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Contemporary Romance Funny

"What?!" Frank squealed. "What on Earth are you thinking, Richard?" He launched out of his chair, passion driving him to his feet. He pointed across the large outdoor patio table, his face flushed, and continued to shout.

Jessica yawned. These body corporate meetings always seemed to be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. She watched as Richard launched a counterattack, and Frank spluttered his response. The current topic of conversation was the pool. This was normal. They had found broken glass in it again, so - again - it needed to be drained, and cleaned. Frank Cunningham-Smythe was the President of the Residents' Association, and while he didn't seem to enjoy very much of anything at all, the thing he enjoyed the least was spending money on any common area in the apartment complex.

“Look,” Richard said, his hands attempting to silently placate Frank's anger, “It just seems to me like we need to try and get to the bottom of it.” Richard grinned slyly to himself, as he realised his own pun, “So to speak.”

Frank stabbed a fat finger into the air to punctuate his words, “No.” He paused, as though considering his next sentence, and then went ahead anyway, “No, Dick, that won’t be happening.”

Jessica raised an eyebrow. Last time Frank had called Richard Hussein ‘Dick’, they had ended up in a fistfight in the parking garage. She watched with horrified fascination as Richard - who could sometimes tolerate being called Rich, but could definitely not cope with being called Dick - slowly turned an interesting shade of puce.

With what clearly seemed to be an astounding amount of self-control, Richard sighed and sat back in his chair. He folded his arms, as though attempting to physically hold himself in check, and said through only barely gritted teeth, “So what should we do then, Frank?”

Frank gave a wolfish grin, realising he had won, “We will call back the pool cleaning guy, we will drain the pool, we will remove the glass.”

Richard nodded. He was on board with this part of the plan. Jessica nodded along, as did the other - so far silent - participants in the meeting.

“And then we concrete the damned pool and turn it into a park.” Frank pronounced with a flourish.

“Now, Frank!” Vera gasped from her spot in the corner. Jessica looked over at her. Vera rarely said anything in these meetings, preferring instead to busy herself with a cup of tea, or a biscuit. She had owned apartment 6 just about forever, from what Jessica could work out, and she figured that if Vera ever missed a meeting, she would need to call the ambulance to knock down her door because the old woman had probably died in there.

“Oh, what now?” Frank exclaimed, rolling his eyes over in Vera’s direction. Vera cowered a little, but Jessica gave a silent cheer as the older woman steeled herself to say her bit, “The pool area is the nicest part of this complex, and the young people,” she looked over at Jessica, “get a lot of value out of it.”

“That may be true,” Frank started, but he was cut off by Richard, seizing his moment.

“It’ll devalue the entire building,” Richard pointed out.

Frank sighed. If there was one thing he couldn’t argue with, it was the value of the building. Anything that could devalue the property would never survive a vote. He proposed a vote on cleaning the pool, and the rest of the group readily agreed. He hadn’t given up on concreting it, though. He would bring it up back later, when it came time to pay the pool cleaner’s bill.

***

Jessica had bought Apartment 9 last year, and she loved it. It was small, but it was her own, and the very fact that she had managed to purchase property - in Sydney, of all places! - made her feel incredibly adult. Even if she was already in her late 30s, and had been an adult for quite some time. She had bought a tiny French patio set - just a small table with a couple of folding chairs - which she had squeezed into the corner of the balcony. From here, if she positioned her chair just right, she could peer over the railing and see directly down into the corner of the pool. She looked over the rim of her teacup now, her eyes trained on the men working below.

There were two of them, an older and a younger. She thought the younger was possibly an adult son, learning his father’s trade, judging by the resemblance. And the way the elder bossed the younger around. The son looked to be in his late twenties, so maybe a bit too young for her, she mused idly. Not that she wouldn’t go there, she thought to herself, and grinned into her teacup.

Her mother had given her a hard time about buying an apartment, of course. But her mother gave her a hard time about everything. According to Jessica’s mother, she shouldn’t have bought anything that didn’t have a “proper” back yard. She also shouldn’t have bought property before finding a husband. As though that made any difference to anything, ever, Jessica thought.

Beneath her, the pair finished draining the pool, and she watched as the younger man packed the big hoses away, biceps flexing as he brought the hose up into practised, lazy loops on the concrete. He picked the whole thing up with a grunt, and she followed with her eyes until he moved out of sight down the side of the building.

She stood up, padded into the kitchen with bare feet, picked a small selection of biscuits out of the plastic container on the kitchen bench. She considered another cup of tea, but the weather had warmed up, and perhaps a cool drink was in order instead. She looked in the fridge, pulled out a chilled can, and poured the contents into a glass. In a fit of exuberance, she popped out a couple of ice cubes and tossed them in as well.

Jessica settled back down into her little corner again, the drink sweating on to the tabletop. She nibbled at her biscuit, savouring the sweetness, when the younger pool guy came back into view again, now with his shirt removed. She gasped involuntarily; the crumbs forgotten on her lips. She grinned to herself. Settled back down into her seat and let a warm glow envelope her as she enjoyed her show.

***

This time, the bickering had started before they even settled around the table. It was the sight of the pool sitting empty that had set Frank off, and he was already working up a good head of steam when Vera offered him a tray. He glared at the little sausage rolls, with their glistening tub of tomato sauce, and looked as though he had to hold himself back from just flipping the tray up into the poor old lady’s face. Vera frowned at him, and then slipped back into her quiet shell, and quickly took a step back before she wore the pastries.

Jessica had decided to forego attending the meeting tonight, feigning a head cold. She knew she would be able to hear the interesting bits from her bedroom window, though, so she had settled in to bed. A glass of wine breathed on the bedside table beside her. A breeze blew across her from the open window, bringing with it the first mumblings of conversation from below, and she turned the sound down on the television so she could better listen in.

It was hard to believe it had been a month since the last meeting already. Two weeks since the pool guys had been. She sighed to herself, thinking, and sipped from her wineglass as the volume from the meeting below grew steadily louder. Frank's voice reached her like the pealing of a church bell, howling about concrete and parks. Something about a Zen garden, did she hear that right? Richard’s voice didn’t carry the same way, and she couldn’t make out the exact words, but she got the sense he was winning. She grinned. She didn’t want the pool to be paved. She rarely swam in it, but it was important to her just the same. If they paved it over, she might have to find somewhere else to live, she thought idly. And she liked it here, despite the Residents' Association.

The argument below her wore on, and eventually she heard the unmistakable sounds of them packing up, grunting good night at each other as they drifted back to their own apartments. She picked up her wineglass, and had already lifted it to her lips by the time she realised it was empty. She frowned into the red-stained glassware and swung her legs out of bed.

Jessica padded with her wineglass back into the kitchen and poured another drink from the open bottle on the bench. She lifted the bottle, eyeing the level inside, and decided that she might have one more yet; finish it off. Carefully, she set the bottle back down on the bench, and went to pick up the wineglass. She slipped her hand under the bulk of the glass, the stem between her middle fingers, but didn’t lift it. She was distracted by another thought. But was it too soon? she wondered. She wasn’t sure she could wait much longer. She disentangled her fingers, and put her hand flat on the bench top, thinking.

Slowly, dreamlike, Jessica drifted to the cupboard under the sink. She crouched down, reached right into the back corner, and carefully withdrew a thick plastic bag. It tinkled on the kitchen floor as she used her fingernails to pick apart the knot.

She looked into the bag and nodded, resolved finally. Jessica took the little plastic bag, unlocked the back door onto her balcony, and stepped out to the corner where her table sat in the dark. The tiles were cool under her bare feet. She folded the seat of the chair up, moved it out of the way, and leaned out over the balcony. She reached out as far as she could, and looked down, directly into the freshly filled pool.

She held out the little plastic bag and gently, from the second floor, tipped in the broken glass. Then she went back to bed, smiling to herself. She couldn’t wait until the next body corporate meeting.

May 30, 2022 10:44

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1 comment

Glen Gabel
22:34 Jun 08, 2022

This was cute. Jessica's characterizations were written wonderfully and the dialogue really felt authentic. Thanks for sharing!

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