly-May

Maurie hadn’t seen a thing. Maurie had been too busy dusting brown sugar over her porridge to see a thing because brown sugar was the most distracting of the sugars and porridge was too interesting a texture to garner anything but her full, undivided attention.

It was steaming too, see? Little clouds of that foggy vapour rising up and up and up until they hit the popcorn ceiling. Too distracting. Too distracting for her to see anything. 

She didn’t see Dan come in through the back door behind her, she didn’t see him kiss Danny’s forehead from his high chair. She didn’t see the scratches on his neck, deep and fierce and red like hotel cushions.

June 21st, Caroline

The bin bags Dan kept in the garage were starting to smell in the heat. Maurie told him to get rid of them. He did.

July 19th, Betty

“I can’t believe we’re arguing over this.”

Maurie didn’t buy the expensive gin anymore, but she still wouldn’t buy the cheap stuff from down the offie. That just tasted like petrol that had once come in a contact with a juniper berry. The liquid she sipped on now was halfway between the two. Maurie often felt that way. Halfway between two things, one bad, one worse. She didn’t know what that meant. It was rather too poetic and Maurie didn’t understand literature. 

“I’m not arguing over anything, Dan,” she sucked the warmth through her lips, nails scratching the glass, “I didn’t even say anything.”

“I can’t help it that I had to work late, Maur.”

“Tell that to Danny, then. Tell him and Reenie why there was no one to pick them up from school.”

The gin tasted like the day she’d had. Bitter, but with a hint that maybe something sweeter might come, only to hit her with nothing but a burn in her throat and the weight of the afternoon on her forehead. She was scowling, she knew. She didn’t care.

“You’re drunk, Maur.”

“I don’t get drunk. I wouldn’t do that to the kids.”

“But I would?”

“Probably. I don’t really know you well enough for that.”

She watched in the corner of her eye, right through a crust of sleep dust, as Dan reached into the fridge. He pulled out a beer and Maurie wasn’t sober enough to ignore the bruise on his wrist. She wiped the sleep dust away. 

“I haven’t got the energy for this, Maur,” his lips popped on the edge of the Newkie Brown, “Sometimes, you’re more trouble than your worth.”

“I could say the same of you, Dan Addams.”

Maurie poured the gin into the sink. She snatched Dan’s bottle away from him and something in her, something deep, willed him to protest as she poured it away too. Something in her wished for a reaction. She could never just get a reaction.

“We should go to bed.” Maurie said.

And they did. And they slept. And then they woke up and something in Maurie, something deep, wished she hadn’t.

August 19th, Judy

Maurie found a shoe in the boot.

December 3rd, Dawn

A rope in the airing cupboard.

April 11th, Sue

A stain on the backseat. Red like hotel cushions.

May 19th, Nicole

“I’m good enough, aren’t I?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m a good wife. I satisfy you. I give you everything you need. I do everything right.”

“Yes, love.”

“I’m a good wife.”

“Yes, love.”

“I’m a good–”

“Go to sleep, Maurie.”

August 14th, Eve

September 1st, Merla and Thelma

“Hello and welcome to BBC News. Tonight we talk about the string of murders plaguing the city of Sheffield for the past five years, beginning with the disappearance of eighteen-year-old Christine Dawkins. Allison Grave, our correspondent, is on scene at the sight of the latest known victim, twenty-three-year-old Evelyn Johnson. Let’s head over there now.”

December 23rd, Lorna

June 17th, Lily

“Police? Is the police there? Is this the police? I need to talk to the police. I need to talk to the police now, please. This isn’t my fault. I’m a good wife and I didn’t see it and I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything,” she pressed Bakelite to her ear, she tapped her fingers on the buttons, “That’s what you need to understand. It’s why I didn’t do anything. Because I’m a good wife. But he’ll be home soon and now he knows I know and he knows I’m calling you and I’m a good wife, see, so that’s why I’m doing this. The address is 43, Clicksgate Road, Burngreave, Sheffield. It’ll take him an hour after he’s done it to get rid of me so you mustn’t be late. He’ll be in the living room. My children are upstairs. Please don’t wake them. And make sure they get a good home. Not with my Ma, she’s a stuck-up old bitch. Put them somewhere nice with fields and animals and trees. They’ll like that,” there was a splash by the road outside, a puddle being torn through by Escort wheels, and Maurie took a breath and clutched the phone tighter, “I can hear his car. He’ll use the hammer, probably. I put it on the table so it’d be what he’d reach for. It’ll be quick, I think. And then you’ll find me and you’ll find him and I’ll have been a good wife and I’ll have stopped him. I did try– I did try to stop him. Once. Maybe twice. I tried to be more of what he wanted. I tried to be a– A good wife. I am a good wife. Because this will get him to stop. This will get him to stop, won’t it? And I’ll still be a good wife. I’ll still be a good–”

Key in the door, tie loosened, hair falling from a greying quiff.

“Maurie? Who are you on the phone to?”

Maurie placed it back on the receiver. The mirror glared at her back. She hoped it might later remind him of the crime.

Dan glanced at the hammer. 

Yes, she smiled. She was getting quite good at this wife thing.

June 17th, Maurie

July 07, 2022 20:55

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9 comments

Janey El Napier
20:58 Jul 07, 2022

CW: vague sexual references, dark themes including death and murder, toxic relationship, insinuations of blood and violence, strong language, mild suicidal ideation Howdy readers! So, writers block hit me so hard that I’m sure I’ve got bruises. I don’t think I’ve written a short story since turning twenty nearly two months ago and I can only assume that its because I’m now practically a pensioner. I wasn’t actually going to write anything this week. The mixture of writers block and burnout had me clutching at straws when it came to ideas a...

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Amanda Lieser
00:27 Aug 14, 2022

Hi Elizabeth, Oh my! How I loved this story. My heart absolutely went out to your MCs in this story and I love how you chose to format this story. I also liked the repetition that you wove throughout this story. I would love to read a story about Maurie’s mother. I knew enough to know that the age difference could be a huge issue and I thought you addressed some big topics very eloquently in this piece. My husband and I have a five year age difference and I did get married at 19, so I hope it’s more a circumstance of not so stellar humans ma...

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Janey El Napier
19:22 Aug 14, 2022

Wow! Such lovely words! I wrote this a while ago now so it's nice to know people are still finding it and enjoying it. I'm also glad I was able to write something you connected to - marriage is at times quite a terrifying subject and certainly something I enjoyed delving into! I was 19 only a year ago and I can't imagine what it would've been like to marry at age so it was very interesting to delve into all the horrific worst-case-scenarios. Again, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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S. Thomson
22:52 Jul 21, 2022

So I came back after a long hiatus and thought I would check in to see if you had written any more stories. Imagine how I felt seeing this one! Great story, really inventive structuring and I loved the ending phone dialogue, it felt very natural. I also liked the use of colour in the first paragraph, and how it came back later on.

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Janey El Napier
10:38 Jul 22, 2022

You're back! I hope you're doing well :) and thanks for such a lovely comment! I wrote it after a hiatus of my own so really I was just chuffed to get anything out at all but I was pretty pleased with the end result and I'm glad people like it! Thanks again for your kind words :)

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Katy B
02:25 Jul 16, 2022

This story is absolutely amazing. Your story-telling is so descriptive and enjoyable. Even though I saw something about a serial killer in the comments, you did such a good job with the mystery that I was completely blindsided. The suspense is top-tier, the headings of dates and victims truly creative. I can't say enough good things about this story. The only critique would be that there isn't a November 31st, but I thought that might have been purposeful. Well done!

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Janey El Napier
12:40 Jul 16, 2022

I can't believe I've only just realised that November 31st isn't a real date! I was going a bit stir crazy writing this and trying to think of random dates for each instance and it was like I suddenly forgot every date that exists. Thanks for pointing that out (as much as I wish it was intentional it was sadly pure stupidity on my part lol!) and thank you SO MUCH for such a lovely comment! Though I try to have confidence in my own work, I still struggle with it a lot and nothing boosts my mood more than people saying they love my writing so ...

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Alex Sultan
07:04 Jul 10, 2022

Hey friend, I'm glad you posted another story. I thought this one was so good! Very, very clever - it took me a second, as intended I'd guess, for the names after the date to click. It's a lot of names. I really liked how you wrote it. The dialogue on the May 19th scene was great. I think this story works well with your writing style, too. The line: 'She’d chew it out like tobacco because Ma had always hated tobacco and she hated being sed-uc-tive even more. ' was my favourite. My favourite scene was the beginning, with how you introduced ...

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Janey El Napier
11:35 Jul 10, 2022

Thanks for another lovely comment! It really means a lot when people take the time to say that they liked my writing! I'm well, thanks, and I hope you are too! That's one of my favourite lines too, I think. As for the names, I think I've emptied my entire mental bank for female names and will probably never be able to come up with another original one ever again haha. I'm glad I got the 'something's wrong' vibe in the first section - it's hard to tell how much you're giving away when you already know everything that's going to happen! Glad...

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