Karen Taylor. The names repeats like a broken record in my head over numerous days, lost of meaning. Is it someone I’ve met? Or a name dredged from my own subconscious? I dream of her running along a beach, smiling over her shoulder as I call her name, hair falling down over her green eyes. The dream becomes real as I lie awake in bed and hold the image in my mind. Could she be someone I’ve seen around college? A distant smile, that soft chin and strong cheek bones. Karen is approachable though, the innocent eyes and the camisole top that leaves the milky skin around her collar bones bare.
Karen Taylor. She fills my thoughts, pulling me from reality to feed my curiosity. One night we stand together in my parent’s kitchen. The room is bigger and the ornaments all gone, along with my memories. My hair is long, the fringe falling over my eyes and I duck down through the doors of the house.
Karen Taylor. She’s from Leeds, like Mark’s girlfriend, though there’s no accent. She studies journalism at UCL and spends her Sundays working at a café where she serves me latte and cinnamon buns. I tell her about my week and how we‘ll move away together. She stares into my eyes when I talk, wide open in expectation. She has a one bedroom flat in Finsbury Park where she cooks us ravioli for dinner and I sit on the sofa stroking her cat and watch Saturday night TV. On the book shelf sits Coetzee, McCarthy, Carver and in the CD player John Coltrane warms up his saxophone. We eat at the kitchen table and spend the evening on the sofa with my hand playing with the baby hair near her neck.
Karen Taylor. I run home from work to find her sat on the steps, out of the rain and we go inside and spend the weekend never out of reach. My parents want to visit, or go to a nice restaurant. I tell them I have a new girlfriend and they ask to see her, but I tell them it’s too soon. As long as you’re happy they say.
Karen Taylor. Karen Taylor. Karen Taylor. I can’t stop saying her name as I talk to Mark outside the bakery, on my way to get a loaf for our morning toast. He wants to know where I’ve been. I repeat that name and he says it’s the same as that girl who disappeared five years ago. She was officially pronounced her dead last month. But she can’t be dead, I saw her this morning. She hasn’t disappeared, she’s with me. I don’t leave the house for days, the phone rings and I leave it off the hook.
Karen Taylor. Her parents live in Cambridge, eight pounds on the train. I go up to the front door and a couple of dead wreaths, now dried up husks, lie inside the porch. A tall woman with flat hair answers the door in a robe. I tell her I knew Karen, that we were lovers. She lets me in and makes us tea and I picture Karen playing in this house as a child. The piano where she learnt to play twinkle twinkle little star. On the sofa he mother asks me about my time with her. What we did, where we went. Her smile strains as I tell her about our picnics by the lake and evenings playing chequers. She offers to show me Karen’s photo albums, but I say I must be going. You must come to the funeral she says. I nod my head and leave.
Karen Taylor. Her memory is fading, but many things remind me of her. The smell of cinnamon, the wail of a trumpet, the carrot sticks she nibbled on. It feels as though something has come to an end.
Karen Taylor. I see the name on a billboard. She is an actress in a local theatre production. She is alive and multi talented. I buy tickets to the first night. That evening we are back together on my sofa.
James Turner experiments in short form fiction and has been published by Soliloquies, Molotov Cocktail, Short Story Flash Fiction Society, and ABC Tales, amongst others.
He occasionally posts at @jturner27 and bloodbonesbricks.wordpress.com.