Crazy Paving

Submitted into Contest #34 in response to: Write a story about a rainy day spent indoors.... view prompt



I drew back the curtains and took in the scene.

Of course. I spend four days a week in a basement office, the main sources of light being the fluorescent strip ones above me and the glow from monitors around me, while outside the sun has remembered to put in an appearance now spring has sprung, so of course it rains on the day I booked off.

It’s hammering down. No birdsong, no traffic noise. Just sheets of rain. I peer down at the garden, which isn’t mine. It’s for the sole use of the landlord, as stated in the tenancy agreement I signed too many years ago now. The magnolia tree in the far end of the garden hangs heavy with sodden pink petals. Ballerinas crazily curtsying. It is, after all, their time to shine. So let them have their moment.

Time for coffee. The rain thunders applause at the idea as I turn away. Signalling the end of act one, scene one of ‘The Long Weekend’.

I take the chipped mug from the cupboard above the sink. I could’ve taken the big oval shaped one or the one with the bear on, holding a heart telling me the meaning of my name, which my mother gave me as a flatwarming gift. But they’ve both had their turns recently. My last lover, Tom, at first found it charming when I said I felt bad for the ugly cups that are usually relegated to the back of the cupboard, so I chose to alternate them.

At first.

I stir in sugar with added ferocity, imagining I’m scribbling out the photos I found of him and her. Their happiness capsized, tossed into a whirlpool.

I take my coffee back over to the window, wanting to have a focus other than my thoughts, even if it’s grey clouds and seesawing branches. Across the street, a couple sprint through the rain, a single puffer jacket fashioned into an umbrella for them both, giving them the appearance of a panicked turtle. I can hear her protesting even over the rain; admonishing him for half-dragging her. He whips his head back to say something to her and her squeals turn to peals of laughter, before they turn a corner and I lose them.

The clatter of a slamming door draws my attention back to the garden. My landlord emerges from his shed. The door has never fastened on the first go. You’d think a shed would be the ideal place to store tools to fix such a problem. I have no idea what he does in there, this shed I have paid for several times over which probably has less mould than my room that he’s been promising to renovate for close to a decade. It keeps him away from me, though.

Six months ago I had come home with green bottles clanking in my canvas bag and had bumped into him in the corridor. He asked if I had a celebration planned. The emotions I’d pushed down all day at work came tumbling out, spring-loaded. I explained about how Tom was with her now. We ended up drinking my wine together, then some of his from his cellar. He showed me a birthday card drawn by his nephew, an enormous stick figure towering over the box of a house next to it, and I laughed for the first time in days. It got late and I got up to go back to my room, planning to pick up a pint glass and fill it with tap water to force myself to down before sleeping. I gave him an awkward hug to say thanks and goodnight, then found myself crushed to his chest in a bear hug. He mistook my cry of surprise for passion. I wriggled out and fled. I forgot about the water.

He looks up at the sky and I can see his mouth frame a swear word. I step back closer to the window frame, not wishing to be detected. He jogs down the path, back towards the house, shirt already turning transparent. A neighbour’s garage door slams, a gull cries, my landlord trips on the crazy paving I watched him lay down two years ago and my mug falls to the floor and shatters.

I didn’t like that mug anyway.

I knock the stained fragments away, letting the remaining liquid drain between floorboards as I move closer again to the window. As if it had achieved its aim, the rainfall starts to ease. The figure lying in the garden looks like a pile of bricks tipped from a wheelbarrow. A dark red puddle oozes from his forehead, diluting where it meets the little muddy pools that have formed in the garden path. A cement plant pots stands to one side like a concerned bystander, but the stain on its lip is a dead giveaway.

I start freeing my phone from my jeans pocket but stop as a ray of light slices between clouds rapidly turning less menacing and back into the sheep children like to draw. The rivulets on the window slow and break up into dots. I can hear next door’s television and the laughter of the woman who lines her toddlers up in front of the bargain basement babysitter again. The other side’s tabby cat jumps on fence, cautiously tiptoeing along, worried the sky might chuck down another bucket all over her plans to watch the birds.

The river of red gleams in the late afternoon sun, its vessel inert.

I will call for help. I will. But first I want to go out. Into the garden. I want to caress the freshly washed petticoats of the magnolia tree. I want to see if the cat will let me be her friend. I want to feel the bounce of grass beneath my feet instead of hearing the creaking of floorboards.

And I need to look in the shed to see if there is something I could use, just in case he should show signs of stirring. 

March 27, 2020 19:28

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