The Misadventures of Isabel Instance: I

Isabel Instance sits in the driver’s seat of her badly parked van, watching passers-by on Trumpington Street. It’s warm, too warm for March: sticky and airless. A day of unexpected sweat and unprovoked aggression. The pavement is narrow and the people mostly fretful, refusing to give way graciously. Not that the tourists or the students notice. They bump along chattering carelessly to one another, leaving dons and pensioners like affronted statues in their wake. Isabel reflects ruefully that she feels more sympathy for the statues than for the youth flowing heedless around them. She really must be getting old.

Aelfric Fouracre is late as usual. She has waited for Aelfric far too often for any one lifetime – not that this is a concept he can ever really understand, given how little time means to him. Lifetime even less. She yawns, stretches. Alongside the van a sweaty man in a cap emerges from the newsagent, picking suspiciously at a plastic-wrapped samosa. On the other side of the road a bent-backed old lady dodders phlegmatically into the Fitzwilliam, as if intending to declare herself an exhibit. Isabel wonders what Ael is up to this time. He won’t tell her, of course. He’ll do what he always does: leap into the van with an aura of mystery and hiss, “Drive!” It would be more impressive if he were more athletic, or the van less geriatric. He has never explained the need for haste, and she doesn’t ask. He’s probably only trying to seem dashing; it doesn’t seem fair to force him to admit as much.

She yawns again, settles lower in her seat. There’s no sign of a traffic warden either, so things aren’t all bad. She reaches out and adjusts the rearview mirror so that she can see herself, and examines the picture critically. Her Gothic years are behind her, but they’ve retreated slowly, like the tide, and left flotsam. She still dyes her hair red, and she still hasn’t grown out of applying black make-up like warpaint. Her fingernails are black, too, as are nearly all her clothes. Quite a lot of flotsam, then, all things considered. Too late to change now, probably. She’ll just become one of those wrinkled old ladies with heavy eyeliner who make young men in shops feel nervous. Ah well. She’s always been good at making men feel nervous. No reason to stop now.

Her pleasant fantasy of irascible elderly eccentricity is interrupted by Ael throwing open the passenger door. He clambers in pretty nimbly for a dead man. “Drive!” he says hoarsely.

“Yes, dear,” Isabel says dutifully. She noses the van out into the stream of cyclists, and attempts without success to pick up speed. It is a good job that Ael has never yet been chased from one of these mysterious assignations. Even if she were to stand on the accelerator with her whole weight, any hot-footed villain worth his salt would have ample time to jog alongside and pepper the cab with bullets. Displeasing to think that Ael would be unharmed, and she alone would pay the price of whatever trouble he’d got himself into. She won’t die in front of Ael, she promises herself, attempting and failing to overtake a dopey-looking boy on a bike. Ael’s face is pleasant enough, but it won’t be the first face her ghost sees. On that she is quite decided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Will le Fleming is a novelist. His debut, Central Reservation, is published by Xelsion and available now. Read more...

On a grey Thursday morning Holly lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wished her sister would die. Five hours later her wish came true. Read more...

About this blog
The first post explains all - find it here.