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Inside Out (Short story)

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Aurelia peered up at the latticed windows, the low afternoon sun bounced off their glass giving the illusion of blinking eyes. Valiantly, she resisted the urge to jump up and down on the spot, conscious of the taxi driver's eyes which, on the ride over, had flitted repeatedly to the rear-view mirror for glimpses of her cleavage. Wishing she'd worn jeans and not the summer dress which her eighteen year old daughter, Amy, had assured her she looked lovely in, Aurelia turned the key in the lock of the heavy oak door. Stiff hinges groaned as she forced the door open. The old wood scraped across the bare floorboards and pushed aside a veritable pile of newspapers, junk mail, and envelopes, of which Aurelia doubted any were even addressed to her. The wide hallway caused Aurelia's heart to swell. With its high ceiling and deep skirting-boards it reminded Aurelia of an old house she had once visited as a child with her grandmother when the latter worked as a cleaner. 

Aurelia gestured for the taxi driver, who was dithering at the doorway, to place his burden on to the hall floor. She dropped some coins into his outstretched hand and shut the door behind him, rummaging in her handbag for her mobile phone as it began to ring.  

Cathy!' she squawked into the receiver. 'I can't believe I finally have my very own house! All those years spent saving have finally paid off. No more dodgy landlords and best of all, no more Colin.'  

Aurelia hugged herself inside. Sure the new house was in a diabolical state but at least she wouldn't have to tweeze Colin's stray toenail clippings from the soles of her feet every time she took a shower.  

'Do you know what Colin said when I left this morning?' Aurelia didn't wait for Cathy to respond. 'He told me to make sure the cat had water in her bowl and asked if I could put the rubbish out as I left!' She held the phone away from her ear momentarily as Cathy howled with laughter. 

'Did he even know you were leaving for good?' Cathy asked. 

Aurelia giggled. 'Probably not. He was my housemate for a decade but I doubt he ever saw me. Like, really saw me. I was just his cleaner, secretary, and the person who ejected his one night stands the morning after. I mean, he's ten years older than me, he's fifty next week. It's time he grew up. I don't think he bought Tiggy one tin of food since she was a kitten, the poor thing will probably starve to death now I've gone.' She suffered a sudden stab of guilt. 'You don't think I should've taken her, do you?' 

'He was always harping on Tiggy was his, not yours,' Cathy's voice pointed out. 

Aurelia sighed. 'That's burst my moving in bubble.' 

'Do you need help with anything? Shall I swing by your old place and collect Tiggy? Should I cat-nap her or ask Colin's permission?' 

Aurelia nodded before she realised Cathy couldn't actually see her. 'Yes to the help. The hallway walls are covered with hideous poo-brown coloured wallpaper which I can't wait to strip off.' She laughed. 'And the radiators are orange!' She thought about Tiggy's stripy fur and how soft it was when she wove around Aurelia's legs. 'And get the stupid cat or her meows will fall on deaf ears.' 

'The only sound that bloke will ever hear,' replied Cathy tightly, 'is that of his own voice, the self-centred bastard.' 

Aurelia didn't want to embarrass her best friend by admitting she knew about Cathy and Colin's night of passion, it had only occurred in the singular because of Colin's major commitment-phobia. 

'I'm off work tomorrow afternoon,' continued Cathy, 'I'll pop over then and give you a hand. My mobile's out of credit so I'll have to email you if I can't make it. You already had the internet set up there, didn't you?' 

Aurelia laughed. 'Duh! Of course I did. You know me, can't go a day without my social networking! The only thing which doesn't work is the heating, the gas company's turned on the gas supply but the radiators just won't work so they're sending someone to look at them in a few days.' 

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