Not a lot I can say about this, really. I probably had something very clever but now I’ve forgotten it. My head feels kind of thick. Probably the tail-end of this cold

[A man’s beloved is not what she appears to be]

Were it not for his sweetheart, he probably would have gone mad years ago.

In the common parlance she might be said to be his rock. The foundation upon which his life was built. The point of solidity he could cling to when all around him was in flux. The person he could talk to about anything he wanted or needed to talk about. The most important person in his life, basically.

It helped of course that she was smart, funny, beautiful and generally all-round great to be near. How he’d got so lucky he had no idea. Maybe he’d done something very selfless in a previous life, he didn’t know. Questioning providence would be unwise, he felt, so he just enjoyed the hand that life had dealt him. Humbly, of course.

And so it was that after a particularly tedious day at work he was deeply grateful knowing that he had a sympathetic ear to go home to. She was already there when he arrived and listened patiently and quietly as he griped at length about just how boring everything had been. When he was done he felt a good stone lighter from unloading such pent-up irritation and smiled for the first time that day.

She was just standing there the way she sometimes did. Sometimes she stood like that for hours. A little strange he’d be the first to admit, but who was he to judge her idiosyncrasies? Anyone who would listen to his problems without telling him to shut up could stand wherever they liked for however long they liked, as far as he was concerned. Moving over to her, he sheepishly realised that he hadn’t even asked how her day had been yet. He’d get onto that. Soon.

“You love me, right?” He asked, half-joking. The answer was obvious. It was always obvious – so obvious in fact asking it was more a reflex action than anything else. Of course she loved him, and he loved her. It was only as the silence continued and she failed to respond that he looked up at her. Maybe she hadn’t heard him.

“Hmm?” He prompted, at least hoping to be asked again what he might have said. He got nothing. She stayed perfectly still, staring into nothing. He felt a lurch of worry – was something wrong?

“Sweetheart?” He asked, reaching out with trembling fingers. Touching her shoulder he found her cold and hard to the touch. He flinched with shocked worry, and in so doing nudged her over. She fell softly and hit the ground with a quiet sound of rushing air. She was perfectly flat. Her expression had not changed at all, nor had her body language. She had simply fallen over. Kneeling down beside her he discovered – to his shock – that she was in fact made of cardboard. Cut out of cardboard, in fact. A cardboard cut-out, you might say. Not a real person at all.

He had to admit it explained a lot. Her aversion to baths, her great abilities as a listener, her ability to stand for hours and a few rather more intimate, personal details he would rather not think about. This didn’t make this discovery any easier to feel good about. In fact, it made him feel just a touch foolish.

To have got so far and invested so much without noticing until now was embarrassing. It suggested a certain level of willful ignorance. In the common parlance he might be said to be a tit. He had no-one to blame but himself. In fact, now, he had no-one at all.

He was alone, he realised. The house was cold, dark and empty. It was just him.



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