Category Archives: The Grip

The Story He Left Behind

The room was small but clean. The carpet was thick under foot and the smell of various cleaning products filled the air. Sally had never lived on her own before so to her it was the smell of progress. It was the smell of a new life. She hadn’t met her new room mate yet but the student housing officer assured her they would be joining her the following day.

‘I wonder what she’s like?’ thought Sally to herself. ‘If we have to share this room then I hope we get along.’

Her phone jingled in her pocket. She pulled it out and on the screen was the smiling face of her long time boyfriend Brad. She opened his message and smiled warmly.

I HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT FIRST DAY.

Where Sally had come to Filton University to study English Literature, Brad had gone to art college in the city.

“It’s only a bus ride away,” he had said. Nothing had to change between them.

She smiled as she began to type a message back. As she looked at her new surroundings a panel on the wall caught her eye. It was a lighter shade than the others. She put the phone back inside her pocket with her message unfinished.

She gave a tug and the panel clicked. She pulled it away. A few of the previous occupants of the room had stored miscellaneous items in there. Most of them were student treasures like packets of condoms and empty beer bottles but someone had stored a pen drive. It was a simple, silver device that gave no indication of the information it contained.

She removed the drive, leaving the other items behind.

‘I wonder who this belongs to?’ she mused.

She figured it would be old assignments that were no longer needed but she wanted to check and make sure. There could be photos on it. Some people were quite sentimental about those kinds of things. They may appreciate them back.

Forgetting the message she had started to Brad she pulled her lap top from the red back pack she had dropped on the bed she was claiming as her own. She plugged the drive in. She patiently waited on the start up screen to finish loading. Her desk top flashed with a picture of her and Brad’s smiling faces on a recent visit to the beach. Brad’s round nose and cheeks were red from the sun. Sally’s smile was warm and wide.

She opened the drive folder. There was only one file. It was a video file. Sally’s first reaction was to just delete it. The room had been unoccupied all summer. If someone really wanted it back they would have come to retrieve it by then. She couldn’t delete the file though. If curiosity killed the cat it certainly wreaked havoc with the human. She clicked on the video. The video player opened.

A young man of similar age to Sally appeared on screen. His greasy black hair had fallen in front of his eyes and he was smiling shyly.

“Say cheese!” another male voice teased from behind the camera.

The dark haired boy raised his grey eyes to the camera and his smile widened. The camera turned and the owner looked directly into the lens. He had a longer, slimmer face. His hair was fair and a growth of stubble had gathered on his chin.

“He’s a shy one,” he said and gave an over exaggerated smile.

The camera leapt as it was set down facing a bed. The room was bare. It was one of the university residence rooms but not the same one Sally stood in. She was going switch it off but then the two young men fell onto the bed together. Sally giggled. The dark haired student rolled onto his back. The fair haired one -the more confident of the two – stroked his face. He leaned over and kissed him. The dark haired one pulled him closer and his hands ran up the faired haired young man’s back, pushing the mustard coloured tee shirt he wore up.

“Oh dear!” Sally exclaimed with another giggle. She reached over to the computer to switch the video off before things between the two men went any further but the video cut to the dark haired student on his own. Sally would still have switched it off but for the horrified look on the young man’s face. He was crying. This time he was in the same room she stood in.

“My name is Dorian McElroy,” he said. His grey eyes stared directly at the camera without flinching. “I did a terrible thing,” he continued. “I don’t know who will see this or if anyone will but I have to tell someone or something…”

He sighed. His voice cracked. He cleared his throat.

“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I don’t know what I was thinking. Mum, if you are watching. I love you and I am sorry but I couldn’t take it any more.”

Some one came into the room. Dorian gave a quick glance behind him before switching off the camera.

Sally took a deep breath. What had began as an intimate moment had changed direction really quickly. Her heart stung for Dorian. He called out for his mother and this made Sally feel even more distraught for him. She wiped the tear that had formed in the corner of her eye.

***

“Dorian McElroy had your room last year,” the student housing officer explained.

Carol was a full figured woman who could barely fit on the swivel chair she sat upon.

“Sadly he took his own life,” she added in a more sombre tone. “You say you found belongings of his? I can have them sent to his mother,” she offered.

Sally thought about it. She thought of handing in the short video but she wanted to hold onto it a little longer.

“It was just some old notes. It’s nothing worth sending I don’t think,” Sally dismissed.

“Do you want to move rooms?” Carol asked. Her fingers poised over the keyboard of her desk top computer, ready to produce the necessary paperwork.

“No, it’s fine,” replied Sally.

She decided she wanted to get to know Dorian a little better. Staying in the room where he had lived, worked and died would bring him closer to her.

ed the air. Sally had never lived on her own before so to her it was the smell of progress. It was the smell of a new life. She hadn’t met her new room mate yet but the student housing officer assured her they would be joining her the following day.

‘I wonder what she’s like?’ thought Sally to herself. ‘If we have to share this room then I hope we get along.’

Her phone jingled in her pocket. She pulled it out and on the screen was the smiling face of her long time boyfriend Brad. She opened his message and smiled warmly.

I HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT FIRST DAY.

Where Sally had come to Filton University to study English Literature, Brad had gone to art college in the city.

“It’s only a bus ride away,” he had said. Nothing had to change between them.

She smiled as she began to type a message back. As she looked at her new surroundings a panel on the wall caught her eye. It was a lighter shade than the others. She put the phone back inside her pocket with her message unfinished.

She gave a tug and the panel clicked. She pulled it away. A few of the previous occupants of the room had stored miscellaneous items in there. Most of them were student treasures like packets of condoms and empty beer bottles but someone had stored a pen drive. It was a simple, silver device that gave no indication of the information it contained.

She removed the drive, leaving the other items behind.

‘I wonder who this belongs to?’ she mused.

She figured it would be old assignments that were no longer needed but she wanted to check and make sure. There could be photos on it. Some people were quite sentimental about those kinds of things. They may appreciate them back.

Forgetting the message she had started to Brad she pulled her lap top from the red back pack she had dropped on the bed she was claiming as her own. She plugged the drive in. She patiently waited on the start up screen to finish loading. Her desk top flashed with a picture of her and Brad’s smiling faces on a recent visit to the beach. Brad’s round nose and cheeks were red from the sun. Sally’s smile was warm and wide.

She opened the drive folder. There was only one file. It was a video file. Sally’s first reaction was to just delete it. The room had been unoccupied all summer. If someone really wanted it back they would have come to retrieve it by then. She couldn’t delete the file though. If curiosity killed the cat it certainly wreaked havoc with the human. She clicked on the video. The video player opened.

A young man of similar age to Sally appeared on screen. His greasy black hair had fallen in front of his eyes and he was smiling shyly.

“Say cheese!” another male voice teased from behind the camera.

The dark haired boy raised his grey eyes to the camera and his smile widened. The camera turned and the owner looked directly into the lens. He had a longer, slimmer face. His hair was fair and a growth of stubble had gathered on his chin.

“He’s a shy one,” he said and gave an over exaggerated smile.

The camera leapt as it was set down facing a bed. The room was bare. It was one of the university residence rooms but not the same one Sally stood in. She was going switch it off but then the two young men fell onto the bed together. Sally giggled. The dark haired student rolled onto his back. The fair haired one -the more confident of the two – stroked his face. He leaned over and kissed him. The dark haired one pulled him closer and his hands ran up the faired haired young man’s back, pushing the mustard coloured tee shirt he wore up.

“Oh dear!” Sally exclaimed with another giggle. She reached over to the computer to switch the video off before things between the two men went any further but the video cut to the dark haired student on his own. Sally would still have switched it off but for the horrified look on the young man’s face. He was crying. This time he was in the same room she stood in.

“My name is Dorian McElroy,” he said. His grey eyes stared directly at the camera without flinching. “I did a terrible thing,” he continued. “I don’t know who will see this or if anyone will but I have to tell someone or something…”

He sighed. His voice cracked. He cleared his throat.

“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I don’t know what I was thinking. Mum, if you are watching. I love you and I am sorry but I couldn’t take it any more.”

Some one came into the room. Dorian gave a quick glance behind him before switching off the camera.

Sally took a deep breath. What had began as an intimate moment had changed direction really quickly. Her heart stung for Dorian. He called out for his mother and this made Sally feel even more distraught for him. She wiped the tear that had formed in the corner of her eye.

***

“Dorian McElroy had your room last year,” the student housing officer explained.

Carol was a full figured woman who could barely fit on the swivel chair she sat upon.

“Sadly he took his own life,” she added in a more sombre tone. “You say you found belongings of his? I can have them sent to his mother,” she offered.

Sally thought about it. She thought of handing in the short video but she wanted to hold onto it a little longer.

“It was just some old notes. It’s nothing worth sending I don’t think,” Sally dismissed.

“Do you want to move rooms?” Carol asked. Her fingers poised over the keyboard of her desk top computer, ready to produce the necessary paperwork.

“No, it’s fine,” replied Sally.

She decided she wanted to get to know Dorian a little better. Staying in the room where he had lived, worked and died would bring him closer to her.

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Return to Sender

Jessica unlocked the front door. Nerves began to flutter in her stomach. She had been seeing Tom for a few weeks now but she hadn’t dated since Walter left so she wasn’t sure of the etiquette. She turned to him. They had had a lovely meal in the city. Tom had left his car at her home and they had taken the train. He didn’t drink but she had had a glass of wine with dinner. Now standing at her front door Tom looked more unsure than she did.

“Would you like to come in?” she asked.

Tom was a middle aged widower with a strong chin and warm eyes. They were members of the same book club. Jessica’s friend, Tina, had encouraged her when Tom asked her to coffee.

She opened the door and they both entered the little suburban home that was nothing special but Jessica kept beautifully. They had to step over a pile of mail.

“Take a seat,” said Jessica as she retrieved the letters. “Would you like some tea?”

Tom nodded in agreement and wandered cautiously towards the living room.

There was a small television. Jessica was more of a reader so she had never upgraded to an up to date model. Tom smiled to himself thinking how very like her it was.

He sat on the sofa that didn’t seem to have been used too much leaving the arm chair under the lamp alone. It was clearly Jessica’s favourite.

After setting the kettle to boil she followed him. She was still clutching the letters in her hand. Tom watched her. He sat with the same straight backed pose he would adopt in the doctor’s office.

Jessica’s eyes widened. She was staring at a simple white envelope. She recognised the handwriting immediately. The bold script hit her heart sharper than a knife.

“Is something wrong?” Tom asked. His concern was genuine. The colour had drained from her so quickly and so completely she looked ill.

Hair had fallen in front of her face. She didn’t push the strands back. She just continued to stare at the letter. Several post marks had been stamped across it. It had circled the city several times before finally reaching its rightful destination. The messy but determined hand writing had probably confused the post service.

“Do you want me to leave?” asked her date sensitively. Tom’s voice sounded like a faint echo in her ears. It brought her to her senses.

“This letter is from my son,” she explained. She couldn’t bring herself to open it.

Tom had heard mention of Jessica’s son. His name was Dorian and such an unusual name stuck in his mind. He knew Jessica didn’t see him any more but he had never pressed her as to why. A photo sat on the mantle showed Jessica proudly holding tightly onto a boy in his late teens with ink black hair and a lip piercing. He was smiling too but there was an air of melancholy about him. Some may call it a poets spirit.

“He’s dead,” she blurted out. Her voice danced sadly on the edge of a sob.

“He died?” Tom had to clarify.

Jessica gathered herself, still keeping the letter between her fingers, unopened.

“He took his own life. A few months back.”

Tom sat forward. “I’m so sorry to hear that Jess.”

“He sent this letter before he died. It’s been lost in the post all this time.”

It was like Dorian to send a hand written note. He always thought emails were so impersonal.

With courage Jessica peeled open the letter. Her heart fluttered again when she saw Dorian’s scrawl fill the page. And so she began to read the last thing Dorian had ever thought to say to her.

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