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Out with the Old

There to confront her as she entered the house was the familiar chintz-style paper. Its former lustre had faded over the years, edges breaking free from the hardened glue which had yellowed to a deep antique-gold. Kara let the door close behind her with a soft click; this wasn't going to be as easy as she had thought.
She pinched at a corner of paper and slowly peeled it away from the wall. The glue's hold on the wallpaper had long since gone and it came away with ease. Her nails scratched for further loose ends, ripping through the drooping carnations with an eager hunger, exposing the arsenic yellow paintwork beneath. A thin smile of satisfaction played across her face as the thin strips fell discarded to the flecked terrazzo floor.
Walking up the stairs, her heels dug into the wooden treads and her fingers stretched, stroking the banister's warm length. Her lips twisted into a thin smile. The house had been neglected for quite some time, wasted on someone who was merely marking time, but now, with the previous owner safely out of the way, it was finally about to realise its true potential.

Kara continued to paint the hallway while loosely gripping the mobile phone with her spare hand. She was amazed by the transformation she'd already made. She was starting to lose herself to the rhythm of the brush as the loaded tip swept steadily up and down, trailing a line of pure white over the surface of the wall. In the background she could faintly hear the tinny drone of Mark's voice.
"Gran feels that you pressurised her over the move to Clarenbridge. Apparently you fed her some scare stories about old women living alone and," he paused. "Are you even listening?"
"Uh-huh," Kara murmured, standing back briefly to admire her work.
"It seems nice there, more like a decent hotel than an old people's home, but Gran really misses the house, mainly the reminders of Granddad. I think she'd be better off if she moved back - and you'd be there now to look after her."
The paintbrush fell as she clenched the phone tightly with both hands. "She can't come back." Kara struggled to keep the rising panic from her voice. Get a grip she told herself. Don't blow it now.
"Mark, sweetheart, your Grandmother's been ill for a long time. You weren't the one who found her slumped in her armchair, smiling vacantly at the TV, as dribble ran down her face." She paused deliberately for effect. "And those moleskin slippers I bought her last Christmas, well let's just say that you don't want to know what they were covered in." Kara managed to force out a plausible half sob.
"Why didn't you tell me that sooner?" Her son's voice was edged with sympathy. "I'll talk to gran, see if I can convince her that it's for the best."
Kara's grip relaxed. "Thanks for being so understanding, darling." She was on the verge of smiling in relief until she noticed the thick gobbet of paint spattered over her newly scrubbed floor.

It was almost midday; sunlight bled through the sheer voile which adorned the bedroom window. Ignoring the weariness she felt, Kara hurried out of bed and pulled on yesterday's crumpled heap of clothes. Why hadn't the damn alarm gone off? There was so much left to do and she wouldn't be able to start until she'd got some more paint. The walls in this house just sucked the colour right in and she never quite achieved the Brilliant White that was promised on the tin.
Grabbing hold of her car keys, she swept out of the room and started down the stairs. She was halfway down when she noticed it. Kara leant back against the wall for support. The keys dug into her palm as her hands tightened and clenched.
She wandered down the remaining steps to stand directly before the wall that she'd finished painting only the night before. Tentatively, she reached out with both hands and pressed them hard against the surface, no longer trusting her mind to her eyes. Her touch met with the dry warmth of paper, not the cool surface texture of paint that she was hoping for.
Kara tore at the paper with her nails. She'd have this paper ripped to shreds and burnt to a cinder before the day was over. Tears of anger and frustration rolled down her face as she searched blindly for a weak spot where she could claw her way in.
Deep, bitter lines pulled at the corners of her mouth as she twisted the ring off her finger; it was the only thing left of any worth after over 20 years of marriage. It fell discarded onto the floor and circled round before settling next to an empty wine bottle. Kara tried to pull her wasted body up, but she managed only a few inches before slumping back down, exhausted.
She was propped up by the foot of the staircase where she stared vacantly at the newly whitewashed wall. The faint crackling of the fire could be heard from the front room and a reddish glow from the open door cast odd, capering shadows across the bare room.
Kara's stomach churned over with hunger from not eating all day and the tension in her head grew. Her eyes remained wide open focusing on her work ahead. The wall was a masterpiece - a perfect blank canvas for her to start over, make her own mark. A fat droplet of dribble gathered at the corner of her mouth; it welled up before oozing down her chin and falling onto the front of her paint spattered T-shirt.
"No blinking, Kara. No blinking". She repeated this over to herself. If she lost concentration, even briefly, the paper would have a chance to come back and Kara couldn't allow that to happen. She grinned at the thought of the tired old paper burning away. Her mother had been reluctant to change a single thing since her father had died, but now the house ... it belonged to her.

Submitted by Copyright © 2003 Marie Johnstone (), SheerHorror

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