The Flap of the Story: A Question Left Unresolved | Flapper Pt. 2

It was early 1919, you tapped on my shoulder, and I remember cowering in, my shoulders hunching, and I turned around. You gave me a warm smile, your sun-shy complexion showing more freckles than skin, your fiery red hair, and you asked if I needed help. I was mortified. Of course, I needed help, but asking for it was never my strongest forte. I couldn’t form words at the start, but it did not unnerve you. You reached for my left hand that wasn’t clutched around the telephone and placed a few loose changes in my palm and gestured to the phone with your head. Call whomever you want to call, you said. You waited until I was done and asked if I wanted to go inside the coffee shop and have a drink. I wish I had hesitated, even taken a moment to think that through, but to no one’s surprise, I didn’t, and I followed you. If could rewind that day, I would have never trailed after you, because after that moment where I decided to become your friend, everything changed.

You started inviting me over to your house. It was a lavish historic house in the Hudson Valley, with white stone, beautiful vines growing on the walls, and the extravagant fountain we once fell in after we were in hysterics, laughing about something you had said. It was the first time I met Arthur. I was seventeen to his twenty-one, fresh out of police academy, you had whispered to me. I thought he was the most fascinating person I had ever met. There was an evident aura around him, and I was drawn to the way he carried himself. It was a certain gait that only people who are confident in themselves possessed. It enthralled me.

It did not take me a long time to realise, though, that you did not have the strongest relationship with him. Your shoulders would stiffen every time he entered the room and you would sit up straighter, not looking in his direction. He, too, would appear rather stricken and would come in to deliver what he wanted to say, rushing out of the room as if it was on fire. A continuous cycle of hurried words and avoided gazes. The rift between you both intrigued me, and I wanted to figure out what caused it.

One night I was staying over at your house, I went downstairs for a glass of water, and there he was, sitting on a barstool having a drink and reading documents. I hadn’t had a proper conversation with him until that moment. It seemed as if he was never home, or if he was, I wasn’t seeking him out, not yet anyway. I could feel his eyes follow me around the kitchen while I was reaching for a glass inside a cupboard, the silence unbearable.

‘Hello,’ I had said. ‘I am just getting a glass of water; I hope that is alright.’

He smiled at me then and set down his documents, ‘It’s alright…’ he trailed off and hesitated. He couldn’t remember my name. I stared at him, staggered. He had seen me multiple times around the house, even made polite chitchat about how lovely and beautiful the weather is and did you see the news? Be careful walking around at night when you were in the room and he wanted an escape. Not once had he made the effort to learn my name.

‘Estelle,’ I had told him through gritted teeth, taking a sip of the water I had poured for myself. He had bristled at my tone and tilted his head to the side,

‘You’re mad.’

‘Not mad, just…irritated.’

‘And why is that?’, he looked so—so smug. That aggravated me even more.

‘You realise that I have been at your house multiple times, correct?’ he nodded. ‘How come you still don’t know my name?’

‘You’re—irritated, because I didn’t know your name?’ It sounded obtuse when he put it that way. I could see from the way he inhaled that he was trying his hardest not to laugh. ‘I wouldn’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t make it a habit to get to know my sister’s friends.’ I didn’t know it then that I had been his first and last exception.

I know it wasn’t my place to pry, but a small part of me has always been a little curious, ‘What is going on between you two anyway, Arthur? You don’t seem as if you like her that much’.

‘Ah, you know my name’.

‘Of course, I do’.

He raised his eyebrows and downed the rest of his drink, scrutinising me from above the rim of the glass. His chair creaked as he stood up, the crack of the glass on the countertop echoed, and the documents rustled as he gathered them. He smiled and turned to leave. ‘Goodnight, Estelle.’

Only after I went back up the stairs, into the bedroom I had claimed to be mine, and nestled under the covers, I realised he never answered my question.

By Farida Shams, Creative Writing Offficer

Header image via IMDB

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