Friday, June 22, 2007

Half an Hour

This is my contribution to Minx's small, but perfectly formed competition, a very short story inspired by a painting of Jack Vettriano's.

The Rolls arrived at 6 o’clock, sliding silently, and stopped by the kerb, underneath the street lamp whose fading light somehow fuelled the illusion that the night was still there. That night of all dreams, and all fall backs.

She didn’t flinch, did not withdraw. She held the steaming mug in her hands, as if its mere closeness were enough to thaw her freezing core, or lift her sinking heart. She cared little if he could see her from down there. She imagined him, behind the darkened windows, on the wide leather seat, his morning suit impeccable, his hands resting quietly at his sides, the crisp unopened newspaper next to him. «Financial Magnate Elopes with Prima Ballerina», that front page might show in a week or so. A tiny rueful smile curved her lips.

“I’ll be here at six,” he’d said, just as he was leaving her flat the evening before. His eyes had sparkled for a moment, so fugitively that it could be only an illusion. “But you must come down. I won’t come up.” She frowned at the lingering coldness in his words, even as he held her tight, hands on her bare shoulder-blades, lips on her neck.

At six fifteen, the rear window slid down and cigarette smoke spiralled into the cool morning air. He’s getting impatient, she thought.

Almost against her will, she breathed deeper, as if she could possibly catch a whiff of that smoke, wondering if he was looking at her through that narrow space above the tinted window.

“I’ll wait for half an hour.” So much like him, to speak in absolutes, give ultimatums.

Still time, to throw the peignoir aside, to slide into her worn jeans, maybe to call at him, foolishly, from the window, knowing that he would deeply disapprove of that.

Still time, maybe, to tell him about the plane tickets for Greece that she had bought as a surprise for him.

She looked around the room. Her red suitcase was standing by the door. The bed, in which she hadn’t slept that night, still held the shapes of their love, if not the warmth.

“I won’t continue like this,” he’d said. “I will leave them. We shall take the Channel train to Paris tomorrow.”

“Your daughter will…”

“I want you.”

So curtly.

… as another beautiful object, she had finished silently the sentence, just as she was making up her mind, right then, with the face of his daughter, wide eyed, and so trusting, floating before her eyes.

Yet, had he run over the street to her, had he at least come out of the car and look up at her window, she might have – even now - gone to him.

“Darling,” she whispered. “I will let you go…”

At half past six, the automobile started rolling down the street. She took a sip of tepid coffee and lifted her eyes to watch the rising sun. Plenty of time to catch the plane to Athens.

Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.


Kat said...

Wonderful story! Brilliant little snapshot of a srong woman getting back on track. Visiting from the Shameless Lions Writing circle.

Vesper said...

Kat, thank you for stopping by and for your words of appreciation. You are very welcome to visit, anytime.

Anonymous said...

Vesper _ I think I already told you, so forgive me if I repeat myself, but I loved your story.

I was filled with desire to know what became of these characters, who are they really, what happens (or doesn't happen) in Athens. All the good things you wonder from a short story. Way t'go!!

Vesper said...

Oh, Thomas, please say it to me again... It sounds so good! :-) :-) :-)
Now seriously, I'm very happy if you truly liked my sketch. Yes, I had to imagine a whole (hi)story behind this half an hour, otherwise I wouldn't have known their motives. As for what happens afterwards, I don't even know; I was too exhausted mentally by all that soul-searching to go beyond that window.
Thank you!