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LGBTQ+ Romance Drama

Bright, hot sunlight smacked us right in the face, as we jogged up the stairs, emerging from the tepid subway.

Breathing heavily from the reluctant exercise, I turned to look at Dehv next to me. She was fumbling to put her sunglasses on, the dazzle outside had caught her by surprise.

“God it’s hot out today!” she said loudly. We walked into the street, the noise of the thick traffic and crowd felt especially uncomfortable in this summer heat.

“I know,” I replied thoughtfully. “I should’ve worn more sunscreen.”

“Are you kidding me!” Dehv exclaimed, rolling her eyes. “You practically took a bath in it. You’re like 90% sunscreen, 10% Yura right now!”

I smirked and she smirked back for a split second, then turned her face away abruptly.

The streets were busier than usual, setting the tone for the rest of the season. Tourists mixed alongside natives, taking selfies at coffee shops, crowding around street performers, and competing for the attention of cab drivers.

“I can’t wait to go on holiday,” Dehv said. “Look at this madness! The sooner we leave for the UK, the better.”

I glanced sideways at my girlfriend, nodding in acknowledgment. But not agreement.

Dehv grabbed my arm suddenly, pulling me out of the stream of people and onto the edge of the sidewalk. It was the most we’d touched in months. Sweat formed around the edges of my temple, wetting my hair.

“Let’s go through the park,” she said, pointing across the road at the stone walls. “It’ll be much cooler, yeah?”

“Good idea,” I replied nodding.

We didn’t bother walking to the pedestrian crossing a few meters away, it was way too packed. Instead, we looked left and right, took a deep breath, and sprinted across. Cars honked loudly, motorists yelled, and pedestrians gawked uninterestedly as we ran through, shouting apologies and profanities.

“Sorry!”

“Excuse us!”

“Fuck you too!”

“Go to hell asshole!”

We landed on the other side of the street, huffing, and puffing. Heart pounding, sweat dripping under my t-shirt, I smiled. I looked around at Dehv but she’d already started walking towards the park gates. My lips faltered downwards as I jogged to catch up to her.

It was much, much cooler in the park. The trees were providing a welcome respite from the strong glow of the sun. A swarm of people was starting to develop here too.

I turned to mention it to Dehv, but she had taken out her phone to scroll through emails. I turned away and we walked in silence for a while. The shade cooled my damp face, I wiped some drops from my brow.

By instinct, we both turned right at an intersection in the path, a long stretch of paved road that led to the east exit. We’d walked this way plenty of times on our way to and from dates, hangouts, and parties. We laughed our heads off, drunk and high and sober, but we weren’t laughing now.

We walked past a group of men playing chess and my head automatically looked to the right, searching for the ever-present hot dog stand. I smelled it before I saw it, the heat was holding the scent of grilled meat hostage in the air around us.

“I’m gonna go get a hot dog, do you want one?” I asked Dehv, turning to her.

“Ew, no thanks,” she replied, grimacing. “It’s like 9am Yu, you’re really gonna eat a hot dog?”

“It’s not for me,” I responded placidly. “It’s for Park Steve.”

“Who?” Dehv asked quizzically, peeling her eyes away from her phone at last, and turning to me with some effort.

“Park Steve, you know,” I repeated frowning. “He lives here in the park?”

Dehv blinked back at me, silently confused.

I stopped walking and exhaled irritably into the tepid air. “Park Steve, Dehv. I’ve told you about him a hundred times, I always stop by the hot dog stand and get him one…just in case he’s around?”

Dehv inhaled slowly, she raised her eyebrows and her mouth opened into an ‘Oh’ as comprehension dawned on her.

“You’ve – you’ve even met him Dehv. I mean there was that one time, we were walking back home from work-”

“I remember, I remember geez,” she said waving her hands as if to dispel the memory.

I sighed and stopped walking. Dehv overtook me and paused. She turned to look back at me, puzzled.

“What?” she asked spreading her arms and tilting her head.

I sighed, looking down, shifting my weight around. “I’m just – I’m going to get a hot dog and look for Park Steve. You go on ahead, I’ll meet you at work.”

Dehv frowned. “What are you talking about?” she glanced at her phone. “It’s already 9:15 Yura, we’re gonna be late for work!”

“It’s fine, just go on without me,” I insisted, looking up at her, at last.

A warm breeze blew around us, shifting the leaves up in the trees above our heads. The sun made a momentary appearance, flashing across Dehv’s beautiful face. I squinted at its brilliance.

She was staring at me, disbelief, confusion, annoyance, and exasperation passed across her eyes, her nose, her mouth. I read her face like a book I’d loved my whole life.

She shrugged her shoulders at length. “Okay, I’ll meet you at work, I guess.” She hesitated. “But don’t be late, I’m not making excuses for you!”

I nodded. She paused for a split second, then turned and walked away, increasing her pace as she did.

I stood still for a second, enjoying the brief release. Then I turned to jog over to the hot dog vendor. Ordering the usual, I grabbed it from the man’s hands hurriedly, my hands growing warm and uncomfortable from the heat of the meat. I handed over the cash and rushed out of the queue, stepping back onto the path.

Glancing around the park, I tried to scan for Steve. It was so crowded today; the weather was lovely, begging to be enjoyed. Steve wasn’t welcome to join in though, I knew that. He was probably laying low somewhere.

I walked seemingly aimlessly until I saw a small stream and a stone bridge on my left. My feet moved automatically again; I knew this place. The bridge was crowded with people, taking pictures and videos of what seemed to be a marriage proposal.

I rolled my eyes and swerved to the edge, deviating from the bridge altogether, heading for the low, grassy embankment instead. I slipped on the green a little as I trudged down to take a peek under the bridge.

“Steve?” I called into the low concave. “You there?”

He poked his head out promptly, face covered in dirt, eyes raised in curiosity. He grinned when he saw me.

“Oh! It’s only you Miss Y!” he said pleasantly. He stepped out cautiously, glancing up. Some people looked down at the sound of his voice, then quickly averted their eyes. He did the same and looked back at me, still smiling.

“I thought you might need a hot dog,” I said walking to him slowly, the prize outstretched.

“Mighty kind of you ma'am, I’m grateful to ya,” he replied, reaching out to take it.

The grin widened, revealing mismatched and stained teeth. He opened the silver foil noisily and shoved the bun into his mouth without delay.

I looked away, up at the bridge where the crowd was slowly dispersing. “Some weather we’re having huh?”

“No kiddin’” Steve replied through mouthfuls, licking the relish off his fingers.

I reached back to the side pocket of my backpack and pulled out my flask, holding it up. “You want some coffee?”

He glanced at the canister and shook his head. “No thank you Miss Y, I got my own drink,” he replied, chomping. He reached into his pocket to reveal a square glass bottle of liquor.

I sighed and nodded, putting the flask back into the side pocket.

“We’re in a drought, you know,” Steve said, polishing off the last of the hot dog. He crumpled up the foil and put it into his pocket.

“Hmm,” I responded, not really listening.

“No rain for almost 5 months now, you know,” Steve said, pulling out the glass bottle and opening it. He took a long swig, gargled the liquid in his mouth, then swallowed loudly.

We stood apart in pleasant silence for a few minutes. A breeze blew overhead, the stench of the river blew back at us. I scrunched my nose.

“It’s gonna rain tonight,” Steve said suddenly.

“What’s that?” I asked, snapping out of my reverie, turning to him.

“I said, it’s gonna rain tonight,” he repeated raising the bottle and waving it around. The clear liquid swished around inside, droplets escaping from the top.

I looked up at the clear, blue sky. “The weathermen say different,” I said looking back at him and pointing up.

Steve laughed unsteadily. “Weatherman don’t know what he’s talkin’ about, they don’t know shit!”

I shrugged.

“It’s gonna rain tonight Miss Y. I can feel it. Gonna be a big storm too, thunder and lightning. You best prepare for it, too,” he said with sudden seriousness, pointing a muddy finger at me.

“I’ve got an umbrella,” I replied casually, blinking and looking over the dirty stream. The water was still.

“Good, good,” he responded, still looking at me. “Crazy things happen in the heat. People get aggro you know, shit boils up.”

“Uh huh,” I replied, nodding without understanding.

“All that tension, all that heat ain’t got nowhere to go,” Steve said, replacing the lid back onto his bottle, screwing it closed. He shoved the glass back into his pocket.

“Then, when the rain comes,” he paused.

I looked at him.

He raised both arms, spreading his fingers wide. “Pppoooof!” he exclaimed loudly.

I blinked in surprise.

People on the bridge looked down curiously, pointing and laughing. I glanced up at them uncomfortably and glanced back at Steve, taking a step back unevenly.

“You better prepare for the rain young lady,” Steve repeated with a strange look on his face. “I got a feelin’ that it’s not gonna be easy, you gotta a whole lotta heat in you.”

I took another step back, and crossed my right arm to my left, rubbing my shoulder awkwardly. Steve’s face was so serious that I let out an uncomfortable, involuntary laugh. He stared back at me, without blinking.

Sweat formed on my temples again, despite the shade I was in. My palms were getting slippery, I released my shoulders and rubbed my hands together absentmindedly, shrugging.

“It was good to see you, Steve,” I said, at last, raising a hand awkwardly in farewell.

He was still staring silently, as though waiting for me to burst into flames.

Then he blinked rapidly, smiling and nodding. “Thank you for the hot dog Miss Y. You take care now!” he said, waving and grinning widely.

“You’re welcome!” I said backing up the hill awkwardly. “See ya!” I called, turning and jogging away. People turned their heads curiously as I clambered up the embankment and onto the bridge.

Without changing my pace, I began to sprint.

***

“Yu-Yu!” Sara, my co-worker said cloyingly from behind me. “Let’s get lunch?”

“Too busy right now,” I replied, without turning around.

“Aww! But you’ve been working all morning, what’s so important anyway?” she wheeled her chair backward as I quickly pulled up a new window on my screen.

Inhaling, I looked at her as she stared.

“Hmm? Budget reports? Boo!” she said, sticking her tongue out and wheeling back to her desk. “Ravi! Let’s get lunch,” she called out to someone else across the room.

I exhaled in relief. Glancing back to make sure the coast was clear, I switched back onto the window I was on. Logging in, I clicked until I found my flight details. I bit my lip and stared at the screen, the cursor hovering over the ‘Cancel Booking’ button.

“Whatcha doin’?” a voice close to my ear asked suddenly.

I jumped in my seat and let out a shriek. People around me looked up for a moment, then went back to work.

“Oh my God Dehv, you scared me!” I said in a low voice. I minimised my screen irritably and looked at her.

She smirked. “You busy?” she asked without apology.

I sighed. “A little, I guess. What’s up?”

Dehv pulled out her phone and leaned on the side of my desk. She wasn’t looking at me anymore.

“Just wondering if you’ve eaten already. I was gonna order something from the vegan place.” She tapped her screen and scrolled.

I looked at her in silence.

“They have a new smoothie - berry and kale, want to try it?” Dehv asked. I stared at her, her long hair tucked behind her ear, falling casually around her face and down the side of her shoulders.

She was wearing her mustard full-sleeve blouse today, I thought. She wore that when she was anxious. I glanced down at my own outfit. I was wearing a plain old pale pink T-shirt. I only wore this when I was anxious.

“Dehv,” I said suddenly.

“Mmm?” she replied, not looking up.

“Did you…did you know that we’re in a drought?” I asked, staring at her.

“Hmm…? Drought?” she asked, absentmindedly.

“Yeah, a drought. For like the past 5 months,” I said, moving my hands away from my laptop, covering the keys in salty sweat.

“Let’s go to lunch Dehv,” I said suddenly, standing up.

“What?” Dehv said, snapping to attention. She pulled herself off my desk. “You want to go out? But I thought you were busy?”

I grabbed my phone off my desk and bent to retrieve my backpack off the floor. “I’m not too busy for you,” I replied quietly. I straightened, looked at her and smiled.

She looked at me quizzically, then shrugged and nodded, smiling.

“Okay, let’s go.” She turned to walk ahead of me, as I pushed my chair in. A lump was forming in the back of my throat.

***

“My dad asked if he could pick us up from the airport,” Dehv said casually, she poked at a cherry tomato and put it into her mouth. “I told him it’d be fine.”

I nodded.

“What’s wrong with your food, don’t you like it?” Dehv asked, pointing to my full bowl of salad with her fork.

I glanced down at the untouched forest of greens and the clean cutlery on the table.

“Oh..uh..no it’s fine,” I said, picking up a fork. The silver slipped between my sweaty fingers. I put the fork into the bowl, moving the food around listlessly.

“Mmm, anyway,” Dehv continued. “My mom said it’s fine if you stay with us.” Dehv took a big bite of her salad.

Nodding, I put my fork back down. I grabbed the glass of iced water next to the bowl and started chugging. Drops of cool fell down the sides of my mouth. I wiped them away with my warm palms.

“Are you okay?” Dehv said staring at me. I looked at her. We were making eye contact – for the first time in very a long time. She was looking at me for the first time in a very long time.

“I’m – I don’t think I – I am, no,” I blurted out. The ice cubes in the glass I was holding rattled as my hand trembled. I put it back onto the table and pressed both my hands onto my thighs firmly. They were hot and damp.

“What’s the matter?” Dehv asked, putting down her fork. Her beautiful brown eyes were wide with concern. I didn’t look away for fear of losing her.

“I-I…I want to talk,” I began awkwardly, breathing fast. My heart thrummed.

“Okay,” Dehv replied nodding, she pulled her chair closer to the table, her forehead scrunched up. She didn’t look away. “What is it, Yu?”

“I want to talk about…the – the drought,” I said, my own eyes narrowed in confusion as the words tumbled out.

“The – the… drought?” Dehv asked, her forehead scrunching even harder. Concern and confusion mingled across her face.

“Yeah, the drought. You see Dehv,” I said inhaling, sweat dripping down my sides. “There’s like a drought right now and, well…it’s going to rain tonight. Like a huge storm, thunder and fucking lightning.” I raised my right hand and spread my fingers wide.

“Uh huh,” Dehv replied more confused than ever. She reached out and touched her fingers to mine, making me tremble. She enclosed her digits around mine, pulling my hand down to the table gently.

“Sweetie, I think you’re having…some sort of breakdown.”

“I know,” I replied calmly now.

Dehv’s head twitched in surprise.

“I know, Dehv. What I’m trying to say is, that, the drought is us. We’re the drought,” I opened my palms, as sticky and sweaty as they were, and grabbed hold of her hand.

She looked down at our enclosed fingers, then looked back up at me. Understanding fell over her face, forcing the breath out of her and flushing her cheeks.

Dehv tightened her grip, staring hard at me. “Y-you – you said it was going to storm…soon?” she asked, her lips were trembling a little, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. I leaned forward and reached out to stroke her face with my other hand. She shivered.

In the distance, a low rumble shuddered across the cloudless sky.

June 18, 2021 15:45

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2 comments

Aiyana Henderson
12:25 Jun 24, 2021

This story was pretty good. I felt like you could have done better by describing what the characters were doing. Sometimes I was confused what the characters were doing besides going to work. Now that I'm rereading your story again, I'm understanding why I was confused. Yu was feeling shaken and taken aback by that strange man's premonition. In a way, you accomplished that goal by making me feel that confusion as if it was my own. That's a rarity since it can be hard to relate to certain characters. Other than that, it was good. I give i...

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D J
13:02 Jun 24, 2021

Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it! I'll try to work on that in future, I'm happy that you enjoyed the story :)

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