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The Wardrobe

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Alison Knight

He’d been a late child, he’d heard people say.

‘Hard for Audrey,’ someone had remarked, ‘an only child for all those years.’

‘Oh no, she’s a little mother to him,’ replied another.

He didn’t think that mothers, little or otherwise, locked children in wardrobes.

Once, he’d enjoyed playing in the wardrobe, in a spare room on the second floor, even though Father had expressly forbidden it. He’d hide in there, away from Audrey, safely cocooned within its solid oak mass, shielded behind a soft wall of forsaken clothes. He loved the musty smell of old leather and the lingering scent of forgotten perfumed nights. He loved the luxurious texture of satin and antique lace and he loved to run his fingers through the thick pile of Mother’s fur coat. He’d found buttons in a battered tin - pearl buttons, silver buttons, shimmering, shining jewels to touch and treasure. If he kept the door open a crack, the mirror inside would reveal another boy with a small white face who stared back at him, a boy who smiled when he smiled and cried when he cried. When he placed his hand against the mirror, another hand would meet his in reassurance. Yes, it was another world in there.

There was a hard, cold look in Audrey’s ice-blue eyes on the day she slapped him, pinched him and pushed him into the wardrobe. Then he heard the key click as it turned in the lock, and the soft, quick pad of retreating slippers and the dull thud of a closing door. He huddled there, entombed in the pitch dark, as once-familiar clothes assumed nightmarish shapes that brushed against his face and crept around his body, while the smothering air lay thick upon him, heavy as a shroud.

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