They lived in a house in the Midlands. They were all single, of course, except for the Argylls who had separated in the bathroom and had never noticed each other again in the crowd. Most didn’t know what had happened to their significant other. There were stories; there were always stories about why their partners had left. But no one really knew. Four members of the Green family thought their other halves had simply gone in search of adventure, maybe with that one-legged pirate who had come to visit. They mourned them silently. They would never now go places together, and the desertion made them look limp and lifeless. Maybe being single meant they didn’t age so fast. But still, where was the fun in having to stay home all the time?
Sometimes one or two came back. There were quick, unsettling rumours of dusty adventures behind radiators and of suffocating in the dark grittiness of armchairs. But there was never any chance to talk properly because the pairs always left to live somewhere else.
And then, of course, there was the horror of what happened under the bed. Not all the partners had just disappeared without trace. Some of them were taken by the giant dog, and they were never seen whole again. Weeks, sometimes days, went by before the soggy remains of some bright traveller were salvaged from the darkness and thrown away without ceremony.
There were compensations. Sometimes they lay on the carpet, all 56 of them, and just touched each other. It was called the Day of the Counting. But always afterwards, many went away and were never seen again. The young Stripes said that this was because they too had gone on a great adventure. But the savvy Woollens knew better; the socks, who had been loneliest longest, had at last gone to meet their maker.