Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Awaiting the Return

She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, stared out the steamy windows of the café at the milling crowds. Clouds spiralled, letting through small stems of sunlight to touch lucky individuals. Her coffee sat on the steel table-top untouched. A paperback book, its cover pushed back behind the spine, lay next to it. This, too, remained untouched. Louise watched, awaiting the return of Brian.

They'd been married; they still were, albeit only on paper. They hadn't lived together for over a year now, not since Louise had left. He was stoic: that peculiar stiff upper lip the British man was so fond of could easily be Brian's dictionary definition. Louise was more reflective. She was fond of telling people - anyone who would listen to her without yawning - that she was a car, Brian the hub cap. They'd become separated, Brian spinning off in ever decreasing circles, settling, finally, atop the verge. She had continued on her journey, even though many of their shared friends always felt she wasn't quite 'whole'. On this occasion, Louise had replaced the hub cap. Somewhere, Brian was lying at the side of the road, undiscovered.

She thought about Brian, about what had gone before, what had happened since. At times she felt like a stranger. She recalled their first time together in bed; the details were blurry now but one particular event stuck fast in the mud of her memories: Brian pushing the splayed fingers of his gnarled hand through the silky strands of her auburn hair; she'd yet to tell him that it was out of a bottle despite their twelve years' of marriage. She hadn't known that Brian had never had the heart to tell her that he'd discovered her secret - she hid the bottle and discarded packages behind the bath panel - within three weeks of their relationship moving from coy, stolen looks across the college cafeteria to full penetration.

A single thought struck her now, as she sat on her non-descript metal chair in the small café: no-one counts their fingers or toes - it's accepted that they have the correct number of digits, just as it's accepted that a man of a certain age will stray, will renew his interest in fucking. Not sex; not lovemaking; not pleasure: release. Had it been that way, Louise could have understood, accepted. But, she had strayed, become the predator. Her interest had not been renewed, though - it had been uncovered. At the time, what had made her relish the feeling was the knowledge that it had been Brian who had squirreled her passion away, like a dark family secret.

Louise wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, stared out through the mist of her tears. She lifted her cup, drank the cold coffee in one gulp, gathered up her book and stuffed it into a leather bag with the broken zip. The chair scraped against the floor as she stood up; heads turned for a second to look up at the distracting noise, as if the café's customers were suddenly acutely aware that they were sharing space with other people. Louise didn't return the gazes. She left the premises, leaving the door slightly ajar. Several people tutted as a chill wind whipped in through the gap; one woman went to shut it, but was prevented from doing so by a middle-aged man who was stepping over the threshold. He wore a name badge.

It said Brian in a neatly spaced white font.

11 comments:

purplesimon said...

I had some creative ideas while on honeymoon and wrote them on a piece of paper. This is the first story that comes from that.

It will probably expand this idea, but at the moment this is as far as I've got with it. I wanted to get opinions before I start on it again. Which will probably be next week as I've just got some work for the rest of this one.

So, let me know where it fails, what you like, what you want to know more about, etc.

purplesimon out...

Kat said...

I like it. It could stand on its own, but I'd like to know more. We always do, don't we? Oh! Maybe Brian's point of view?

Tanya said...

What a fantastic picture you paint. I swear I was IN the coffee shop watching her! Watch the apostrophe error in the first segment, but otherwise... excellent. Works well as a stolen glimpse into someone's life

Nice to have you back, Sime.

purplesimon said...

Ugh, the dreaded apostrophe error! All fixed. Thanks for pointing it out, T.

purplesimon out...

lryicsgrl said...

The story left me wanting to read more. Always a good sign.


Xx
Sue

ginab said...

Okay, you will submit this to the workshop come fall, yes? I like this story; I like the pace. I really like no one counts her fingers and toes.

Just a fave-line.

-g+bb

Raynwomaan said...

This has some really good characterization in it, Simon. It's really good to have you back.

And I'm with Kat, it wold be interesting to read Brian's POV.

lryicsgrl said...

K, back for more, where are da goods????

Hope all is well. Thanks for your comment, over by mine ;)

purplesimon said...

Sorry people, I've got a job to do (which means 14-hour days at a minimum) and therefore all my creativity has been sucked out of me and put into advertising concepts.

I hope to have something up soon.

purplesimon out...

Chris said...

This was excellent. You totally sucked me in to the cafe and her thoughts. I was living her memories right along with her. Fantastic stuff. Sorry it took so long to get over here and say so.

lryicsgrl said...

Hi Si,
Just came to say hello, no pressure this time. You've a wife and a cat, more important you pay the bills. Just wanted you to know you are thought of and Taylor really liked your comments about her report. Don't tell her this, but I think it's all getting to her HEAD!

TTFN
XXSue