The Rain Fell Down
October 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Marie, where are you?”
“Just walking down into town,” she said.
It started to rain as I came out of the library and I halted in the doorway.
“We need to talk. It’s important.”
“Tell me now then.”
The rain fell hard and I charged from my shelter straight into it, ducking my head like it helped. “I’ll catch you up. I can’t tell you over the phone. Where are you now?” Marie had left our group two minutes before, and I hadn’t had a chance to talk to her.
“Meeting a friend at Pollyanna’s. I’m already here. Can’t it wait, Lee?”
“If it could wait, I wouldn’t be getting myself and my phone drenched running after you. Two minutes, that’s all I’ll be. Wait at the door, I’m nearly there.”
I was already soaked as I ran across the street and leapt over a puddle. Water was running like a river. A car sped by and threw the puddle at my trousers.
I could see Marie’s red umbrella in the doorway of Pollyanna’s, and I put my mobile in my jacket pocket as I reached her.
She looked concerned and a little peeved.
I wiped back my wet hair to keep the drips from my eyes and joined her under her shelter.
“What is it, Lee? Amanda’s already here.”
“Sorry, but I had to catch you alone.”
“Come on, let’s go in.” She stepped inside and shook her umbrella out onto the step. I followed. At the back of the place, beyond the shop area, people were drinking coffee and eating cake in the small café where Amanda waited.
“I had a visit yesterday,” I said. “Private Detective. It was all very Sam Spade. Shaun thinks you’re having an affair.”
Marie’s face dropped.
“With me,” I added.
“Lee… what did you tell him?”
“Well, what do you think?”
We weren’t having an affair, although I wanted to. And, I think, so did Marie. But we were friends, and good friends too. She loved her husband. I loved her. She had a thing for me.
Aside from a kiss, nothing had happened. Nothing would be happening.
She pushed me back outside and came out herself, pulling the door shut behind her. She was angry.
“Ever since I met you Lee, you’ve been nothing but trouble. I was happy, we were happy, Shaun and I. And then you… ooh!” She shoved me and disappeared inside, slamming the door in my face. I stepped back into the river.
I took out my mobile and typed out a text message as rain ran down the screen and down my neck.
Cars drove by and their engines roared over the rushing of tyres on street water.
I sent her my message: Sorry.
Peering through the rain-streaked window, I saw Marie meet her friend and then look back at me, sadly.
My heart could have exploded.
She was right. She had been happy, she had it all. A job she loved, a husband who adored her and a fine house. I had been happy too, before we met three months ago.
Shaun was an old friend I’d not seen in years. We bumped into each other and he invited me round. We’d never been great friends, just drinking buddies, which I suppose is why we drifted apart so easily.
So I went to his house one night and I met Marie, his lovely wife. We got on like a blaze and I’m ashamed to say that Shaun was mostly left out of the conversation.
He went to bed early, up for work the next morning. So Marie and I finished the wine and chatted into the small hours.
I visited every week, and every week Shaun went to bed and his wife and I finished the wine. Really, I was only going so I could see Marie. I’d never had as much fun with anyone in my whole life. She was so easy to talk to.
Marie was charming, funny, smart and witty. She brought out the best in me. Around her, I was smart and witty too.
One night, things got more serious.
I’d consciously suppressed my feelings towards her because she was married.
I suppose, to save myself a lot of grief and heartache, I should have cut out of there from the beginning. But I didn’t want to lose Marie from my life, and if I couldn’t have her as a girlfriend, I could at least have her as a regular friend.
Tough choice. Bad decision.
That night we were very drunk and things changed forever. I let it slip.
Our topic of conversation became serious for some reason, and we both revealed secrets about ourselves. Marie asked me why I wanted to stay single after my last disastrous relationship.
I told her I always fall for the wrong women.
She said, like who?
I didn’t say. All I did was look at her and raise an eyebrow quizzically. It was all very melodramatic. She got it straight away.
Then, unexpectedly, Marie, my darling Marie, told me that I was just her type of man, and that if she wasn’t married…
My heart leapt into my head.
I didn’t want to hear this. I wanted to hear nothing. More specifically, I wanted to hear that she would leave her husband for me. But I knew I wouldn’t be hearing that.
Wish I’d kept my mouth shut.
I found myself across the road outside another café, so I went in for a drink. I sat by the window and watched Pollyanna’s across the road through the running water on the glass and the running water in the air. People rushed in there away from the rain and hesitated before leaving.
This is so clichéd, I thought, sitting in a café watching the rain and being miserable. But it’s funny how the weather can accentuate your mood. And rain is the biggest swine of all for doing that.
It wasn’t that night that we kissed, it was the next time. Like an idiot, I went back the following week. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I should have gone somewhere else, but I didn’t.
We drank wine. Shaun went to bed. Marie and I drank more wine, and more after that.
All week my mind had been in turmoil, her words ringing through my head at full volume, refusing to leave me alone. Keeping me from thinking about anything except this unobtainable love.
If she wasn’t married…
I was just her type of man. If she wasn’t married.
But she was, wasn’t she?
And that night I told Marie I loved her. The wine made me do it. The wine gave me the courage to say what I was dying to say but daren’t. Being drunk makes you tell the truth. I told the truth, and I still stand by what I said, because it was true.
You don’t love me, she said.
Yes I do, I said. And I knew that she loved me. But she loved her husband more, and all I was doing was messing up her head. All I could give her would be destruction. Her marriage, her home, her self-esteem. Her life.
She needn’t tell me that I was being unfair.
When I left, we hugged each other tight, and she kissed me on the lips. Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t enter into the kiss with the enthusiasm that she probably expected. I suppose that was my way of saying goodbye.
Three weeks ago. I haven’t been back since, and I won’t be going back.
Though my insides feel like they’ve been kicked out by a horse, I can’t go back. Not because of the kiss, not because of the confession. But because right then, at the moment that she kissed me, I realised I was only bringing sadness and devastation to her heart. It was all I could offer. All I could ever give her.
“Lee?” It was a woman’s voice and it pierced through my daydreaming, making me jump a little. I turned from the window and looked up.
“Nicole!” I stood up, surprised. She hugged me and stepped back, smiling.
“You’re looking great,” she said. “Apart from the fact that you look like a drowned rat.”
“So do you. Look great, I mean. What you doing? Do you want a coffee?”
She sat down opposite me and laid her coat on the seat next to her, then linked her hands together on the table, looking at me, smiling. She was as gorgeous as ever.
Nicole, my old flame. Back in town.
For a moment I forgot Marie as I remembered the brief but fun time I had with Nicole before she went away to study.
Some years ago, we were both young, and life had yet to throw up its many curses and blessings. With the rain battering the pane beside me I was sent back to my early twenties when the world was waiting before me and losing my girlfriend didn’t seem like a calamity.
Listen to me, an old man at thirty-five. “Wow,” I said. “You look even better than you ever did.”
“You old charmer, you. Got one or two more wrinkles.” She laughed and I loved the faint lines around her eyes. Very sexy.
“Well, you know, we all get older. And besides, you’ve hardly got any.”
“I meant you, not me.” Same old Nicole. I walked straight into that one.
The assistant brought her a coffee. I tutted. “How come I never get that kind of service?”
“Well, if you need an answer to that…”
We sat grinning at each other and I felt like the top half of my head was going to fall off. For some reason I was aware that smiling this broadly would show all my crow’s feet. “So,” I said, “how’s stuff?”
“Articulate as ever, I see.” She took a sip of coffee. “I’m back here in town. New job and freshly divorced.”
“Oh, yes?” I smiled. “Looking for a new beau, then?”
“Well, you know. Broken heart and all that.”
God yes, I thought, I know. “Was it a bad split?”
“To be honest, Lee, it was all over a long time ago. It’s just the divorce that was recent. I’m fine.”
“I’ve missed you, Nic.”
This amused her. “No, you haven’t. You’ve been getting on with your life. We both have.”
“Yes, but I miss you now, in retrospect.”
“You berk. One day you’re gonna get serious.”
One day I was gonna get serious. I hope not. Nicole, she was so beautiful with her long brown hair and dark brown eyes. She still had her figure too, all legs and slender sexiness. Is this all it takes to take my mind off Marie, I thought, to mend my broken heart? Well, no, not really. It was going to take a hell of a lot more than that.
I lost track of time, we might have been there hours, I don’t know. But we talked and we laughed and we caught up on old times and it was like we’d never parted. At one point during the afternoon I glanced across the road and spotted a red umbrella getting into a white Corsa outside Pollyanna’s. My heart leapt as I watched Marie lean over to kiss her husband. He drove her away through the downpour, away from me and my foolishness.
An emptiness ripped through me and I felt sick. I couldn’t breath for a while and the only thing that brought me back was a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Won’t be a minute.” Nicole got up to go to the ladies, and as I watched her I felt a calmness fighting its way through my horrible confusion. I remembered the sense of belonging I’d had ten years ago. A time when life was black and white.
I took a deep breath and let it go as the rain fell and fell and fell. I waited for Nicole to come back, as I knew she would, and I watched the rain.
I followed the happy little streams of water trickle down the glass and smiled. I don’t know why I smiled. I don’t know why I felt hopeful when my heart was lying in bloody pieces. But feel hopeful I did.
Funny how the weather can accentuate your mood.
In the window I saw Nicole’s reflection as she walked back towards the table and I had the vague feeling that something was about to change.
My mind and my heart were in turmoil, but I felt that there might at least be something solid beneath the quicksand.
I wanted to laugh and cry and scream all in the same moment.
And the rain fell down and watered the streets.
© Chris Young, October 2011