Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: EMBARRASS(ED) (11/03/16)
By Sally Poyzer
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
He was right, of course. They wouldn’t care how our flat looked.
But he was wrong too. She would care at least. I didn't know what he was like. I hadn’t gone back for the wedding.
I kept cleaning until the knock came, tossing the dishcloth into the sink, then hastily retrieving it and arranging it neatly over the tap before hurrying to open the door.
She was as bright and friendly as always. Cat Thompson. Beautiful. Smart. Clean. Good.
I saw our bare little flat through her nosy eyes, just as I had since she’d called to say they were in town and would love to catch up. It was dated and shabby, but it was close to the beach and when I leaned out on the narrow balcony I could see the brilliant blue waves and smell the briny air.
Cat wouldn’t see the home I’d made with the man I loved. She would just see peeling wallpaper, stains in the toilet and empty beer bottles tossed near the bin, waiting for someone – me – to recycle them.
That’s why I’d left work early yesterday, after the call, faking a headache and catching the next train to my flat, running, not wasting a second.
And now, here she was, going straight to the balcony door. “You must almost be able to see…” she bumpily slid it open and with one step was leaning over the railing, “Oh, you can!” She breathed, “It’s so beautiful!”
I loved her again in that moment, just as I had when I met her at church as kid and she’d insisted I sit with her.
She was back inside, flushed and windblown. “Great place!” she said warmly, squeezing my hand, then, “Can I see the rest?”
The prickling heat rose up my neck and spilled onto my cheeks as I opened a door, revealing a double bed, hastily made this morning. “This is the…bigger…bedroom, and,” opening the other door to show a single bed, “this is the smaller bedroom”. I’d put my pillow on it this morning and a few of my things on the shelf, to make it more convincing. I’d told everyone back home that we were just flatmates, saving money by sharing a place.
Then Jo was saying he was hungry so they sat as I served up soup with crusty bread.
I paused with my spoon at my mouth, realising with horror that I’d not said grace. Cat had always said grace, but if I suggested it, I knew Jo would snort in derision, just as he did whenever I mentioned God. Early on he’d been surprised when I mentioned my faith, saying, “You don’t really believe all that, do you?” And because he’d looked at me with those gorgeous eyes and kissed my neck I’d caved and agreed that it was all just a bit of nonsense.
To my astonishment, Cat and her husband were already eating, exclaiming about the tasty broth. As the meal progressed I alternated between enjoying reminiscing and fearing that Jo would say something offensive.
When they regretfully stood up to leave, I was relieved we’d survived, Jo and I. Not that he looked concerned. Last night when I’d tried to explain he’d brushed away my fears and kissed my neck. But it felt like indifference, not love. We were at the door now, Jo shaking his hand, me hugging her.
Suddenly, I had to know. I pulled Cat aside. “Why didn’t you say it?” I asked, urgently, my voice low, “Why didn’t you say grace?”
Cat shrugged and smiled. “I didn’t want to embarrass Jo. We have to give him time, don’t we?”
They had to run then to catch the last train back to the city. I stood at the door, my heart strangely happy. She’d said, “We”. She’d included me with her and her good Christian husband. “We have to give him time.”
Jo was already on the lounge, beer in hand, watching football, the dishes left for someone – me – to clean. “Shut the door, hon,” he said, “What uptight do-gooders.”
I slammed the door shut. Actually, no, I didn’t have to give him time. I announced that I was going to bed and headed to the smaller bedroom, smiling to myself. My things were in there anyway.
Just as well I didn’t have much. It wouldn’t take me long to pack and find my way home.
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