All's Fair

Submitted into Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt

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People of Color Fiction

“Aren’t you driving a little too fast, dear?”


“I’m following the speed limit, Mother.”


“Oh? Well. Seems a little fast to me. There’s no need to rush you know, we’ll make it there before dark.”


“That’s because you made us leave before sunrise.”


“What was that, dear?”


“Nothing. What’s with all the envelopes?”


“This? Oh it’s nothing. Just some thank you notes.”


“Hmm.”


“I thought I should write some thank you notes.”


“Uh-huh.”


“Since you got all those wedding gifts.”


“Right.”


“And even though the wedding didn’t end up happening- ”


“We could always return the gifts mother. It’s not too late.”


“Return...return the wedding gifts?”


“Ohh no…”


“That’s a horrible idea! Why would you even say such a thing?”


“Well, as the wedding is no longer happening, mother, I’m sure they’d understand if we return the gifts…”


“It’s precisely because you decided to call off the wedding that we can’t return the gifts! Can you imagine all the talk?”


I did not decide to call off the wedding mother, we both did.”


“It doesn’t matter. We can’t return wedding gifts, people will talk. And you know what they’ll say, Payal?”


“No, but you’re going to tell me anyway so-”


“They’ll say ‘oh well it wasn’t enough for her to cancel the whole wedding after all the trouble we went through to accept the invitation and plan our outfits and organise a plane ticket, which is very expensive, who gets married in another country anyway?”


“Here we go…”


“They’ll say ‘oh after all the money we spent she cancels the wedding. And then, to insult us more, she returns our gift! That we spent money on! That we hand-picked for her and her husband who is no longer going to be her husband! Because the wedding is cancelled!”


“Okay! Okay! We won’t return the gifts, Mother! It’s fine! God, you’d think I asked you to return a kidney or something!”


“There’s no need to shout, dear, I’m just saying.”


“God, help me.”


“You’re going too fast again.”


“How about we turn on the radio…”


“Hmm? Okay then. Oh, I don’t like this kind of music. No not this, there’s too much swearing. Youngsters are always listening to music with swear words in them. You know Aunty Jaya said that there’s even new kinds of swear words now, she heard her grandson saying them.”


“Uh-huh.”


“Of course, I won’t have to worry about any grandchildren anytime soon.”


“Oh my God, Mother!”


“I’m just saying. There’s no need to get angry. Change this station.”


“You know what, why don’t you pick something?”


“Oh fine. Let’s see if we can’t find some religious music…”


“Just one hour, thirty minutes to go Py. Try not to drive into a ditch.”


“Hmm, what was that, dear?”


“Nothing, Mother.”


***


“How was the drive?”


“How do you think was? I might as well have been transporting an atomic bomb, I thought I was going to explode at any moment.”


“Aww Py I’m sorry! You should’ve taken a flight instead.”


“I had to return the car. It’s Jay’s after all…”


“Hmm. Have you guys talked since…you…well…cancelled the…wedding?”


“Why does everyone assume that I am the one who cancelled the wedding? We’re a couple Ash, it’s not like I said ‘hey let’s call off the wedding’ and Jay cried in the corner as our family watched in horror, like some cheap soap opera!”


“Wow - I’m sorry sis, I just -”


“But of course, I’m the stubborn one, I’m the problem, I’m the woman, so of course it’s all my fault!”


“I’m sorry Py, I didn’t – ”


“Yeah let’s blame Payal for calling off the wedding, wasting the family’s time and money and ruining everyone’s lives. Because somehow me not getting married ruins everyone else’s life – never mind…f-f-forget about what it’s doing to m-m-me! Nobody even c-c-cares about how I f-f-feel!”


“Payal!”


“Don’t!”


“Payal stop…that’s not true! I care about you! That’s why I asked you to come stay with me and Ra for a while.”


“I don’t n-n-need your p-p-pity!”


“It’s not pity, and you know it. Oh! Where are the tissues? Here - just use this.”


“W-what is th-this?”


“Baby wipes. Look Payal-”


“Dun bungh!”


“Huh?”


“Don’t bother!”


“Payal please. I know how fucked up you must feel right now-”


“Are y-y-you allowed to s-s-swear when your b-b-baby’s in the room?”


“Never mind her, she’s just a blob, she doesn’t understand anything anyway.”


“God. I wish I was h-h-h-her.”


“Payal. It’s all gonna be okay love. Oh come here!”


“I just w-w-w-wish I could talk to s-s-someone.”


“I’m you sister for God’s sakes, talk to me!”


“You know w-w-what I m-m-mean.”


“I really don’t sis. I mean, look. When you told me you wanted to call it all off, that you spoke to Jay and you both agreed that this is what you wanted, I never questioned you, did I?”


“N-n-no.”


“And then when mummy and daddy were furious and Jay’s family were livid, I didn’t question you, did I?”


“I-I g-guess n-not.”


“Well do you know why I didn’t question you, sis?”


“…N-no…?”


“Because I figured that when you were ready, you would come to me to talk.”


“Oh Ash…I’m s-s-sorry…”


“Stop apologising, seriously. I’m here for you!”


“Ash, no. You’ve- you’ve just had a b-baby for God’s sake.”


“And what does that have to do with anything?”


“Well, I mean, y-you have a lot on your plate right now, I d-don’t want to – what? W-what’s so funny?”


“You! You’re a joke!”


“Me? What’ve I done?”


“Ohh Payal, Payal. You love going on about how nobody asks you about your feelings. Well, guess what dummy? You’re doing the same thing to me.


“What! I would never- ”


“Ever since I had Myra no one has bothered asking me how I feel, beyond a simple how are you? They don’t even wait for an answer before asking about the baby. I mean do you know how hard that is? And of course, everyone fawns over Ra, he’s the father its his first time, he must need all the support, never mind me - who went through 30 weeks of hell.”


“Wow. Ash. I’m s-sorry…I didn’t know-”


“It’s-it’s fine. I’m sorry, that’s a conversation for another day. Anyway…”


“Uh…maybe we should talk about it-”


“Look, the point is, I understand what you’re saying Py. No one checks in on us, no one asks us how we really feel. But I’m here for you. I’m asking you how you feel. I want to know what happened with you and Jay, but I don’t want to pry – I mean I’m not going to use whatever you say against you the way mummy and daddy do.”


“They do that, don’t they? It makes me so mad!”


“I know, love, I know. If you want to talk about it…I’m here. Okay?”


“Yeah…okay. Thanks - thanks sis…”


“You’re welcome. Just…try not to keep it in for too long. I can hear that bomb ticking inside you.”


“Oh ha-ha very funny.”


“I’m serious sis, I’m worried about you - oh…”


“She’s up…”


“Yeah, I need to feed her. Promise me Py?”


“Promise you what?”



“That you’ll talk to someone? Even if it’s not me? Just, please?”


“Okay, okay. I will.”


***


“Thanks for meeting me, Jay.”


“You’re welcome. Thanks for calling to meet.”


“No really, you didn’t have to come.”


“Well you asked me to come, and you wanted to return the car so…I kind of did?”


“Oh right. Well I mean, thank you for coming anyway, in spite of all that, I know how difficult this must be for you and I’ve already put you through enough and I really should’ve just left the keys with someone and-”


“Payal.”


“Yeah?”


“It’s okay. Really. I just – I sort of assumed you wanted to talk?”


“Me? Talk?”


“Yeah…about whatever? Everything, I guess. Maybe I’m wrong…sorry for assuming-”


“No no! You’re right. You’re absolutely right. As always. I did – I do want to talk.”


“Okay. Well I’m here. So…talk.”


“…”


“…”


“…”


“Should I-”


“I’m sorry I’m just-”


“Heh.”


“Haha.”


“You go first, Py.”


“Thanks. For everything, I mean.”


“I haven’t done anything.”


“Yeah you have, you know it. Look…if-if I haven’t said it enough, I

really am truly, very sorry about how things worked out. Or didn’t work out, rather.”


“I know you are. I am too. Truly.”


“And I’m sorry that things are forever messed up between our families and…well, between us now.”


“Our families will recover. And things aren’t messed up between us.”


“You’re just saying that to be nice. I know that I fucked everything up-”


“Payal.”


“What? It’s true, isn’t it? Isn’t that what everyone’s b-been s-s-saying?”


“Payal, oh don’t cry! Here, here’s a serviette.”


“I’m s-s-sorry. God I hate c-c-crying in a c-c-coffee sh-sh-op. W-

w-what a cliché!”


“Look Py...”


“Dun hiss ok!”


“Huh?”


“D-don’t, it’s o-okay! You don’t have to s-say it.”


“I think I do. Look I’ll admit that my parents are pissed, I can only imagine what your parents are putting you through. But we did the right thing.”


“I k-k-know we d-d-did.”


“Okay. So, what’s the problem? In a month or so everyone will have forgotten about this. They’ll move on to the next community scandal – someone donating old scarves to the temple or something.”


“Jay.”


“It doesn’t matter what people say. We agreed that we weren’t ready to get married and that we were rushing into things.”


“Yes, that’s all true…”


“Great, so other people will just have to deal with it.”


“Jay, how many times have people apologised to you?”


“What? What do you mean?”


“How many times have people apologised to you, since we called off the wedding? I mean, how many times have people come up to you and said, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘You deserved better’ or ‘Don't worry, you’ll find someone else’?”


“I-I don’t know…a few - a couple times, maybe?”


“Humm.”


“So? So what?”


“No one has said that to me Jay.”


“Okay…I’m-I’m sorry?”


“Hah.”


“What? What do you want me to say? Is it my fault that everyone isn’t apologising to you? That everyone isn’t comforting you?”


“No, of course not!”


“Then what am I supposed to say?”


“I’m not asking you to say anything. Look, I don’t want to fight about this, but you need to understand something.”


“Okay?”


You aren’t being blamed for this. I am. In everyone’s eyes, I’m the one at fault.”


“I thought we agreed to screw everybody’s opinion?”


“Well I wish I could, but that’s the opinion that my own parents have of me. So I can’t really screw it can I?”


“…Py…”


“And your parents too. They don’t know, maybe…they don’t want to know that you and I called off the wedding together. They’re blaming me. Alone. And you know why?”


“Payal, please…”


“You know why Jay?”


“This isn’t- it’s not even-”


“Because I’m the woman. The woman who didn’t want to get married.”


“…”


“…”


“…”


“…Payal.”


“What?”


“You’re angry. And emotional – I – what?”


“Stop. Don’t you dare finish that sentence.”


“Payal come on! You’ve had a rough couple of weeks! We both have!”


“Oh my weeks have been much rougher. Rougher than negotiating an exit from the EU.”


“Oh ha-ha Py…”


“I just wish that someone, anyone would just admit it, instead of skirting around it!”


“And is that going to make you feel better? Are you going to be fine with all this…insanity if I agree with you?”


“I might!”


“Payal. This is – this is just crazy.”


“It’s not crazy for me. It’s my life, Jay. Yeah, we can say screw the community, screw their opinions. But I don’t get to walk away from this…untainted. I’ll forever be known as ‘that girl who called off her first wedding to that nice boy’. That’s who I am now. Even if I want to marry later on, that’s what they’ll tell the next ‘nice boy’.”


“So that’s what you’re worried about? You’ve ruined your future prospects?”


“This isn’t funny, Jay.”


“I’m sorry Py. You said you weren’t ready for marriage.”


“It’s not about getting married. It’s about…it’s not fair. Nothing about this is fair. We both agreed Jay, we both did.”


“I know that…I’m sorry…I just. I’m not sure what you want from me Py? Because I really, really want to...make this right.”


“I – I…I don’t know. I’m…I’m just tired.”


“Well…”


“Yeah. Well.”


“I guess…I guess I can see it…and I have heard people blaming you alone for this…”


“Oh?”


“Yeah and I guess…I mean you know there’s a bias here-”


“Aha!”


“But I’m not sure what you want me to do about it! I mean you can’t attack me for something that isn’t my fault.”


“Well, you know what Jay. You’re right.”


“I – I am?”


“Yeah. I can’t attack you for something that isn’t your fault. That would be a horrible position to put you in, wouldn’t it?”


“Py…come on!”


“It’s fine. I mean, it’s not right, it’s awful and it sucks. But it’s fine. I’ve wasted enough of my time – and your time – with this.”


“Look…if it’ll make you feel any better, I’ll start…I don’t know…telling people that we both decided to call off the wedding. That we both weren’t ready. I’ll start correcting people, even if they clearly don’t want to hear it. I'll send WhatsApp chain messages to all the aunties!”


“Ha-ha...but I'd appreciate that. Thank you, Jay.”


“Okay.”


“Okay then. Oh...It’s almost four.”


“Yeah, and? You have somewhere to be? You got a hot date?”


“Too soon.”


“Sorry.”


“Haha.”


“Heh.”


“-Oh don’t worry, I’ll get the check.”


“I can’t let you do that.”


“Don’t be silly. It’s just a coffee. I’ve got it.”


“Okay, if you insist. Thank you, again. Well…I really should be getting back to my sister. She’ll worry.”


“Yeah…I should get back home too.”


“Did you tell your parents?”


“About us meeting? No way! Did you tell yours?”


“Oh please. I don’t think I can stand another interrogation.”


“Yeah…I know what you mean. I feel like I’m applying for a home loan at the bank every time I walk into the house. Here, I’ll get the door for you.”


“Oh – thanks!”


“So…”


“So. This is it I guess.”


“Yeah…I guess. If I haven’t said it enough, I really am sorry-”


“You have, believe me. And…I’m sorry too, that it couldn’t work, you know?”


“I know.”


“Well, I – Should we – can we…hug?”


“Oh..yeah, of course! I mean…here.”


“Okay. Goodbye Payal, it was…it was really, really great knowing you. I really…I hope you…find what you’re looking for.”


“T-Thanks. I...I hope you do too. Goodbye Jay.”


January 10, 2021 13:29

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