She sat there, unable to move, for what seemed like a good five minutes, listening to the wall clock up close, as if it was ticking from inside her head.
One of the neighbours She thought, with an eager smile. They've clocked I've not been my usual perky-self and have baked me something delicious. Meat-loaf, maybe a casserole!
Alice felt her stomach grumble at the thought. She'd been in a rush to get out the door this morning, having gone to bed late (a growing problem) and had had to skip breakfast. Though her smile faded quickly, as she sucked in a deep breath of nothing but lavender air freshener, from her late-night cleaning-session.
If it was a casserole you'd be able to smell it! She thought, spidering the fingers of her right hand to the lid of the box, where they hovered for a moment, mid-air, while she considered her options.
So it's no gourmet hot-pot... could be something else. A small teddy bear with a get-well-soon tag hanging from around it's neck.
The thought, rose a smile, as Alice drifted off into diva-mode. Maybe it's a cake! 'Thinking of you - all your friends of Orchard-Way'
Alice was woken from this pleasant thought, by the wall clock, timing her thinking. Got to get to work, no time to waste.
"This is ridiculous!" She whispered, into the quiet room. "A present from one of the neighbours - Carol or Glenn"
She pushed back the chair, it's heels scraped along the stone floor, as Alice reached for the box. First she stroked it's lid with her finger-tips, as the room began to buzz around her.
TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK... But you're not on speaking terms with Carol and Glenn are you. A voice added quickly, before she could lift off the lid.
"Since what?" Alice asked the voice.
Don't be naive Alice, same reason as you won't open that damn box! The voice replied, harshly, as if addressing a half-wit. You didn't think you could get away with it... did you?
"I don't know what you mean" Alice replied, feeling her face grow hot with anger. The kitchen grew dark as the sun vanished behind a band of thick-clouds, and now the box appeared grey. A feeling of unease swirled over her, and she could feel her legs shaking, her heels clicking uncontrollably against the hard-stone floor.
I think you do! Don't be dim, when was the last time anybody sent you a present? When was the last time anyone sent you a parcel for that matter? The voice added, with self-satisfaction. Further-more who really gives a toss if you're not at your 'perky-best', since when has anyone around here taken an interest in you out of work-hours, other than a sociable-nod? Except for Carol and Glenn.
I think you know what it is, I think somebody's found out. The voice continued, and now Alice found herself backing away from the table in horror. Her face contorted into an insane, quivvering grin.
The wall-clock was ticking louder than ever, and as she crashed into the wall behind her - knocking over the fruit bowl,and hearing it smash into a dozen pieces on the floor - the tap stopped dripping, her mind stopped buzzing, and now all she couldn hear was the clock. The kitchen clock... which had stopped ticking months ago, after the battery had ran out.