Between the Black and White

Submitted into Contest #112 in response to: Write about a character driving in the rain.... view prompt

28 comments

Fiction Sad Romance

TW - themes of grief / loss.


The wipers aren’t enough. Water gushes over the windscreen in waves as unrelenting as my grief. But, unlike my grief, it is swept away in measured, sideways beats. The streetlights are blurry starbursts in my struggling vision. I steady my right foot on the accelerator and my left hand on the wheel.


Black cloud hangs with menaces above, banishing celestial light from view. The bottle in my other hand is difficult to drink from without banging my teeth, even at this low speed. But the bourbon tastes like freedom as it glugs over my tongue.


'It’s like dancing at the end of the rain' she used to say. But only when she was sky-high happy. I regretted never dancing with her. My own self-consciousness got in the way of our joint rhythm. It got in the way of so many things. The rigidity of my nerves and the well-structured failure of my confidence built their own prison around me. I never even tried to escape.


I promised her in her final days, as I felt time and options drain away, that we would dance. She smiled and touched my cheek and said 'I never needed you to be anyone else.'


Since the day I placed a rose on her coffin, I puked self-loathing every morning. Wracked with regret, and apologies she would never hear.


I’ve never seen the end of the rain. Only an occasional merging of droplets and moving air that wet my face and left me damp and disappointed.


She often told a story of how she saw it once, as a kid, in a windless field on the canal side. How the drops came down in a sheet at a certain point, splashing in the water and falling like a curtain on the corn before her. How she took a step forward, out of the cloud cover, and within two feet of her starting position was no longer getting wet. The edge of the rain still visible, like a shining wall of tiny prisms where the morning sun caught the boundary.


She held out a hand and touched the tears of heaven as they fell. But she was no longer standing in it. She was no longer standing at all. She was spinning and stretching, turning and twirling, bowing and bending. Dancing at the end of the rain.


Her lithe steps took her between worlds; one wet, one dry, one black, one white. But I knew she lived for the grey, the beautiful greys of life.


Just once in her time had she seen this, felt this, touched this marvel. But it stayed with her, like a loyal dog. The memory bounded after her through the towering high rises of her childhood, along the busy streets to school. It accompanied her around the green university campus and down the dull corridors of her office block. It followed her to our wedding and watched while she danced with her father instead of her groom. Damn my insecurities!


I never understood why she loved me, and I was too scared to ask. Maybe testing her would break us. But those words flowed from her mouth with the ease of a swallow in flight. She told me often as she looked deep into my dark brown eyes, her blue-grey irises like a storm, glinting with mischief. Sometimes she’d toy with her flaxen hair, knowing it would stir me, and we wouldn’t emerge from our blissful coupling for an hour or so.


Another car on the road sounds its piercing horn and flashes its lights as it approaches. I'm over the line. I clumsily correct and feel a moment of cold run through me as I comprehend the implications of my daydreaming. But memories are all I have. Memories and a gold band on my finger. And a promise.


I take another swig from my bottle of freedom and it warms me through. It tastes like our first date at the steakhouse. Reminds me of her laughing and using it as a ploy to touch my arm. I recall that initial electric connection, the second I knew.


As the moment passes in my mind there’s a lightning strike behind me and the flash illuminates the road. Skeletal trees on the verges are brought into sharp relief and then seared into my vision when I blink. It’s like a burned-on memory. Memories and promises are all I have.


The storm is huge and unmoving. It’s not often they come with such little wind, not often they hang around like an uninvited guest. But this one is here to stay, for a while at least. And as long as it sits still, like Kelly’s loyal memory-dog, I have a hope of finding that elusive divide.


A few minutes more and there it is. I can see the clear sky ahead, stars are revealed like flecks of silver glitter on a sugar paper ceiling. It’s coming, my moment is coming. Her moment. Our moment.


The rain suddenly stops. But it hasn’t stopped, I’ve just reached the end of it, driven through the magical gateway. I pull over onto the muddy verge and scrabble around in the glove box for my torch. There isn’t time to fumble with the sat nav or pull on my jacket, the storm could move, and all could be lost. I grab the silver urn from the passenger side, untangling it from the seatbelt and holding it firmly to my chest.


‘Why such a sorrowful shape?’ her mother had asked. But we knew, didn’t we Kelly? We knew it wasn’t a tear, it was a raindrop. A beautiful symbol of your happiest times.


I get out of the car and shut the door. I sweep my torch over the glistening road and up to the leafy hedgerow. There’s a five-bar gate separating me from the wheat field on the other side. Wheat. Hers was corn but mine would be wheat and I’d share it with her. It’s not raining on my bit of verge, but it is raining behind the car. I’m there. I’m finally there.


Droplets from the gate soak through my jeans and I hear their cold accusations against my thighs as I trespass onto the farmland. I feel unlike myself.


She was right. Even in the dark, this is an extraordinary sight. The very edge of the rain, the fringe of the storm, the place with no grey area. You’re in or you’re out. Unless you dance.


My torchlight reflects off the downpour, showing me the border. Showing me the dancefloor.


I approach the edge and I twirl, stepping in and out of the rain. The contrast between wet and dry air is thrilling. A smile spreads across my eyes before my lips catch up. I brush a tear from my cheek, or was it a raindrop? My muddy feet are finding their rhythm, finding their timing, finding their beat. My shirt sleeves stick to my arms, water trails down my neck. Droplets hang from my eyebrows and are whipped away as I spin my head to follow my boots.


I take a few seconds on the dry side of the line to open the urn, pushing the pointed lid into my pocket. I hold the lacquered container in both hands and start to shake it away from me. Kelly begins to leave her aluminium prison as I begin to leave the confines of my own self-consciousness.


Only she can see me in the dark. I move between the wet and dry, black and white, left and right.


I spin and stretch, turn and twirl, bow and bend. I don’t need music, she’s singing to me. Her ashes spill into the rain and onto the field bit by bit. And I realise, they are grey. She is the beautiful grey between the black and the white.


I keep my promise and we dance together for the very first time. 

September 19, 2021 20:19

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28 comments

Keya Jadav
14:18 Sep 29, 2021

This is epic! Trust me..it is going to win!! It inspires me how you lure your readers and compel their eyes to keep reading the next line. The descriptions...wow! I like the use of similies. Brilliant job Katherine...I absolutely just love it.

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16:06 Sep 29, 2021

Thank you for the confidence boost! It's quite different from my usual style and I wasn't really sure about it. I'm really glad you like it so much!

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Kenley Ellis
02:57 Sep 28, 2021

This is so beautiful! The images and emotions you evoked were so real and somehow ethereal at the same time. Thank you for writing it!

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07:02 Sep 28, 2021

Thank you, I'm glad you liked it. It's a bit different from my usual style.

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Elaine Eleri
11:59 Sep 27, 2021

So poetic and lyrical. His grief is so apparent, and the images conjured in my mind are strangely addictive, however downcast and blue.

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12:01 Sep 27, 2021

Thank you for reading and for the kind comments 🙂

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Rachel Smith
19:54 Sep 22, 2021

Hello, first time reading one of your stories and I'll definitely be coming back for more. This was beautiful, full of tangible emotion. Couldn't stop reading. I loved it. Fantastic writing.

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19:56 Sep 22, 2021

Thank you Rachel, I'm glad you liked it. It's a bit different from the kind of stuff I usually write but I quite liked this style, I might try a few more like it.

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Sjan Evardsson
21:05 Sep 20, 2021

The poetic approach works so well here, digging into the protagonist's guilt over their own self-consciousness and lack of confidence. Well done all around. Stay safe and keep writing!

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21:25 Sep 20, 2021

Thank you for reading and for the kind comment

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Jon Casper
15:58 Sep 20, 2021

I thought this was really well done. Filled with rich emotion and vivid description. Excellent use of the prompt. Such a bittersweet story, but with an uplifting ending. I didn’t find anything I would consider an error or a detriment. A couple of suggestions though. Here are my notes: “Only an occasional merging of droplets and wind which wet my face and left me damp and disappointed.” I think “that” might work better than “which” here. Using “which” usually offsets a phrase that isn’t crucial to the sentence, not the case here. (Also “wi...

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17:27 Sep 20, 2021

Thank you so much Jon for your considered comments and for all the positivity. I agree with your suggestions and have implemented them. I don't usually write like this. I've adopted a more poetic style for this story and I think I might like it.

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21:42 Sep 19, 2021

A bit different from my usual stuff. Let me know if you think it works or not...thanks.

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Shoshana A
15:40 Sep 29, 2021

Hello Katharine, I loved the story. Specially the way you have expressed character's emotions. Right choice of words. It touched my ❤ Keep writing...waiting for more from your side.

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16:04 Sep 29, 2021

Thank you, that's very kind. I'm glad you liked it 🙂

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Tanya Humphreys
18:25 Sep 23, 2021

It was refreshing to read a story unladen with spelling and grammatical errors! Loved the descriptive lines, they paint a clear picture in the head. I particularly liked the black, grey, and white theme, there's always more than meets the eye, eh? The only nit-picky thing I caught was that the two times Kelly is quoted, it's with " " and the time her mother is quoted it's with ' '. I appreciated your taking the time to read my not-London story. (I write these stories in one go, then edit, plump, plump, edit- you know the drill. I was to...

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18:37 Sep 23, 2021

Thank you for the lovely comments. And for the nit picking - much appreciated! Quotation marks now corrected. I really liked your not-London story - I wondered if perhaps you were Italian and writing about home?

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Alex Sultan
01:02 Sep 23, 2021

This is my favorite story of yours so far - I think I like it more than 'Mirrored'. The use of run-on sentences is well done and adds a lot to the writing. I read over it twice, and my criticisms here might be a bit picky. The streetlights are blurry starbursts in my struggling vision as I steady my right foot on the accelerator and my left hand on the wheel. - I really like the opening paragraph, the first few sentences are stellar. I think the sentence I've highlighted is perfectly fine, but I'd consider cutting it into two. Something li...

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Alex Sultan
01:08 Sep 23, 2021

Also, my story for this week, tone-wise is the complete opposite of yours. I'm happy with it so far and I'd gladly appreciate your feedback on it :)

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06:04 Sep 23, 2021

Thanks for this, as always. I'll read it properly tonight 🙂

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Alex Sultan
03:21 Sep 28, 2021

Hey Katharine, I hope you're doing well :) I posted my story for this week - I put 110% into it, and so far I think it is pretty good. I'd like to hear your feedback - as negative as you can be, so I can improve and polish it, if you have the chance. Let me know if you're writing this week.

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07:08 Sep 28, 2021

Hi Alex, I'm good thanks 👍 I'll try to look at your story late tonight, or on my lunch break if I get chance. I may not write this week, I'm a bit pushed for time and the prompts have inspired nothing so far. It's disappointing because I have crazy dreams a lot of the time and should have loads of material for this but the prompts feel a bit clichéd. I'll see if I come up with anything.

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11:38 Sep 23, 2021

Hi Alex, thank you so much for this, and for all your positive feedback. I've managed to have a look through your comments ony lunch break and I've made a few changes. Couple of notes... "With menaces" is a British legal term meaning someone did something in a threatening way. I get what you say about "begins to leave". I'm torn on this. I want to imply that it's a process that will continue as he dances. He doesn't shake all of the ashes out at once, he does it bit by bit. I'll think about it. Burned on memory is trying to describe tha...

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Alex Sultan
04:10 Sep 24, 2021

I read over it again, and I still think the same - it's really good. Being Canadian, I've never heard the term "With menaces", and now that I do know it, I think it fits well into the story. The line is good - ignore my previous comment on it. I wish you the best of luck with this week's competition.

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22:47 Sep 29, 2021

Hi Alex, I've had an idea for the dream story and I'm going to try to post it tomorrow night, around 10pm my time. If you have chance to look at it tomorrow (assuming I actually get it done) I'd really appreciate it but I know it's going to be tight for time.

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Alex Sultan
19:23 Sep 30, 2021

For sure - 10 pm UK is only 5pm here, so I'll have time to read over and leave my notes.

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21:26 Sep 30, 2021

Grrrr, I'm finding it really hard to get this week's story onto the page. It's really rough and over the word limit and there's a plot hole that needs fixing. I'm going to give it another hour and then go to bed. I may not post this week.

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23:24 Sep 30, 2021

OK - I've posted the mess that is this week's story. Don't worry about line by line critique at this stage as I will do a big edit tomorrow night- but if you have time to read the mess then a general overview of your impressions would be useful. It is right on the word limit so something will have to go to enable me to fix the "who-is-Mike?" plot hole and a few other things. Also the language is very boring for a lot of it - again - word count constraints. I'll try and fix it up a bit tomorrow night. I probably wont enter it in the contest, ...

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