Rebecca, on the hotel balcony, turns quickly, the legs of the plastic chair scratching across the floor. Since their first day in Tenerife, after seeing a rat slither up and out of the bin at the rear of the hotel, she is startled by any sudden movement. Paddling in the sea that morning, she’d winced at the shifting sand between her toes, at tiny fish bumping her shins, at a thread of seaweed wrapped around her ankle.
From the balcony, the sea makes a rushing sound like the motorway back home, three streets away.
Looking over her shoulder, David is on the bed, naked, spread-eagled, his body aimed at the spinning fan on the ceiling.
David had pointed at the rat as it fell out of the huge metal bin.
‘Look. It’s huge.’
And it was. It was only there for a moment, but Rebecca was left with the distinct impression of its fat body, long tail, skittering legs.
She held onto David, who laughed.
‘You know,’ he said, ‘at any one time, you’re never more than six feet from a rat.’
‘Is that true?’ she asked, scanning the floor.
Looking out across the coastline, she imagines a rat climbing the cream walls of the hotel.
For three days after the rat sighting, David had joked about it, making her jump. On the fourth night, when he told her there was a rat in the restaurant, next to her feet, she lost her temper.
‘Fuck off, David!’
Stood over him, the fan above shuffling, she imagines waking him to apologize, to talk to him about rats and how scared she is. The hairs on his chest, stomach, and groin, shiver beneath the fan. How can he lie there, naked, his penis limp against his thigh, and a rat only six feet away?
At the wedding, both David’s mother and father spoke to her, quietly.
‘He’s my boy,’ his mother said between sips of champagne. ‘You will make him happy won’t you?’
His father, also holding a flute of Champagne, said, ‘Look after my boy. Know what I mean? Keep him happy.’
She sits on the bed, ready to wake David and make things right. But in his sleep, his expression shifts. There is that smile, like a child’s, the one she’d seen when he’d joked about there being a rat nearby.
To both his mother and father, she’d said the same thing: ‘I love him. I’m going to do all I can to make him happy.’
She imagines a rat emerging from the dark space behind the headboard, climbing the bed, foraging in the folds of the sheets, and biting his penis.
Six days. She’s been a wife for six days.
About the Author: Adam writes in the Black Country, UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018, and the STORGY Flash Fiction Competition 2018. He was placed third in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been shortlisted twice for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2018. He's had, or soon will have, stories appear in various publications such as New Flash Fiction Review, Lost Balloon, MoonPark Review, Former Cactus, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Ghost Parachute, and many others. Website: adamlock.net. Twitter: @dazedcharacter.