She fell out the window. Face forwards. That’s what the man said. He looked up when he heard the scream. It was a strange, high-pitched scream, but it wasn’t the woman’s. It came from within the building. That’s what the man said. She fell silently, the colourful tattoos wrapped around her arms and across her pale back twisting as her naked body crashed into the earth.
They are sitting on the generous balcony, the five of them. Gin and tonics clattering, cigarette butts filling the porcelain ashtray. Bright hot light, skin reddening, sweat gathering in crevices. Dylan stands up. “Lunch.” He looks at Anna. She stands up and follows him inside, face expressionless. He opens the fridge and pulls out a large white bowl filled with red liquid. “Get the bowls Anna.” She shifts her body towards the cupboard. “And the spoons.” He slices up a baguette and thrusts a bag of rocket at her. She opens the bag and tosses its contents into a bowl. He takes a bottle of white wine from the fridge and twists it open. “Get the glasses Anna.” She bends down, her short shorts riding even further up her buttocks, and pulls out a series of identical tall-stemmed wine glasses, placing them on the counter one by one.
Dylan hands Anna a white melamine tray. She places the glasses on it along with the wine and walks out into the glaring light. She almost stumbles as she crosses the threshold in her towering black heels. Kay stands up and grabs the tray from her. “Ok?” Anna moves her sunglasses down from the top of her head, covering her eyes. “I’m fine.” She pours the wine. Slowly. Carefully. Sam and Jimmy continue their nonstop chatter. Kay picks at her nails.
Dylan takes a small plastic bag from the back pocket of his black shorts. He places it onto the wooden counter and bashes it lightly with a large rolling pin. He rolls it across the bag, crushing the pale brown crystals inside. He picks up the bag and shakes it, then places it back on the counter and continues with the bashing and the rolling. When he is satisfied with the results, he unseals the bag and empties its contents into the bowl of gazpacho. He stirs the sallow powder thoroughly into the scarlet liquid.
He emerges, blinking onto the balcony with the large bowl in his hands. Sam leans down and turns up the portable speaker. Dylan dips a stainless steel ladle in and out of the soup, splashing it into the gleaming white bowls on the table. He serves Anna last, scooping up the last drops into her bowl.
Anna passes round the bread. One by one the guests start to eat their soup. The men dip chunks of baguette into it. The women use their spoons exclusively. A small trail of red trickles down Kay’s chin. Jimmy wipes it off with his forefinger, licking the liquid from the tip of it.
Dylan watches as Anna spoons the last of the soup into her mouth. As she scrapes her spoon across the bottom of the bowl the metal scratches against something granular. Pepper? No, too pale for pepper.
He smiles as she looks up, catching his eye. She looks away, out across the wide empty street. He follows her gaze. “Tune!” he shouts. “Turn it up Jimmy.” Jimmy bends down and fiddles with the controls until the music drowns out all surrounding sound.
They push their chairs aside and start to dance, pulsating to the deep bass, bodies blurring in the bleached sunlight. Anna looks at Jimmy and Sam’s grinning faces as she moves her arms in time with theirs. Kay is facing Dylan, laughing as she squats and rises to the music.
Anna lurches forwards, breaking her fall with the edge of the table. A trail of light, flickering, strobe-like. A surge, a blood rush, eyes widening, jaw stretching out a too-wide smile.
Jimmy grabs Kay and pulls her over the threshold and into the cool of the apartment. They dance their way across the living room. Anna follows. They reach the doorway to the spare bedroom and enter, shutting the door behind them, oblivious to Anna. She stands for a moment, unsure of which way to turn. She walks into the bathroom and looks into the mirror. Her eyes are black, pupils obliterating irises. Her cheeks are flushed pink. She walks slowly back out onto the balcony. She is floating, untethered. She leans over the railings and gazes at the distant ground below.
Dylan takes her hand, spins her round and leads her back through the living room and into his bedroom. He pulls her dress up over her head and pushes her onto his bed. She lies still for a moment, eyes closed, as he removes the rest of her clothes. When she opens her eyes she wriggles free from his grasp. “I need some air.” She staggers through to the kitchen, running her hands along the walls, long nails scraping the white paint.
She opens the sash window over the sink. The contours of the city are shimmering and shaking. She hoists her limbs up and across the front edge of the metal sink, crouching momentarily in the void before she climbs onto the window ledge, her legs dangling against the exterior wall. The air on her skin is the only sensation. Her body is all skin, only skin, nothing inside at all. She lights a cigarette and watches the smoke drift into the bright blue sky. The smoky wisps dance a deranged pattern. The breeze whips up her long dark hair as she tilts forwards.
A man is standing on his patio, tending to his pot plants. He is watering them, meticulously, a few drops at a time so as not to over-soak them. He looks up when he hears the scream. He sees a man’s naked torso at the open window on the second storey. A woman plunges, soundlessly, crushing his ruby geraniums as she collides with his pristine border.