Fiction Suspense

                                          The rental

My slow measured pace along the wintry shore leaves deep murky footprints in its wet yellow sand and wild angry wind pushing hard against my torso mirrors the faltering seagulls struggling to remain airborne. My thick woolen beanie pulled down tight over my ears blocks little of the ocean’s roar and my loosening scarf and flapping coat need refastening from the relentless thrashing of coastal gale. I ignore dark clouds morphing rapidly into threatening monsters and continue my constrained walking. Alone. Old conversations replay in my head these unoccupied days like broken vinyl, and long held repressed images hidden deep down within resurge upwards like regurgitating waves. “I am really worried about you” I hear my sister’s preaching over thundering crash of cantankerous sea, “all this walking and being alone lately, can’t you find something better to do?” her crossed brows and crossed arms exposed her secret, she is something far superior to me, purer. When there are no words to defend without cutting and bleeding in return, I stay mute, avoid battle. I pressed down hard on my wounded heart to prevent my blood flowing and fled to the freeze of winter solitude, the rental at the beach, the only place capable of healing deep organ damage. I hadn’t realized I’d been so worrying, so confusing, so unsettling of late. Since when did wanting peace and time to think become a ‘worry’ I defend myself, and my sister should understand better than anyone why I seek solitude. I look again to the vastness and beauty of the ocean's raw anger and overcome any sense of urgency to do anything about anything in this seductive moment. I remain standing in the cold where I feel safe to replay more old conversations again and again. “Make candles” was another pearl of wisdom she had unthinkingly tossed at me, a near fatal blow to our kinship. It was the dismissiveness of the remark, the ‘times up’ feeling that remained with me always. Another unthinking staple periodically dished out was “I am sorry I haven’t called in so long” offered so incidentally I now regurgitate it like ‘off’ tomato that poisons so badly it can only come up. I have grown old and have little to offer the world it seems, and I must simply dampen my unrealistic expectations of what my days should be like says my sister. I look up to the clouds now blacker than black and wonder when exactly did my sister start disliking me so much and feel I was becoming a burden already? I am sixty-one years old and no where near close to qualifying for the pension, yet I am supposed to believe I should retreat and accept boredom and tedium and feelings of worthlessness. I laugh as I note, never in her fifty-five years of her lucky existence, has my sister ever been jobless or needy or unaccompanied.

No, no more rejection for me. No more self-flagellation. No more volunteering at Op Shops to deal with someone else’s junk for someone else’s profit then leave for home feeling empty and just as lonely, wondering what the hell am I going to do with the remaining six days of my week. No, no more swallowing ‘Um, I’m sorry I’m busy right now” or “we’ll call you don’t call us.” No more blaming myself for rejecting boredom and tedium or withdrawing from blatant exploitation for being less than perfect. I stop and breath salt air and cloud and lift the edges of my mouth to a half smile watching the surf reaching hungrily towards me. You can have your candles dear sister, your busy frenetic life. For me, I have planned a different day, doing exactly ‘nothing’, saying nothing to no one, a day where I don’t even have to visit the local store if I don’t want to, say a single ‘hello’ or ‘thankyou’ to any one, even at the shop counter. I’ll grab what food is already prepared at home, read stories that validate my sorry conclusions of the world and rest my bones when my bones ask me to rest them. As for conversation, I’ll watch television. Solid rain is starting to dump on my forehead and happily I turn towards the walking track that leads to the rental and start heading back. My soul is replenished and the rain can fall like there is no tomorrow for all I care. It is solitude that I have come to understand is my consistent, my always, my friend and companion. I have fled the warriors in their bunkers inflicting more pain and misery than any droughts or floods could ever inflict, and whilst I understand aloneness has its drawbacks and dangers, I will wait, I will wait until I can no longer cope with talking to myself. I hear the kookaburras laugh at my oddness and my talking out loud as I trudge along dirt track, and look up to witness their smugness. I stick up my middle finger “ha, I’ve heard worse buddies” I yell at them then laugh back at these creatures so small but so audacious, “I guess it’s the fact you guys can fly away hey, it’s alright for some, with wings and sweet voices.”

My afternoon is quickly getting gobbled up checking useless emails, reading news and editorials and again walking the beach and eating more food. Glad not to have to talk to anyone and deal with any inevitable tedious disingenuous platitudes, or force insincere apologies to every poor soul’s misfortune blabbed out in seconds, calm my hands and steady my mood. A day spent alone in silence brings me welcomed moments of happiness. I witness the sinking of this satisfying day sitting out on the deck listening to the songs of birds perched in their trees, and surf still crashing against red pink sky which turns purple then grey then black. I can deal with the real world now it is evening time and turn on the television, secure in the knowledge it is drama far away from me, and is what most supposedly sane people are doing at this time of night anyhow. Banging at the door hurts my heart. “Hello” a male voice speaks from outside my home. More banging. “Hello, are you in there.” Muffled male laughter blurs in the background. “Who is it?” I yell as I grab my mobile, my legs are wobbling and hands shaking. More subdued laughter “Hello lady, you in there?” “Who is it?” I yell again. I wait seconds but no answer. “Who is it?” I yell even louder. Silence for a few further moments then tapping starts at the window and scuffles begin at the end of the decking. I conclude quickly there are more than two men courting outside. “Well, the police are on their way” I scream as I lunge to the switches, turn off all internal lights, turn on the outside porch light, switch off the television and crawl along the floor in the dark to the window. I sit trembling.

My threat to call the police seems to have work. The thumping and knocking has ceased. From behind the lace curtain, I peek out into the night and catch the back of four men running away along the driveway. I remain still. I don't move and listen carefully to my thumping heart. The porch light is shining a slither of silver into the lounge room and helps me to navigate where all the internal furniture is planted. I continue to wait to be sure the men are not returning any time soon. As I repeatedly search the darkness outside, I slowly gather some calm and realize, tonight will not be a night I will be spending alone. I waste no time gathering all my belongings as quickly as a trembling body allows, and load up my car, one ear sharpened to any strange noises and one eye focused on any dark shapes that might move in the dark.

I relax incrementally with each minute I am further away from the rental. I can’t wait to see my sister and I hope she is glad to see me.

July 29, 2021 16:46

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