Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Silent Treatment

"How you doing?" said Ian, as he sat down beside Mandy on the bench. It was hot out in the sun. The gum tree overhead gave a small patch of shade, but it didn't cover the bench.

Mandy didn't look at him. She kept her eyes on the kookaburra sitting in the other gum tree, across the lawn. It was watching her too. "Fine," she said.

Ian looked for a smile, or anything, in her face. No smile, but she seemed to have a tic in her left cheek. "I'm really sorry," he said, "how things turned out."

"You're sorry?"

Ian flinched. He nodded. "Yes, I am."

She said nothing now, though she seemed to be crying.

"I didn't mean to hurt you. I only ever wanted what was best for you." The lines were rehearsed, but he found it hard to go on. The words wouldn't come. It was too hot. His legs were sweating in his suit pants and beginning to itch.

Mandy still said nothing. She was definitely crying. Great. The silent treatment.

Ian tried one last time. "I probably should have told you sooner, how I felt."

Now she turned to look at him. Her eyes were red and the tears had eroded little streaks down through her makeup. "Probably?" She had that inquisition tone again; using his words back at him as questions. It felt so hateful.

"Okay," said Ian. "Definitely. I definitely should have told you. I just never thought about it properly before today in those words, you know? And then he said, 'until death do you part'. I just freaked out. I realised I'm not ready for that. It wouldn't have been fair to you to say, 'I do.'" He paused, and then added, "I'll help cover the costs, of course, for the catering, and the wedding dress."

"Just go away." She turned to looked at the kookaburra again.

A breeze came through the church yard and blew her veil up into Ian's face. He stood up, stretching his legs and jiggling his pants where they itched. "Fair enough," he said. He left the church grounds by jumping the back fence. It didn't seem like a good time to mingle with the family.


Geoff maritz said...

Very sad. I hate people crying, it hurts me to see someone in pain especialy if I am the cause of it no matter how justifiable. God bless you.

Laurita said...

Nicely done. At the beginning I thought he was apologising for something that had happened in the past.

Only one suggestion - I would delete the "now" after each "crying". It will give your sentence a little extra power.

Really nicely done. I forget that you are from Australia until you slip in things like gum tree and kookaburra. :)

Erin Cole said...

He escaped without a black eye - and possibly the love of his life.
I like how this unfolded.

Esther said...

Good story - just what were you thinking about when you wrote it?

Bernard S. Jansen said...

@Laurita: I totally agree with your "now" comments; so I've edited the story. Thanks for the constructive feedback - I know it can feel awkward putting your neck out. Us Australians do try to slip in a few gum trees and kookaburras every now and then.

@Esther: I sat down yesterday with a cup of coffee on a bench in the garden at work. I was watching the kookaburras, willy-wagtails, fairy-wrens, pee-wees and ants. The ants bit me, so I moved to another bench. I had my notebook, and really wanted to write, for just a few minutes. Something, anything - just a short flash piece.

The first sentence I wrote was, "The world is teeming with life, but we ignore it so much of the time." The next sentence had Bruce (who got a name-change) sitting down asking "How are things?" I don't know how that connection happened. Obviously, I had to lose the first sentence, but it was what got the process of getting words from brain to page happening.

I've had love and marriage and relationships on my mind a lot lately. Some friends and colleages have been going through breakups (very painful, even from the outside). Some people have been achieving high anniversary scores. I've also been around (and analysing!) other people in developing relationships on the verge of marriage. My own marriage is stronger than ever - but NOT taken for granted - in it's tenth year.

In the end, who knows where these things come from? I just love it when I write something and the words that come are as much a surprise to me as anyone else. I just get scared that people might read too much into things.

@Erin & Geoff: Thanks for your kind comments.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Hi Bernard. Enjoyed your story. Also enjoyed your comments on Bathroom Monologues. Didn't think your drinking joke fell flat at all! But I think I'm going to stick with the river picture. You are what, 30 something? You SHOULD put your photo on your blog. When you're my age? Not so much! Anyway, got a kick out of your comments so I stalked you to your blog to see if your money is where your mouth is. Good stuff, engineer-boy. Your pen has a gentle touch.

Meredith said...

As much as its sad, I laughed too!
But you should have kept Bruce - has a better Aussie ring to it, like Bruce the shark in "Finding Nemo"...