Yes, the title is ironic.
I wrote this story for a girl called Gretel who I met on Twitter. She asked me to write her a story about her - the only things I really knew were that she liked sculpture, worked in the kitchen section of a department store and that footballer Matt LeTissier had once been spotted in there. So this is what I came up with. It’s pretty dark (boy I’m getting tired of typing that), but I think that you’ll enjoy it if you make it through to the end. So, without further ado, here is ‘The King and I’.
The King and I
It was like the world was in soft focus. She stood there, watching the blurry figures walk past, their shapes barely registering. She had already zoned out their voices as they walked through her department, cooing at the Dualit 88305, and it’s marvelous innovations in drip tray technology. One of the shades approached her, mumbling a sentence almost incomprehensible apart from its concluding syllables. “…Continuous juicing?” The world snapped into focus. He was asking a question.“I’m sorry, Gretel is it? Or have you stolen Gretel’s name badge? Should we alert the authorities?” He had green eyes. The buttonhole on his jacket had a synthetic poppy in it. It was a bit tatty. Last year’s model.“Yes. YES. Sorry. Gretel. Me. Yes. No authorities need contacting, put down your phone sir. What were you asking?” Green eyes gestured to the machine behind him.“The juicer. Can it do continuous juicing?” She thought for a second.“Yep. It can. This machine will keep the juice coming as long as you have fruit to feed it. Or babies.”“Babies?”“Er, forget the babies. In fact, I’m pretty sure the instruction manual specifically cautions against it. Plus, they make horrible juice.” Green eyes looked at her for a second, not quite sure if she was joking or not. Then, without breaking eye contact, he removed one of the cardboard juicer boxes from the shelf and slowly backed away. Well, thought Gretel. That went better than usual.The door slammed behind her, and Gretel picked a leaf from her shoe. Damn you autumn. She announced her arrival home with a yell, then ran upstairs to her sanctuary. It was just as she’d left it – bits of uniform scattered on the floor like discarded snake skins, disheveled book cases, Darren’s gig posters, a faded monkey-patterned wallpaper that was long overdue a scraping. The light from the lamp was low, but he was there, in the corner next to the window, waiting for her. She walked over and stroked his face lightly. It was sandpapery, unshaven. Hard, and cold. Her wonderful man. She pulled up a chair, and sat there watching, as he gazed back at her, impassively. If all the world was a blur, then he was in High Definition, a 1080p vision of hyper-reality. He was why she lived, why she breathed. She grabbed a scalpal, and slowly plunged the tip into his eye socket. It was time – she’d spent so long looking at him, and now, he’d be able to see her. It must have been so hard for him, for all those months as she slowly pieced him back together, not even being able to see her hard hands as they worked at his face, moulding, constructing, sculpting. But tonight. Tonight he would not be lonesome. Tonight, he would see her. She slowly pushed in his first eye. Suddenly, a call came up the stairs.“Gretel! Dinner!”Gretel closed her eyes, and let out a small frustrated sigh. She opened them to see him gazing at her with his cycloptic vision. “Don’t be sad,” she said. “After all, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” She got up, wiped the clay off her hands and walked to the bedroom door. Her hands on the handle, she turned and curtseyed. “Until later, your highness.”Dinner passed by, in a series of blurred conversations about nothing. She made pleasantries, told them about her celebrity spot (“Yeah, Matt Le Tissier was in today. He asked for some napkins, but I followed him, and he bought bedsheets. Maybe they have really big spills in his house, I dunno.”), pretended that the things that they said were nourishing and interesting. But all she could think about, really, was him.She crawled up to bed, after an evening of enforced entertainment. They’d made her watch How To Look Good Naked, but she would have settled for feeling good clothed. She entered the room, and he was just as she’d left him. She looked at the clock. It was ten. “I’m sorry sire, we’ll have to continue this tomorrow,” she said, as she peeled off her uniform. A light breeze touched her naked back, and a shiver ran the length of her spine. She pulled on her big t-shirt, and ran over to the window she’d somehow left open next to The King. He sat impassively, staring. For some reason, she felt slightly coy, and she felt strangely vulnerable. She walked back to her bed, glancing over her shoulder at The King. Then she buried herself under the duvet, her tiny paw the only sign of life as it emerged from its folds to extinguish the light.The day crawled by, a lazily developing Polaroid that refused to snap into focus. The blurs held hands, touched baby bumps protectively and cooed at Breville toasters.“Hey!” a hand touched her shoulder, and she recoiled violently. “Woah! Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you!” It was David. He worked in the Designer Men’s department. He looked sharp, but derived great pleasure from knowing that despite living in a forest of Armani suits, his own suit had come from The Samaritans, a dead person’s suit re-animated for the living. There was nothing finer than encouraging the wives of businessmen to part with the money for £800 suits, while your own cost £15. He brushed his hair off his forehead.“It’s ok, said Gretel. “I was just thinking.”“About what? Your recent bank job? Criminals don’t flinch that hard.”“Sorry, what’s up?”“Not too much. I just sold a Cerutti suit to a man who insisted he had a 34” waist. That guy is just one donut away from a violent self-pantsing.” Gretel laughed. “So,” he continued, “do you fancy coming to a party on Friday? There’s going to be beer, and singing, and, if you’re really lucky, some involuntary violent regurgitation on the patio.” She thought about it. Then she thought about it some more. “Look, if it’ll help, I promise I’ll get really drunk and tell you about my stamp collection.” She looked at him and smiled. “No seriously, it’s really interesting, I’ve got one from Malaysia that’s so rare…”“You’re such a hound dog! Ok, ok, stop, I’ll come!” He laughed.“Good. I’ll see you at eight.”She closed her eyes. Tiny dots jumped around, daring her to play dot-to-dot with her inner monologue. She opened them, and saw The King staring back at her. His cheekbones were so sharp, so perfect. His slightly curled lips were grey, but perfect, every contour kissable and inviting. She delicately placed his second eye in its socket. She knew that he was ready. She ran a hand over his impressively sculpted hair. She looked down at his smooth plastic physiology, the hairless chest, his toned arms and muscular thighs. She explored his contours with her hand. Before he’d just been a headless mannequin, discarded in a darkened skip, a drunken treasure she’d found on her way back from a night on and off the tiles. She’d hauled him back, hidden him in her room. And she’d sat there, sat on her bed, staring at him, and wondering why he seemed so sad. And she’d realized that he needed his head. And so she’d begun to carve him from her mind, into clay, her hands slowly crafting ears, eyelids, and bone structures. And now he could see her. And they could gaze into each other’s eyes, and know that there was no-one else in the world that they’d ever need to see again. Her boy. Her man. Her King. She put down the scalpel. “Thanks for being patient,” she said, kissing him on the forehead.She stood up, and walked over to the MP3 dock she’d bought with her staff discount. She fiddled with it, her back to The King, who sat there, silently, in anticipation. Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry came through the speakers. She stood there for a second, listening to the voice, swaying her hips slightly. She undid the top button on her cotton shirt. Then she slowly turned. She sashayed over to The King, with a delicious look in her eye. She began dancing in front of him, slowly turning so he could see her from every angle. As she turned she released more buttons from her shirt, slowly letting it fall open. She raised her arms above her head as she moved her body close to his face, letting him rove her cleavage with his eyes. She shrugged the shirt off her shoulders, and it floated to the floor. The synths washed over her as her fingers found the fastenings on her black pencil skirt, and she elegantly twirled out of it. She slowly danced in her white matching underwear, and then reached behind her back and slowly released the clasps. Holding her bra, she shrugged her shoulders out of the straps, and then turned away from him as she slowly twirled her ass. She let the bra fall to the floor and rotated back to face him, revealing her bosom to him. She danced closely to him, feeling his breath on her skin, and then slowly backed away to the bed, where she lay. She slowly traced her body with her hands, and then, her head tilted to the side so she could look him in his newly created eyes, she slowly creeped her fingers under the elastic at the top of her panties. She exploded in sensation at her own touch, felt her dampness, and softly moved her hips in time to the music. She wanted to close her eyes, concentrate on the intense feeling, but she held his gaze as she built the feeling inside her until shed could bear it no more, finally releasing an orgasm that almost sent her dizzy. As she recovered, her eyes slowly opened and she saw him looking at her. “There, she said. “That was worth waiting for, wasn’t it?”The day passed in a series of inane questions, price checkings and customer complaints. Gretel dealt with them all with a smile on her face. Finally, she felt her life sharpening, her synapses connecting. She saw David in the cafeteria, furiously wiping at a coffee stain on his cheap recycled suit.“Hey Dave!” David looked up at Gretel’s smiling face.“Oh hi!” He looked down at his hands and the napkin with the dark brown stain. “I had an accident.”“I can see that. Hey, can you give me some advice? I need to get a suit for my boyfriend.” David looked slightly confused. A well-trained behavioral expert might have deduced that his crest had fallen slightly.“Boyfriend? Oh. I didn’t realize.”“Ah well, it’s all pretty new for me too.” She shrugged. “So can you help?” David sighed.“Sure. What size is he?”“Well, he’s kind of your build. Slightly taller maybe. Pale skin. I think he’d like something flashy.”“Ok, Come with me, I’ll help you pick something out. Are you bringing him to the party?”“Definitely.”She buttoned his shirt up half way. Slipped his jacket on. Something was missing. She grabbed the slightly melted gold-framed sunglasses and placed them over his eyes. Satisfied, she carried him downstairs to the wheelchair in the hall.“I’m going out!” she yelled. Her mother’s mumbled response was barely audible over the Eastenders theme music. Gretel checked her reflection in the mirror. She looked perfect in her floral dress, her blood red lipstick and the coral Dahlia in her hair. She opened the door for The King, and wheeled him out into the bitter night.As the music thumped, Gretel rolled up to the party. The front door was open, and Gretel pushed the chair up the steps and into the hallway. Drunken blurs stared as she navigated her way into the lounge. “Wait there,” she said to The King, “I’ll get you a drink.” Gretel pushed her way through the crowd to the kitchen. David was there, drunkenly trying to wipe the bloody remains of a sea breeze from his white shirt.“Oh! You came!”“I came!” David looked at her. She was so beautiful.“I’m… glad.” A thought, slowly crossed his mind. She could see it forming and blossoming like an ink blot. A small light bulb gradually flickered to life. He grinned, sloppily.“So you came on your own in the end?”“Oh, no, I came with my boyfriend. He’s in the other room, I’m just getting him a drink.” To his credit, David tried to put a brave face on, but it kept slipping in the alcohol, as he checked back in to Heartbreak Hotel.“Ah. Well… what’s his poison?”“Arsenic? To be honest, I think he’d probably prefer something that’s a bit safer to ingest though.”“Gin and Tonic it is.” David clumsily mixed the drink, with the G far outweighing the T. “So, he’s already got you running around and fetching drinks for him, then, eh?”“Oh it’s not like that. He’s in a wheelchair, so it’s just easier for me to get them.” Gretel could see that she’d suddenly slapped some sobriety into David. She hastily put an end to his garbled attempts at an apology. “It’s fine, he was in an accident, how could you know? Come on, let’s go and give him his drink.”They walked back through the party. Gretel pulled David through the throng, her hand in his. He tried to save the feeling, to make the moment last forever, even though he knew it was nothing more than the hot palm of friendship. They got into the lounge. Everyone was crowded around the wheelchair, laughing.“There he is! Looks like he’s already made some friends!” Gretel clapped her hands excitedly. David pushed through the crowd, until he was face to face with The King. They stared at each other for a moment, neither buck blinking. And then David burst out into peels of laughter. He broke from the crowd and grabbed Gretel, rippling with laughter.“Ah ha ha! Oh my God, you actually had me going for a second there! Oh, that’s brilliant!” tears streamed down his face as he collapsed in hysteria. Gretel pushed him away.“What do you mean? Why are you laughing?” David slowly stopped laughing. He looked into her eyes, and saw only fire.“Well… because…” David suddenly started to think that he hadn’t quite got the joke. “I mean just look at him! The blue shoes were overegging it a bit though!” Gretel looked at him for a second, and then threw her Sea Breeze over him. “Oh for fuck’s sake!” He said. “This is fucking new! Seriously does no-one care how new this shirt is?” Gretel shoved past him, hot tears stinging her face.“Get away from him!” She yelled, grabbing The King’s wheelchair, and pushing from the room to a sea of blurred confused reactions.“Why didn’t you defend me?” Gretel’s room seemed darker as she yelled at The King. “Why did you just sit there, saying nothing? Why did you let them laugh at me?” The King said nothing, as she bounced off the walls. “I gave you everything! I gave you a home, I dressed you, I gave you life!” She flailed, hopelessly. “I gave you your sight back!” She grabbed the scalpel. “And I can take it away again!” She plunged the scalpel into his left eye, half blinding him. “I hate you!” She fell onto the bed sobbing. He’d left her. Again. She lay there for a while, slowly draining her body of tears until she had nothing left to give. Eventually, she fell into deep sleep.She was woken the next morning by the rays of the sun. Her room looked bright, ultra sharp. She slowly rose up, and saw The King on the floor, his head detached from his body. She walked over to the window, and pulled open the curtains. It was a beautiful day. She felt like she was waking for the first time. The sunlight bathed her. She saw the kids playing in the park over the road, the mothers walking their kids to school, the commuters running for their busses. It was all so clear now. The King is dead, she thought to herself. She picked up his head and kissed it, then dropped it into her wastebasket.Gretel went downstairs to the kitchen. Her mother was juicing oranges.“Are you alright petal?”“You know what? Actually I am.” Her mother handed her a glass of orange juice.“Good. I was hoping you would be. Drink the juice.”“I think I’m going to visit Darren today. It’s his birthday.”“I know dear. Make sure you say hello from me.”Gretel stood there for a while looking at the headstone, before placing the flowers down. A single tear drifted down her cheek. She turned to leave, and then remembered something. She pulled the CD from her pocket and left it next to the flowers. Darren was on the cover of his tribute album, wearing his glittery Vegas-era jumpsuit. “Long live The King” said Gretel. And with that, she walked off, softly humming Love Me Tender to herself.