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Short story: Last Night

June 4, 2012

This weekend I took part in the fabulous Storytails 24 hour short story challenge, as part of the Stoke Newington Literacy festival.  There was no union flag bunting in sight, thankfully.

The challenge was to write a short story of under 1500 words which met the following criteria:

1. Had to be set over an hour, a day or a week

2. Had to be in a room, a city or on a trian

3. Had to feature a love relationship, a hate relationship or a celebration.

So here you go, a love story set over a day in a caravan (yes, not technically a room but it was allowed!).

 

Last Night

Kelly awoke. She was in the caravan. It was light, and the room was silent, but above her head there was a constant pattering sound: it must be raining. And Joe was not in bed next to her. Then she remembered the argument. Oh, fuck. They were walking back from the bar last night, both drunk. She didn’t know how it had started but she had a feeling she had insulted his mother. If only she could remember everything… it was all fragmented… Joe walking away, her chasing after him, the caravan door being slammed shut. A spasm of pain pulsed through her head: the hangover was bad.

Now she heard the low rumble of the TV. Joe must be up, moving about in the narrow living area.

She sat up and looked at the small travel clock. It blinked 10:25 at her. She should get up and face him. She hauled herself out of bed and pulled on her dressing gown, catching her reflection in the mirror: she’d slept in her make up last night and it showed. She pulled back the flimsy divider and stepped out into the living area. Joe was sitting on the sofa at the other end, eating toast. She looked at him but his gaze didn’t shift from the TV. This was not good.

In the cramped bathroom she washed her face in the tiny sink, scrubbing hard, trying to bring a bit of colour back then stared at her reflection, hoping it might tell her what exactly she had said last night, but it didn’t.  Back in the living area she looked at Joe again.

“Morning.”

“Morning,” he replied flatly.

“Any hot water left?”

“Maybe.”

He was the best thing that had happened to her for a long time, and now here she was, fucking it up like she always seemed to. She filled the kettle and peered out of the window as it boiled. It was raining hard, the sky as grey as a bruise. Joe was watching T4, some stupid woman squawking about something or other.

She made some tea and moved down the caravan towards him, but she noticed he cast his eyes downwards. She sat down at the table.

“It’s chucking it down,” she said.

“Yeah.”

She took a deep breath and was about to speak but he spoke first.

“I think it’s set in for the day.”

He went over to the sink and washed his plate. Kelly felt like crying. She looked at his pale skin and she wanted to touch him, embrace him, run her hand though his dark hair. She wanted him to grab her, drag her back into bed and make love to her… but the way he was acting that was definitely not going to happen. He sighed.

“Joe, that argument… last night.”

He looked at her, and for a second their eyes met. She held her breath in anticipation… but he looked at his feet then brushed past her and went into the bathroom.

She fled and threw herself down on the bed. She lay there for a while but then she heard the caravan door open then close. She got up and went to the window where she watched Joe walking away, head down against the rain. Where was he going? She returned to the bed and sat hugging her knees awhile, but still he didn’t return.

She took a shower, dressed and went to sit on the sofa to wait for him: she would confront him, ask him outright what she had said.  But as she listlessly flicked though a magazine, she began to feel sick and so she locked herself into the bathroom: there was hardly room to kneel over the toilet.  After she’d thrown up, she leaned on the sink and let her head rest against the mirror.  She was doing this, breathing slowly, letting her stomach regain its composure when she heard him return.

“Oh god,” she muttered quietly, and tried to flush the sick away, but the toilet flush was so weak so she had to wait for the tank to fill again. Everything was weak and crappy in this caravan, she thought. She rinsed her mouth and stepped out to face Joe again.

“Where’ve you been?”

“Just out. Arcade and stuff.”

It was still raining.  He sat on the sofa, looking at the paper. He was trying to do the crossword and swiveled a pen in between his fingers, clicking the nib in and out repeatedly.

She couldn’t face him though. She went back to the bed and began to cry quietly into the duvet. She must have fallen asleep as when she came round it felt much later as the light outside was fading. It was only four pm though and she was ravishingly hungry.

Joe was asleep on the sofa, his mouth open slightly and the paper just balancing on his lap. She moved quietly so as not to wake him as she made some beans on toast. Maybe everything would be better after she’d eaten.

He began to stir though. He sat up and looked around him, as if confused about where he was.  Imagine if, by chance, he’d suffered some strange bout of amnesia, forgetting all the past. She could start again with him, all new, she could teach him everything. But she saw him grimace at her as she went to the table with her food.

He stood up and walked to the bathroom. She ate small morsels as she listened to him pissing and then flushing.

“Were you sick?” he asked when he re-emerged.

“A bit, yeah,” she replied, and looked down at the food which now was totally unappealing.

He didn’t say anything, he just went back to the sofa and turned the TV on. He flicked through the channels and settled on the football scores.

She looked out of the window and watched the raindrops running down the glass like tears. Nothing moved outside. The man reading the football score’s voice was strangely calming, she let her head fall against the window and closed her eyes. She wished she could go out for a walk, get some air, get away from Joe… it was as if the weather had conspired against her to keep her trapped here. She had the urge to open the door of the caravan and run through the rain, just keep running and running, all the way to the sea, and walk into the sea until it rolled over her head…

“I’m thinking of getting pizza later,” Joe said.

She sat up. “Oh, right, cool.”

He smiled, very slightly.

She threw the rest of the toast away, and then tried to read a book, but the words kept blurring and she couldn’t take it in.  The time went by so slowly Kelly thought she might die. She knew Joe was feeling this too, this painful boredom. He watched the TV without emotion, as if he wasn’t really watching it at all, but just sitting there thinking. She wished she could make him laugh, just like she had done on previous days, or that they could get out the playing cards.  A day like this would have been perfect for drawing the curtains and playing strip poker.

“What kind of pizza do you want then?” he said after a while.

She shrugged, “the usual”, and he called up and ordered.

She joined him on the sofa, sitting near him, but not touching. He didn’t move away. They watched some crap TV show in silence, until there was a banging on the door: the pizza delivery guy. Joe went to pay him and a blast of cold air came into the caravan. He brought the pizza box over and put it between them on the sofa. She smiled at him as they ate the steaming slices. It wasn’t bad pizza, better than she’d expected.

X Factor’s just starting,” she said.

He nodded and turned over the channel, where the booming commentator was already introducing the show, all flashing lights and screaming girls: a world away from here.

A girl started singing. She was so young and fragile and singing some ballad Kelly didn’t know, but it was haunting – she felt like it hit a vein deep inside her. She couldn’t explain it, but before she knew it, tears were rolling down her cheeks. Stupid as it was, there was something about this song – it conveyed all her misery, all her self-hate, all her self-pity.

“Kelly…”

“I just can’t remember what I said to you last night,” she wept.

He looked at her and bit his lip.

“I can’t remember what I said either.”

“What? I’ve been going crazy in here!”

“I have as well. I thought you were angry with me.”

“No…”

Their eyes met.  Joe’s face creased into smile. Soon they were both laughing, sliding off the sofa and falling into each other on the caravan floor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2012 6:37 am

    Great story, I felt the tension between Kelly and Joe and was relieved at the end. You pulled me in, making me read just to find out what the argument was really about. Good Job.

    • admin permalink*
      June 7, 2012 7:49 am

      Thanks a lot! I’m glad you enjoyed it:))

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