Word Count: 1,875
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It always rained. With her silk scarf covering her head and tied at her neck á la Grace Kelly, she almost considered going out. Candle wax was dripping onto the table cloth with little drips, the champagne was floating in a bucket of water, and the grease from the meat had bubbled up on the plates. She ignored it, and continued to wait on the window ledge, her legs still folded and cramping by now. Raindrops hit the windows and slid down, but her cheeks were dry now. It was no use spilling tears when he’d come home.
The grandfather clocked went tick tick tick and the raindrops did the same. It was slowly driving her crazy. Of course she could see that he was late, because the house was empty, save her. Her texts had gone unanswered, and visions of him in a hospital bed, broken but patched up, swirled around in her head. What if he’d gotten into an accident? Perhaps he had just lost track of time and was still at work. She hoped so.
As the clock tolled, filling up the empty house, she knew that her excuses were weak. How could he not notice it was eleven o’clock? But she shook her head and let her cheek rest against the glass, sighing. Her lipstick had basically disintegrated, and so had her mascara when she sat alone at the table with her fourth glass of wine and more than an hour gone past. Bright red stained the dainty glass, but she knew he wouldn’t care.
Now the clock was silent and all she had for company were the sounds of failure. Her phone buzzed, and she eagerly dove for it. On my way. It didn’t include a why or a what or who, when, where but he was coming home and that was all she cared about. Her legs nearly buckled underneath her as her muscles screamed out in agony after being so blatantly ignored for so long. It seemed that her focus was quite misplaced. She let herself fall on a chair, and began to massage her calfs.
It felt wrong, that she was the one who had to do this. Often, when he came home from work, she’d massage his neck and back and anything that he would ask her to do. With him, nothing was a chore. During the summer, he would get light freckles, barely discernable, everywhere where the sun would touch. On his sun-kissed skin, often still warm and salty from his sweat, she pressed soft little kisses on those freckles, whilst trying to keep her balance on her tippy-toes. Sometimes he turned around, a crooked grin on his face. But the sun and the heat got to him, and instead of everything being so fast and needy, his touch would be languid. Maybe it was because he was too lazy, but she felt that when he slowed down, he truly cherished her. It was springtime now. Summer would come soon. Things that had died would soon go into bloom.
However, no matter the text, the clock kept on ticking, and she now nervously tapped her feet to keep them from cramping. The food was not looking any more appetizing, and the candles had finished. Sad wax drooped from the candlestick onto the tablecloth. It was hard to accept failure, but with a fist she tore the candlestick free. Now, there was a strange circle with remnants of wax surrounding it. She felt like that empty circle. She was missing what was most important.
Wheels drove over the gravel with a familair crunch, and the candlestick fell on the wooden floor with a thunk. Without a doubt, it had indented the precious teak that he so furiously buffed. Like a dog waiting for its master once more, she smoothed her hair and clothes and expectantly waited at the door, her muscles still quivering. Perhaps her lip too. It swung open, and there he was.
“I’ve been waiting for you so long!” she exclaimed, immediately draping her arms around him.
“Yeah, I know.”
“What happened? Why didn’t you call earlier?” she asked, her happy grin already gone.
“I lost track of time.”
“Oh. Well. Dinner’s already cold.”
“I already ate at the office,” he mumbled, getting himself out of her grip.
“Did you forget?”
Her eyes brimmed with tears, but at least now her make-up wouldn’t run. He froze, and let his briefcase fall with a sigh.
“Yeah,” he said, sighing again. “Sorry.”
It was added as an afterthought. It was only polite to tell people sorry when you disappointed them. She rubbed at her eyes, and tried to smile.
“Let’s a watch a movie then? I don’t really feel like eating anyway.”
“I’m kinda tired.”
“It is pretty late,” she agreed, looking at the clock.
That damned clock. That clock that seemed to only be there to remind her that she was failing in every regard.
“I’m gonna shower. Are you gonna clean that up?” he asked, motioning towards the forgotten dinner.
“Do you want the food as leftovers? I made your favorite.”
“No. Just chuck it.”
He was already up the stairs, not a glance spared to look at the dismal dinner that he had abandoned, and she was alone once more. She stood there, unsure of what to do. In her mind, she'd be warming up the food in the microwave and he’d wait patiently. He’d drink the wine she’d picked out for him, and even though she hated Bordeaux but would drink it for him. As she would lean over to place the food in front of him, he would pull her closer and kiss her. You’re a darling, he’d say. The food dropped in the trashcan with a loud thunk, and it was if her heart was already on the bottom.
It was crushed by rack of lamb with a rosemary crust, by fondant potatoes, and cake that was far too sweet to be eaten with the bitter taste in her mouth. Hours of work were now resting in a black plastic bag. How many more would join them? She had no time to dwell on such questions, though. Wax was scraped from the tablecloth with a fancy butter knife that wasn't serving its intended purpose. Like so many other things that were permanently damaged, the tablecloth was folded and put away. Would he already be asleep?
He was so tired these days that he almost immediately fell asleep. His arms were too tired to wrap around her. His lips were the same, and the last time they’d kissed properly was probably on Valetine’s Day. And that time it was only at her insistence. He didn’t care for the effort she put into her appearance. Sheer teddies and red lipstick seemed to be invisible, and no matter what, things stayed the same.
She shimmied out of her trousers, unbuttoned the blouse and rested her cheek on his still damp back. It was warm from the shower, and she sighed happily. The warmth reminded of her of summer.
“We’ll reschedule for when it’s more convenient for you,” she mumbled, her thumbs circling the skin of his hips.
“I’ve been busy lately,” he responded, his hands covering hers.
“I know. I understand,” she hastily said.
Her only solace was that she couldn’t see the tired, bored expression on his face. The square jaw she’d fallen in love with, perhaps too angular, was even more prominent with his tensed muscles. The rain blocked out the sound of him grinding his jaw. His shower had washed away the scent of a woman’s perfume. Her stomach growled just as he was about to push her hands away.
“Go eat. There’s no point.”
“There’s no point in what?”
He secretely replied “In us.” Secrets were things kept unknown and unseen. So he closed his eyes, and turned around. His hands cradled her face, still shiny with her tears.
She sniffled and grinned. Bravado.
“I’m not crying.”
“I... I missed you, y’know. We don’t do a whole lot together.”
“I’ve been busy lately,” he repeated, ignoring the watery eyes.
It wasn’t that he wanted to make her cry.
It was all charades. They were actors repeating familiar lines.
“I threw out the food,” she said in a small voice.
“Why did you do that?”
“You told me to.”
He didn’t feel like he was talking to his girlfriend. It had been a mistake from the beginning. She was too young and he was too old. "Age doesn't matter," she whispered with kiss. And as the summer was approaching, he felt more smothered than ever. Perhaps the sun wasn’t pounding down on his back, but he could feel the humidity that came with her complete and total love that dominated her. It simply shone too bright.
“Maybe you shouldn’t always listen to me.”
Don’t listen to me when I say I love you. Don’t listen when I say you’re beautiful.
“I trust you,” she shrugged, her skinny shoulders slumping once more.
Why was she starving herself? But he could answer that question almost immediately. She’s not getting what she wants. He knew she wanted romantic dinners accompanied by candlelight, but were the wax stumps not getting through her dense skull? Every time he blew her off, he waited for her to yell and scream and cry and wail, but all she did was shrug and grin and make plans for the next time he’d smash her furiously beating heart, so desperate to continue no matter what.
“What did you eat?”
“We all ordered in some take out.”
Any rational woman would ask who included we. But not her.
“I guess it’s too late for that now.”
She was so intent on being included in the we’s that he mentioned.
“Don’t fall asleep without me,” she said with twinkling eyes and with her plump lips slightly open.
Back in the summer, she’d been beautiful. Her lips were stained with the artificial red of a strawberry flavored popsicle, and her smooth skin was shiny with sunscreen. Even with SPF 50, she had a golden tan that seemed to come naturally to her. The downy hair that covered her lithe limbs was bleached blonde by the sun, and her dark hair got light at the edges. It was her blonde-tipped eyelashes that fluttered when he came close. It was the skinny shaking knobby knees that made her waver on the plateau-everything she wore. But it was like she would put it with one of her little shrugs: bygones are bygones.
Her narrow hips swayed. It was a sorrowful imitation of a woman. What could he do? And he knew the answer to that one already. He seemed to know the answers to all his problems, yet what was it helping him? He could pretend.
“Did you send me a text?” he quickly asked. He knew from who the text was, but it wasn’t her.
The phone was lying on the dresser. Exactly where she was now standing. He saw the look in her eyes change, and he couldn’t even muster a sigh.
“Miss you baby? See you Saturday? Kissy face kiss kiss?” she read, every phrase a cold question. “Yeah, I guess you’ve been busy lately.”
Her voice broke, and the phone slipped from her clammy grip. It came down with a thunk on the teak floor. Yet another damaged floorboard. Could she put away the floorboard? The grandfather clock rung out for midnight, and it began to rain harder. She left the room, her chest convulsing with silent sobs. But a closed door didn’t stop her soft wail from being heard.
Half an hour later, he woke up from the bed being jostled. She crept against him, her breath warm against his back. The rain had stopped, her tears had dried. And nothing, absolutely nothing, had truly changed.
But the clock kept on ticking.