Rose bought the first-floor one bed flat in Monument Road, Wimbledon, just along the road from the All-England Tennis Club, when she got her first byline. Ten years later she still lived a happy solo existence. It was a million miles from Lily and William’s four-bedroom house [one bedroom for them and one for each planned child], fifty foot garden [ready for a tree house] and attic [big enough for a train set]. Lily’s neighbours were authors, doctors and lawyers. Rose’s neighbours were Australians in flip-flops and Reggie the Big Issue seller who she suspected lived in the alleyway between the tube station and the fish and chip shop.

Claire Austin [photo: David Austin Roses]

Claire Austin [photo: David Austin Roses]

In the beginning, both mortgage and flat had been unknown quantities, huge and intimidating. Now the square footage of the flat had shrunk out of proportion to her increasing possessions. She longed for a spare bedroom, allocated parking, a back door with a cat-flap for Brad and a garden for him to patrol.

The flat downstairs was silent. The previous tenant had been a hard rock fan with a very good quality sound system. She breathed-in the quiet. In her tiny hallway, the red eye of her answerphone blinked. Four messages: one from Lily apologising for getting upset earlier, and three put-downs. Rose made a mental note to get a new machine: an answerphone that stored put-downs as messages did not justify the extra electricity consumed.

She put a Robbie Williams CD on repeat play, poured a glass of wine and settled back on the sofa. Just as she closed her eyes and rested her cheeks against the cherry red velvet cushions [inner thigh material, her ex called it], the doorbell rang.

And there he stood. The Ex. James. His face stared back at her from the entry phone downstairs. Still unmarried at 45 which with hindsight she realised should have been a warning. He hadn’t changed in the three weeks since she’d chucked him out. Rose pressed the buzzer and heard the downstairs door open with a click.

And then he was standing in front of her. James bent to kiss her but hit her cheek instead as she ducked away. She heard Brad mewl in the kitchen, asking to be let out of the window: Brad never hung around whenever James arrived.

“Haven’t you grown tired of this disco-stuff yet?” James pushed past her through the door and turned off Robbie. “Really Rose, still listening to CDs? A girl like you, you should get an i-Pod dock like mine.” He always had the latest gadget and assumed his taste in music was unassailable.

Rose switched the music back on and turned up the volume.

“What do you want?” She watched him flick through her CD collection.

He shoved Alanis Morissette next to U2 where there wasn’t space for it, and turned to look at her. Rose’s fingers itched to put Alanis back in her rightful place after Madonna, but she didn’t want to give him that small victory. “What do you want?”
© Sandra Danby

…in IGNORING GRAVITY #12: Faced with James, Rose’s head thinks one thing… her body thinks another.

This is the 11th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.