a story written in the hope of receiving something in return

The smoke from her cigarette doesn’t move. The air is too thick, the heat meaningless. The thin smoke hangs infront of her face and turns slowly. She’s reading one of his novels while he sits by the window shelling pistachios, waiting for the evening breeze to pick up off the ocean.

They have a straight fine-boned elegance, so suitably different and patrician enough to allow no illusions, at once and immediately performing themselves.

She leans back and exhales an indolent mushroom cloud.

“What are you thinking?” She asks.

“I’m thinking that perhaps it won’t come tonight.” He turns back to look out at the ocean and as he does so the phone cuts through the room. Neither move, she draws again on her slim cigarette, he pops another pistachio from its shell. The ringing continues, she turns a page, he sips his drink.

 

He woke, she slept wrapped in the sheets as she’d done everyday. Everyday the same; same sun, same smell of her, same touch of breath on his cheek, same white slowness of this room. She had grown to fill these streets, to tumble down with them to the sea and spread herself across the horizon: the incredulous result of a throwaway comment. When he stood he didn’t disturb her.

She struggles with sleep, to escape, to succumb to the deliciousnesss of falling, she moves back and forth between dreams and the snick of his knife chopping fruit, the dry suck of the coffee machine. Everyday the same. She knows she will wake before she wakes.

 

They left the building in espadrilles and shorts, two pairs of sunglasses and two shirts, one knotted at the waist. Down past cafes and piles of nets, 100 yards down little streets, the hot heat of sleep still on them and what little night quickly fading. She finds him attractive as no-one else, he wants nothing from her, asks only that she be the she knew she was being. It was already certain when she got into his brash little car, when they ran from the riviera.

Foolishly, she felt, she’d never seen the ocean until they came to stop here. It made no sense until the experience became him, until he lead her into the waves and saw the childlike expression, half terror, half joy. Now they swim every morning, slip from the small beach into the water, let it suck the heat from their bones, judderingly cold before hearts slow to its embrace. She takes him back to a time when he was different from now.

 

The sun was ascendant when they left the water, beginning to press its weight on the town as they climb back to their building, they’re dry when they open the door. They undress and stroke the last salt cold from their skin.

 

Lunch was cured ham, goats cheese, green olives and flat little peaches they bought by the box from the quay. They ate bed-bound and naked. She sucked the flesh from the small round stone.

“They’ll tell me its because of the future.” She said.

He picked up an olive and turned it between his fingers, one eye on it, one eye on her. She returned his look, chin tilted down, eyebrow raised, the furrows proclaiming it self-evident. The orchestra of the afternoon’s heat was tuning up, the birds and leaves falling silent. He said nothing but stood to close the shutters.

 

When they woke the heat touched everything. They lay on the bed.

“The stay here forevers are calling me” he said looking to the ceiling.

She lit a cigarette and replied “Nothing surprising, nothing unexpected. This is not hollow or false” a pause “It is romance I guess. I don’t know.”

He plucked the slim cigarette from between her fingers, took two puffs and handed it back.

She rolled away from him. He stood and went to crack the shutter, to look for some air.

“I hate autumn” she said.

He thought about it and looked out onto the baked stones. The dog days of the dog days.

“What’s autumn every done to you?” he asked.

“Winter.” She replied.

 

The windows are open as she stands in his shirt and mixes drinks. He sits by the window and looks out at the flat ocean, the shimmer rising from the town.

“Are you worried?” she asks as she threads olives onto a toothpick.

“I’m not worried” he says, accepting his glass. “Not worried. But yes, worried.” She returns to the bed.

 

The smoke from her cigarette doesn’t move. The air is too thick. The heat meaningless. The smoke hangs in front of her. She reads his novels, he sits by the window, waits for the evening breeze.

She leans back.

“What’re you thinking?” She asks.

“I’m thinking that perhaps it won’t come tonight.” he turns back and the phone cuts through the room. Neither move, she draws on her thin cigarette, he pops another pistachio from its shell. The ringing continues, she turns the page, he takes a sip from his drink. Then it stops.

 

The first cool stir begins. The knock on the door comes. They’ve known she was leaving from the start.

“Bye bye.” she says.

 

 

The End