Suspense Fiction Crime

The summer was so hot this year; it seemed as if it would be endless. To the consternation of the newspapers it still hadn't rained by the end of September, but that all changed last week and it hasn't stopped since.

It’s as well I live alone. I must look a mess, slumped on the sofa in my pyjamas with one eye monitoring the news channel and a hand never more than an inch from a whisky bottle, its contents evaporating at an alarming rate. Sitting here, talking to an old photograph as if you were here with me. I always think of you when it rains; I’m sure you would think of me too, if you could. 

You would remember that time we first met. You were walking—well, almost running in that swirling wind—towards the bus stop by The Bell in Hounslow when your umbrella violently wrenched itself inside out. I offered to let you share mine and talked you into going to the Magpie & Crown in Brentford for a drink so you could dry off in front of the fire. It was an excuse to start a conversation as much as anything. After all, I’d been shyly glancing at you for weeks on the 237 bus. Did you ever realise it wasn’t my stop? Not my

bus, even—once we both got off in Brentford High Street, I always crossed the road and caught the bus back to travel home via a different route. If you knew, you never let on.

Oh, and that day when we had that picnic in St Paul’s Recreation Ground and the skies opened without warning. Neither of us could believe the storm’s ferocity. We scooped everything up and ran, not wanting to trust the trees in case of lightning, and ended up cowering from the wet beneath the bus stop by the County Court, next to the Brentford Monument. I remember the smell, that dusty stench where the summer dirt was oozing out of the pavement blended with its liquid liberator. I coined the word urbichor for the smell that day, the equivalent of petrichor for towns and cities. I’m sad that never caught on. Can you imagine? Little old me name checked in the OED.

We burst out laughing at the state of ourselves. Both soaked through and the rain had matted your hair into sodden rat’s tails. With your eye make-up running down your face, you resembled a character from a horror movie. I can only imagine what I must have looked like.

As we stood in silence, all other sounds drowned out by the rain thumping the shelter roof and the incessant traffic, you grabbed my face in your hands and yelled, “Let’s get married!”.

It wasn’t so much a question as a command, but I either didn’t notice at the time or wrote it off as an attempt to be heard over the spasmodic rhythm of the falling globules of water. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to agree. 

And who could forget the wedding? I swear it never stopped pouring the entire day. As if in empathy with the weather, your mother’s face was like thunder the whole time. Her (and your) plans for that outside do in the Waggon & Horses’ garden, scuppered by a

combination of rain and your Uncle Simon’s cheap canopy proving to be as waterproof as a cotton handkerchief. I still remember the awkward silence and those resentful, accusatory glares being bandied about as we all herded inside the pub for the reception.

By the evening we all smelt like wet dogs, staring with disdain at plates of soggy sausages on the buffet table. Most families would have laughed about days like that after the event. Not you or yours, though. It was shameful. Something to sweep under the carpet and

never speak of again; like the syphilis your grandfather brought back with him from the war. 

Then there was the honeymoon. It hadn’t occurred that getting married in the height of summer would coincide with Goa being midway through the monsoon season. I know you were always more of a ‘lounge on the beach’ type of girl, but I enjoyed that holiday. Exploring rain-swept Goa was a unique experience, made all the better by the dearth of western tourists. The lush greenery was breathtaking—and those amazing sunsets! But you experienced none of it. Just stayed in the hotel the entire time and barely spoke half a dozen words to me the whole fortnight. Maybe I should have taken that as a sign. 

Now I come to think of it, the rain accompanied every memorable moment from our relationship. If that wasn’t a sign, I have no idea what it was. I should have paid more attention, listened to what nature had to tell me. But no, I was young and reckless. 

It even rained on the day of your mother’s funeral. We had arranged the post-funeral reception in The Swan Hotel in Staines, as it was a short walk from our house along the river. That afternoon, after a few too many gins, you got up in front of all our friends and relatives to make your speech. I distinctly remember the sound of the rain thudding on the window as you stood, with almost as much grace and balance as Bambi on ice, to announce that now you had your mother’s money you wouldn’t need me anymore. How you planned to embark on a globetrotting tour of the world that you wished you had undertaken when you were eighteen.

Once they had recovered from their shock, everyone was so sweet and supportive, even more so when you never returned. Your sister still comes over to keep me warm when her husband pretends he’s on a business trip so he can shag his assistant in a cheap hotel all weekend.

Damn, the bottle’s empty. Where did I put the other one? Here it is … I love that crack the cap makes as it opens … now where was I? Oh yes, this dreadful weather.

The rain has me thinking of you tonight. These storms have been awful, with no respite for nearly a week. Rivers overflowing their banks; train lines closed; in some areas, this biblical downpour forced people to row to their local shops. Tonight, when I got home

from work and turned the TV on, the news was focusing on our old street. Mr and Mrs Johnson’s house in particular. You would remember them, I’m sure. They lived two doors down, owned the Chelsea Tractor and those two dogs the size of ponies. This afternoon, half their back garden succumbed to the storms and disappeared into The Thames in a landslide. 

I found that most distressing. As the news showed amateur footage of their garden slithering into the river, I had to choke back tears. I’m still sitting here, transfixed by the 24 hour news channel and thinking of you. 

I hope the rain stops tonight. And I desperately hope this awful weather causes no more damage. After all, if that landslide continues to our old garden, there’s a good chance they’ll find your remains. And that, my dear, would be most inconvenient.

September 20, 2021 11:44

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