Chelsea's Flower Show

Written by James McCann

 Photograph by   Meg Amey

Photograph by Meg Amey

1

Chelsea took the man back to her place. A lot of girls didn't like to do that, they preferred using a hotel, somewhere private but with other people close by, just in case something went wrong. Not that she thought anything ever would, and what was a client going to do that she wasn't going to be able to handle? Really, being close to other people only would have put her at risk.

It would be awful should someone interrupt her halfway through her work.

The clients came in all shapes and sizes, pardon the double entendre, and deep down she knew revenge was never going to be attainable, but on some very basic level what she was doing made her feel a lot better about herself, about her life. Anyway, after all this time, Chelsea had pretty much forgotten what she was trying to avenge, and who she was trying to make pay for it.

2

He followed her in, a weasel of a man with a balding head (the bright pink scalp, barely hidden by the wisps of hair, looked sore to the touch) and a paunch that was straining the buttons on the lower half of his shirt to near-breaking point. He had said this was the very first time he had done such a thing (Chelsea had known that was a lie), and that he had a wife (also a lie) that he loved very much. Some guys just liked to live the fantasy of being married and having an affair. It was no problem to her, not compared to some of the more eclectic fantasies she'd dealt with.

Chelsea kept the living room quite dark, the lights barely enough to just make out the silhouettes of bigger pieces of furniture in the room. From one’s peripheral vision, they looked like black construction paper on a midnight blue background.

It was the smell that caught his attention first. It was an overwhelming aroma of flowers, almost cloying. It was strong, perhaps too strong, the way a person might use up half a can of air freshener upon discovering the dog's had diarrhea all over the carpet. That's was the warning that every nerve in the little man was screaming at him. Something bad had happened here; too bad simply to wipe away. The type of bad that clings; lingers. The type that can never be ignored nor forgotten. If the man had been in any other situation, he would have made his excuses and fled...

'Please,' Chelsea said leading him by the hand. 'Take a seat and I'll get you something to drink.'

'Oh,' the man said, lowering himself cautiously onto the leather sofa, which creaked beneath his weight. 'Thank you.'

Chelsea was through the door into the kitchen before he had the chance to say “nothing alcoholic, please.”

3

From the corners of his eyes he began to see yellows and pinks and oranges bloom into focus. The room was filled with bouquets of flowers. It seemed as though every available flat surface had an arrangement on it, fragrant and beautiful (he guessed at the beautiful part, it was still too dark to see properly).

Being the curious little bee that he was and always had been (how often his mother had told him, “no”, and warned him that he was going to get himself into sooo much trouble one day?), he got up and, feeling his way and shuffling his feet, went over to the first bunch he found. Sat on a low table, the arrangement appeared to be in a domed vase. It was unique, he couldn't remember when he'd ever seen anything quite like it... although in the dimness the shape had some familiarity, he just couldn't place it.

Feet still shuffling, he moved about the room, going vase-to-vase, each one was shaped in that familiar dome. Unable to get his eyes to focus, he reached out his chubby little fingers and tried to get a better image like a blind man might. With a large domed top, the flower stems were placed in two, sharp-edged holes of the vase. The vase itself seemed to be propped up on something tilting  back, so that the holes were pointing up. Had the wedge not been under the front, then the holes would have been facing straight out, making the flowers look like cartoon eyes at the end of their stalks when a pretty girl walks by...

'Oh my.... the man whimpered into the darkness.

He knew then what the vases were. Why he had thought them familiar, but never would have considered them as a vase for flowers, and why would they, who else could be so sick?

'Did you say something?' Chelsea asked from the kitchen.

'No,' he replied, softly.

 

4

The kitchen was almost painful to see at first. Chelsea had the lights on, and every surface was white and pristine, clean and sterile. She was bent at the waist, looking into the fridge. He walked slowly behind her, hoping maybe she was just one of those - what were they called - Goth girls?, the ones who liked things shaped like tombstones and crosses and...

'Skulls,' he whispered.

 Over Chelsea's shoulder, he could see into the fridge. He knew that it was filled with the usual fair: milk and half a  tin of beans, all that stuff. But on three of the shelves, at varying stages of decomposition, were three human heads. Green and grey, an ear missing from one, the eyes having been plucked from another.

Chelsea stood up straight, and turned around. She had a large knife in her hand. She gave a little jump, but regained her composure quickly enough.

'Now you,' she began, pointing with the knife. 'I thought you were staying in there.'

'You...all those people...'

'Tell me, what's your favourite flower? I'll use it.'

Chelsea descended upon the little man, whose night did not end the way he was expecting it to.