The Linen Cupboard

‘Where do you want me to put the carrots?’  Jordi asked, the box getting heavier by the second.

‘You can just leave them on the side,’ said Glòria.  ‘Look, I’ve got to go or I’ll be late.’  She was already pulling the car keys out of her handbag.  ‘Can you sort out the linens as well?  Thanks!’  And she was gone, not even bothering to close the door.

Jordi put the box of carrots on the steel work surface.  He heard the car start up, pull away and fade into the distance.  He was alone now:  no customers out front, no staff in the kitchen.

Linens:  what was wrong with the linens this time?  And why was he the one who always had to go into the store room?  Sighing, Jordi went over to the door.  He paused, gripped the handle, took a deep breath and pulled the door open.  Reaching inside, he flicked the light switch on.  Before him, a still life of bottles of olive oil, wine, spare crockery and linen stacked on shelves.  It was such a banal scene:  everyday items, foodstuffs, inanimate objects resting in silence.  Walking into this room, to look at it as it was now, nobody would ever know what had happened there.  But Jordi knew.

The store room always made him sad.  It had been washed, scrubbed, disinfected and decorated until all the blood had gone.  And yet it was still stained, stained with dark memories.  It was not that he actually heard screams in his head or anything like that, but he could not help thinking about those last moments:  he did wonder how they had screamed.  He imagined Mercè begging him not to harm the children, and wondered how Rafa could ever have done so.  What could possess a man to do such a thing?  The cries which had filled the air had come and gone in a moment all those years ago, yet something of them remained.  Was it the fear itself?  The emotion, the desperate energy conjured up by the need, the most vital need ever, to protect oneself, to protect one’s children?  Now, folded white linens lay where before blood had once flown through the air, forever leaving the bodies which depended on it and splattering uselessly on to the old stone walls.

For years the house had lain empty.  It had cried; it had cried for what had happened within its sway.  It became a grieving pile of stones in a field, avoided by everyone in the village.  Then, one day, Josep had arrived, bought it, and transformed it into a restaurant.  Strangely, it was as if the building had been given a new lease of life, a resurrection, and, with time, even the villagers overcame their fears and superstitions.  But for Jordi there would always be something of that day which remained, remained there in the store room.  Something like that always leaves a trace.