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The Breakup - Short Story by J.M. Triangle

In July, Elizabeth packed a red suitcase with all the requirements for a weekend away, shut the door on her apartment and walked to the outside of the building. A woman carrying a bouquet of lilies passed her on the steps. Richard loved lilies, he told her that when they first met at the beginning of spring. Almost everything had been wonderful since then.

What a delight it had been when he told her he was bringing her away on a romantic weekend. Elizabeth had batted her eyelashes and told him how wonderful it would be to take a holiday.

She did not tell him that work had been such a drat—that the manager had begun to look at her in the same mistrustful way that the old manager had done—before he went missing.

Richard’s black car pulled up next to her. The passenger’s side window rolled down, “you ready to get going?”

She ambled over to the car, the suitcase’s wheels bumbled along behind her. “Where do you want me to put this?”

“Isn’t that what I’m supposed to say?” he grinned. “Put it in the boot, it’s open.”

She heaved it in and got into the passenger’s side.

“You look nice,” he said, eying her bottle-green dress which rode above the knee when Elizabeth sat down.

“So do you,” she said, but her voice was drowned out by the roar of the engine as he drove away from the building, leaving a pile of dust in the place where Elizabeth had waited minutes’ before.

* * *

It was a three-hour drive to reach their destination: a guesthouse high on a cliff that overlooked a long beach.

“Doesn’t look too promising from here does it?” Richard said when he pulled up outside the guesthouse.

Elizabeth’s eyes roved over the sight before her. The front of the guesthouse had been painted in squares of gold and green. The glass on the front door had been replaced with a sheet of wood which had several small holes in it. Although the window frames had glass, they were so covered in cobwebs that one could only hope the spiders paid rent. All of the flowers, whether in window boxes or the ones that had been planted in the yellow grass in front of the guesthouse, were dead.

“Maybe it’s nicer inside,” Elizabeth said with a smile.

“It really looks nothing like the picture, I wonder did I miss a turn,” Richard said, craning his neck.

“You said it was called the Clifftop Paradise?”

“Yeah,” Richard took the sheet from the dashboard and scanned through it, “yeah, Clifftop Paradise.”

“There’s hardly likely to be another one is there?” A frown line appeared on Elizabeth’s forehead as she asked, “what about that big place we passed before we took the turning.”

“The Hotel?” Richard looked behind him, even though the hotel was well out of eyesight, “nah it couldn’t be, it says here guesthouse.”

“Maybe it’s after shutting down?”

“Not since I spoke to the manager yesterday.”

Elizabeth bit her manicured nail then dropped her hand when a chip of red nail-varnish fell onto her dress. “Could I look at the page please dear?”

Richard handed it to her.

The picture at the top of the page showed the building before them painted cream, flowers in bloom, a front door with glass, and not a hint of a spider web. “It’s the same place alright,” Elizabeth said.

“Alright.” Richard got out of the car and stretched. “Let’s go and see what’s the story and if it’s awful inside we can always go to the other hotel we passed.”

“Okay dear.” Elizabeth got out of the car and took the hand Richard proffered.

* * *

Richard turned the front door’s handle and they walked into the guest house’s windowless lobby. All of the doors that led to the secret parts of the house were closed, and the only natural light came in from the small holes on the board that covered the front door. To the immediate left, stood a battered-reception desk with a lamp on the top—the light it gave was filtered through a red-fringed shade; beside the lamp, there was a little bell with a sign saying If unattended please ring bell. Richard pounded his hand on top of it and a buzzer rang, this was followed by the thump of a door and slow footsteps.

A moment later, the door closest to the stairs opened and an old man with a monk’s haircut and a stooped back, shuffled out. He smiled, showing his three grey teeth. When he reached the reception desk, he opened a skin-coloured ledger and said in the tone of a creaky door opening: “yessssssss.”

“We’ve a booking,” Richard said, “under the name Wilson.”

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