Friday, 11 January 2013

The next day (part 2)

Delta reappeared wearing a smart, black, knee-length dress with a white cardigan thrown over the top. She'd plonked an alice-band on top of her hair, which was down around her shoulders. In her arms she carried a multi-coloured folder bulging with pages.

“I'll be back before lunch,” she called to Oscar. “Make yourself at home.” And with that, she stuck her feet into a pair of flip-flops that were conveniently by the door, and left.

Oscar sat for a while, not moving, not thinking. Then he got up to make himself some coffee. On his way to the coffee machine, he caught sight of his reflection in one of the windows (the one that was showing a dark street in the snow) and saw that he still had the blindfold on his head. He pulled it off and tossed it onto the sofa.

Initially Oscar was disappointed to see the limited choices he was presented with on the screen on the front of the machine: tea, coffee, chocolate, fruit, other. Oh well, he thought, better a generic cup of coffee than nothing at all. He touched 'coffee'. The other words faded out and the word 'coffee' moved to the top of the screen. Then an array of further choices animated their way onto the screen. He could choose not only the type of drink he wanted – espresso, americano, latte, cappuccino, etc. – but also the country of origin of the beans, how he wanted the beans to have been roasted, whether he wanted syrup, how much milk or sugar he wanted, the temperature he wanted the water to be heated to. The only button missing was whether he wanted a biscuit for dipping. At the bottom there was a star and the word 'favourites'. He touched this to see what Delta had programmed in. 'Skinny latte with a shot of caramel' was the only option. He winced: that would be far too sweet! He pressed back and opted for a double-shot black americano made with heavy roasted beans from Guatemala. That would wake him up.

As he sipped his drink, he wandered about the room. He was intrigued but cautious. He didn't know when Delta would be back, only that it would be before lunch, and he didn't want to be caught nosing around her belongings.

He scanned the bookshelves. There were titles he recognised, like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and some he didn't, like Wooing the White School, Ready for Red School and Yearning for Yellow School. Delta had mentioned something about colours and schools; these books must be related to that.

In the corner was a very old-looking mahogany desk, with shiny handles on the drawers and a leather top. A computer keyboard was on the desk; behind it sat a computer screen. Oscar peered at it: the screen, with its mahogany frame, looked as though it were part of the desk. He reached out and touched the top of it. The screen started to move: it sank down into the desk and a lid fit itself onto the slot it had disappeared through, completely hiding it from view. Now there was just a keyboard looking out of place on an antique desk.

This desk was the only clear surface. The coffee table, windowsills, bookshelves and the other desk all had an assortment of items scattered over them haphazardly: the tablet PC and the mp3 player Oscar had spotted earlier, a few books, coasters, magazines, printouts of webpages, a few ornaments. The place certainly looked 'lived in'.

On the opposite wall from the door out of the apartment were two windows. One showed the dark, snowy street Oscar had seen his reflection in; the other a bright, cool day in a large, green park. Oscar moved closer to the latter. He judged it to be mid-morning by the height of the sun in the sky. The grassy lawn was about three storeys below the window, with a path close to the building. There were a few people walking along paths which led from one side to the other, round a pond and over to the play area with no children in it. A man sat on a bench under a tree reading a book. He was wearing a scarf and hat and gloves so it must have been cold out there.

Through the other window, the Victorian Christmas-card-like scene looked to be only one floor below, which made Oscar feel a little disorientated. He knew to trust the other window because he knew it was mid-morning and not the middle of the night, but this view did look very real. He considered opening the window to see what would happen, but he didn't want to risk getting snow inside.

His coffee and tour of the room complete, Oscar sat down once again on his sofa-cum-bed. He set his mug on the coffee table in front of him, on a spare coaster between a DVD case and a puzzle book. He checked his phone: no messages, emails or missed calls. He wondered what to do with his freedom. Having a shower and changing into clean clothes might be a good start, he said to himself. Having just returned from a trip abroad, he fortunately had a suitcase full of clothes and toiletries to hand. Being a very organised person, he was fortunate enough to have a spare change of clean clothes as he always packed extra just in case. Just in case of what? he'd sometimes asked himself. Just in case of kidnapping by young woman and imprisonment in luxury apartment. He smiled to himself: this certainly was a situation he hadn't banked on getting into.

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