Some Words

Some time last year, I entered a writing comp. I didn’t expect to win and (of course) I didn’t – but I entered a writing competition. Booyah! And here it is:

 

Forecast

The barometer lies silently, a bruise on the blank crisp lines of his hallway wall. It catches his eye each morning, its brass frame like an oversized compass, its needle perpetually pointing towards ‘Storm’. The redundant predictions of his air-conditioned apartment only add to his contempt.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but the hook was already there. It’s been six months and I just thought-“

He told her not to think. He owned the apartment, he’d worked hard for it and he didn’t want her to interfere. A fire flared in her eyes. She suggested he start labelling stuff. He said perhaps he would. She reminded him who paid for their food. He said he’d stop cooking it for her.

She took a breath and a sea rose above the flame.

She asked him, “Do we belong together?” but silence lapped at her ears.

He made her dinner but ate his portion before she got home. He blocked her attempts at conversation and she edged around his thorny demeanour. She left the crossword in the paper. He immersed himself in study and she drowned out his absence with the television. She went to bed early and left before he woke.

Their erosive tide of days.

 

He strides down the hall to remove the barometer, but on his approach his eyes are drawn beneath it to an envelope with his name written in navy blood. It resembles blood, the ink had run stretching the letters into their own macabre script. His eyes narrow and he snatches it from the hall table, running a suspicious finger over her handwriting and the dimpled paper. What was she playing at? Her reminders needed envelopes now? A darker truth suddenly pierces him – she had wept.

He struggles to recall her sliding out of bed that morning. Did he hear her take a shower? Did he hear the apartment door close? He hefts the envelope in his hands and considers putting it back. He considers letting it slip down between the hall-table and the wall. He could pretend he hadn’t seen it. He could feign confusion when she asks. But what if she doesn’t ask? When he watched her sleep last night, were her bags packed in her car?

An ache grows at the bottom left of his ribcage. He flicks out the flap of the envelope and removes its ballast, a single slip of paper folded once.

Dear David,

I’m going to Mum’s for a few days. I think we need some space. I would really like to meet up. Talk. Take a long walk nowhere.

I don’t want this to be ‘goodbye’.

I love you.

Emily.

 

Every day he made her coffee at 8:15am. She ordered a skinny cappuccino with two sugars. The first time he laughed and accused her of disguising the flavour. She studied pharmacy and worked at a chemist around the corner. He wanted to get into law, but found himself paying off a small apartment. She urged him to make the change. They talked politics and argued philosophy. He looked forward to seeing her. He missed her on Saturdays.

“I’ve got a new job.” she said ” Head pharmacist.”

It wasn’t her normal coffee time. She hesitated at the counter. She sidestepped customers and nervously pulled at her ponytail as she chatted. She said “bye then” instead of “see you”. She looked back from the door, a coy grin muffled by her scarf.

He smiled. A colleague jabbed him in the back.

He didn’t have her number.

Urgency stole coordination from his fingers and he couldn’t escape his apron. He stumbled out of the café leaving a line of patrons in his wake.

Her face lit up when she saw him. He swallowed his breathlessness and tried to act casual.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“A long walk nowhere.”

They found themselves in the park and they crunched autumn leaves. They laughed. Talked about life. He teased her about her taste in coffee, she asked him if he could recommend a good barista. He caught her hand and pulled her into a clumsy kiss. He grinned self-consciously, surprised by the vanilla taste of her lip-gloss.

She smiled with shining eyes, “You should go.”

He struggled to release her hand, “I don’t want this to be ‘goodbye’.”

“No,” she said, “I think this is ‘hello’.”

His wardrobes filled with her clothes and he caught the scent of her hair on his pillow. They shared the crossword on Sundays. She bought new towels for the bathroom and skinny milk appeared in the fridge. He cut back his hours at the coffee shop and buried himself in study. He couldn’t afford the perfect birthday present. She lent him money for his car. He struggled with his exams and found her reassurance patronising. She laughed with a male colleague but denied an affair. He denied his paranoia. She tidied around the apartment to avoid his angry company. She hung her barometer in the hall.

 

Calm breaks.

He rereads her words and wonders if they have a chance. He looks back to the wall.

The barometer says ‘Fair’.

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5 thoughts on “Some Words

  1. Beautiful. I particularly love the opening section – just gorgeous. The image of the barometer throughout is excellent – really meaningful, while being unusual enough to stick in the memory.

    You woz robbed. That competition didn’t know what they had. When are you entering the next one? 😉

    • You are too kind. It has a lot of failings, for one thing, I tell way too much.

      I’m really struggling with creative writing at the moment. I don’t know how to switch off that voice that tells me everything I write or even think to write is absolute rubbish. It’s hard to look at any ‘success’ (ie, I wrote something) without thinking of all the times I’ve wanted to write something or participate in a flash fiction challenge and know I’m not capable.

      That’s my rant. Sorry.

      *Wanders off to think about kittens and unicorns*

      • I understand what you’re saying, and I wish I could help. The only thing that helped me with negative thinking like that is taking part, week after week, in challenges like the Wednesday Write-In and Flash! Friday, whether I wanted to or not.

        You *are* capable of taking part in flash fiction challenges. You’ve done it before. You write beautifully. If taking part every week is too much, maybe make a promise to yourself to take part once a month, and see how you get on? Getting good feedback – the people in Wednesday Write-In are particularly kind – can really be a help, too. It can help you, gradually, to start seeing the good things about your work as well as the bad.

        If it’s something you want, then I’d like to help you. Remember, I’m always here for support/feedback/ranting at/whatever.

      • Gawd. Your support goes without saying, but thank you for saying it 🙂

        The fear is strong at the moment. I will move on. I will write, I just haven’t mastered the whole ‘give myself permission to suck’ thing.

        Thanks for allowing me to wallow. *hugs*

        *gets back on the horse*

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