Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Decision, a short story by Ivana Hruba

Paul? Paul? Are you listening?
Yes, of course, I’m listening.
Yes, of course, you are. What was the last thing I said?
Umm… You said you wanted to…
I did. But now I don’t!
She walks out, leaving the room like a ghost, without touching a thing. She won’t even bang the door shut. It wouldn’t make any difference if she did. A year and a half into the marriage and this is their regular weekend. She talks while he reads the paper. Occasionally, he nods. She nods too, though for a different reason; to punctuate the way she feels. She wants him to know how she feels ‘cause that’s important to her, but no so much to him she’s noticed, lately. Lately, things have been changing between them. A gulf is developing, perceptibly, steadily, and it’s bothering her. She’s puzzled over it, for a while now, trying to find the cause.
It could be that they are just too different, she’s been thinking lately. Too opposite, it seems, in everything they do. And they say that opposites attract. She used to believe it, when they first met, when she used to enjoy watching him play footy, soccer, golf, even squash. In return, she got Paul’s attention, undivided, when it was her turn. But those days are gone; they’ve been replaced by these days and these days things are way different. These days she doesn’t enjoy watching Paul, do anything, anymore and Paul doesn’t mind, is definitely less attentive, to her, to anything other than his needs. She’s had to face it: their attraction is wearing off and everyone is going back to who they are, despite their best intentions, despite their I dos and despite all the promises they’ve made.
He and she are in trouble, she knows this, thinking she might have figured out what’s causing it. They’re asserting their own selves; that’s what’s causing the friction. They need different things, it’s that simple, but it doesn’t make things any easier. In fact, things are going downhill pretty fast, this weekend, anyway. She needs a listener but he doesn’t want to be one. She needs attention but he wants to watch tv, alone, lounging on the couch in his underpants. She looks forward to going out, to a café, a movie, the beach; he looks forward to making a mess on the couch with his cheese and crackers, and his lager. Every weekend, he looks forward to this, and every weekend the gulf grows. And lately he’s been getting vocal about it. He wants to watch the footy, the cricket, the soccer, even baseball, now that they’ve got pay tv. He just wants to relax ‘cause it’s the weekend, for God’s sakes. Why don’t you just stop whining for a while? He says. That would be nice.
She stops whining, exists the room. She takes her coat, her handbag and her car keys. She’s going out, alone, today, again. She heads for the beach, for that nice little café just off the main drag where it’s nice and cozy and warm but you can see the ocean clearly; on a day like this, you can see the waves crashing down on the boardwalk, and it makes one feel good. Witnessing all that destruction makes her feel good; as good as a chat with an understanding friend would do but she’s done that to death lately so today she’ll be doing something different, something new and unexpected even if it is totally planned, calculated and premeditated, to the umpteenth degree.
Today, she’s going to get laid. She’s thought about it, long and hard, and she’s doing it. She has someone in mind, and he’s a honey, a dude with a ‘tude, drop dead gorgeous and up for it, she knows. They’ve been exchanging glances. It’s gonna be hot and heavy, she so knows, and hopes that he does too. And today is the day.
She enters the café. It’s busy, noisy as she knew it would be on a day like this, with the howling wind and the rain driving the ocean over the wall to smash the boardwalk, to pieces, and it’s exactly how she’s been feeling, how she wants to feel and hopefully soon, ‘cause she’s getting impatient and she wants to see Him now. Ah, there He is, setting up his guitar stand. He’s looking good, all dark and brooding and so like in her dreams, she has to look away. Too late, He’s seen her. He nods, smiles, she melts, on the inside. On the outside, she smiles, nods, like a proper acquaintance. Cause they’re not friends. Not yet and who knows if they ever will be? She hasn’t planned that far. She’s only planned today. So far everything’s going swimmingly, which is rare so she’s enjoying the sensation. She’s going to talk to Him and soon.
She orders a coffee, pours herself a glass of water. The urn is just next to the stage where He’s sitting on a stool, tuning up his guitar. He’s looking scrumptious, looking right at her, says hi, says it’s good to see you again. She feels herself blushing, and loving every minute of it. Conversation begins, then flows and she finds herself standing there for a good while, while her coffee grows cold on the counter. She didn’t hear them call her number, but they did, several times, then moved on ‘cause it’s busy and time is money.
The afternoon flies, though there are several moments in it that seem like they would never end; He comes over between sets, to sit at her table, and he’s making her feel like she’s the most interesting, beautiful woman in the world. He’s a good listener, a good responder and there’s a great deal of mystery about Him ‘cause he hasn’t said that much about himself. But He’s interested in everything she’s had to say. She tells him a lot about herself, her dreams, her aspirations, favourite movies and all about the novel she’s reading right now. It’s a love story, a thing of rare beauty and it’s been making her cry. He seems to want to know a lot more about it, but not right now ‘cause right now it’s time to pack. So maybe, He suggests, they could discuss it over at his ‘cause he only lives around the corner and he’s got a great red wine collection so… What do you think?
The invitation is there, she knows, she’s been working towards it since she’s laid eyes on Him three weeks ago, and now the moment is here. She had always imagined the moment would feel different, that she would back out at the last minute, feel guilt or a surge of love for Paul, or some new emotion, one she’s never felt before, that would compel her to stop, rewind, go back to her marriage determined to try harder, but none of this happens. She nods, says great, we’ll go to yours. His smile gives her butterflies. This hasn’t happened in a… while, anyway. She’s onto a good thing here. And she’s gonna make sure He’s too.
Several hours later she’s in his bed, in his arms, feeling alive. It’s going down well, just like she’s imagined it would. His touch is electric. He’s attentive, passionate, knows all the right moves. It’s heaven and it only gets better. Afterwards, they talk and drink red wine. In bed. She’s keen for another round but He’s in the mood to talk, so they talk.
He’s recently divorced. Just moved in to this beachside cottage a few weeks ago. He’s still getting over his marriage, which he had thought (foolishly) would last forever or else he’d never have made the commitment. But she cheated (multiple times) and it finally got too much. But he had tried, tried so hard, to fix it, to keep it going but it didn’t work out. She left one day and never came back. Texted him that it was over, that she moved in with a new guy and filed for divorce. And why? Why did this happen? He never did figure it out but she eventually told him they were simply too different. They were opposites in every way, two different people with different dreams and aspirations and it was best to end it while they were still civil. It’s been four months since the decree was signed and this — wait for it — is the first time he’s taken a girl home. You’re very special, He whispers to her, snuggling up close. He smells like the beach, looks divine but she’s not having as much fun anymore. She’s thinking it’s late and she should be going home.
But He’s not finished yet. He’s telling her he would really like to see her again, has liked her the moment he laid eyes on her, and would like to get to know her better. She nods; of course, she’d like to see more of him. She’ll come by next week. Same time, same place. Then they’ll come here, to do what needs to be done. Deep down, she knows it won’t be possible, but now is not the time to say it. It would spoil this otherwise perfect experience, this much looked for release she’s needed for so long. She can’t bear to tell him but He’s not the one for her. And He’s not; not with his baggage, the emotional scars and the inflexible, old-fashioned attitude; it just wouldn’t work. It’s a pity but she’s determined to leave on a high so they go another round.
She gets home just after midnight. Paul’s on the couch, snoring. It looks like he hasn’t missed her. The television is on and there are signs, all over this room, of the bacchanalia that took place here while she made love to another man. Empty bottles of lager (6) attest to the good times that were had here, in her absence. There’s plenty of litter; bits of cheese and bits of crackers, some on the carpet, some on and under the coffee table. A half-eaten chocolate bar and an ice cream wrapper and the stick, sticky side down, sticking to the glass top, right next to a crumbly smudge of something spilled which had dribbled off the edge onto the new carpet where it pooled, then dried into a solid blob. It’ll be a bitch to clean; that much is obvious ‘cause the carpet’s light and the stain is dark. But the cleaning can wait. Right now, she just wants to go to sleep.
She turns in for the night, going upstairs, alone but happy. She’s thinking of the lovely day she’s had. Of all the lovely days she will have. She’s thinking that maybe this marriage will last.

Brides Unveiled by Ivana Hruba is coming to an online store near you soon.

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