Summer Storm

It’s a heavy day, the kind that hangs about one’s shoulders and crawls down one’s spine, an itchy kind of day. The clouds grumble to themselves overhead, threatening rain but never brave enough to follow through. Instead, they hold tight to their burden as they sink lower over the city, squeeeeeeeezing the air, down and down and down, the sky folding.

It’s a sharp kind of day, the air humming with static so that one almost crackles when one walks, waiting with tense shoulders and bated breath for the shock that never comes until one is almost ready… to… snap.

“You didn’t say anything.”

It’s not a shock, but another grumbling threat overhead. Not sharp, but low and ominous. Nauseous.

Xyr shoulders twitch.

“There’s no point with them.”

A lightning rod thrust into the lowering sky, tempting danger, a lone figure standing atop the tallest tower, watching the storm approach.

Her lips twist.

“What do you mean, there’s no point?”

Closer now, the sound rolling around the horizon, chasing the words, hunting them down.

Xyr stomach clenches.

“You know what I mean.”

When it hits, the storm is so loud it is silent. The thunder roars soundlessly overhead, the lightning throwing jagged shadows against the wall, the systematic demolition of that daring figure shown in stark relief, one frame at a time. The rain falls in a flat sheet. It assaults the earth below, washes away filth and top soil and new growth and next season’s seeds in a single second of silent, inevitable violence.

Her voice stops.

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Confessions

Neither of them expected it, yet it didn’t take them by surprise. It was one of those mild nights where the wind held off the frost, and the promise of spring was in their blood, making them feel wild and restless. They walked again, down her streets this time, the stars almost invisible above the orange glow of street lights. Xe wore her old leather jacket, the shoulders slightly too big, the arms slightly too long, the warmth smelling of her making it fit just right.

It was still early, the Market still humming with activity as they wandered from shop to shop, pausing to buy their favourite snacks, spending too much money on sweets. They meandered arm in arm up and down each long, brick-paved aisle, the sound of the other shoppers fading into insignificance compared to the warmth of the body next to them, the gentle bump of shoulder against shoulder, the squeeze of a hand as the crowd jostled against them.

They didn’t talk much. Words spun around them like a waft of perfume, the scent of a flowering daphne being warmed by the sun, hovering on the edge of the senses. If you chased it, it would be lost. You didn’t force it, you waited, let it come to you with the breeze. Xe bought her a baby mint plant in a pretty pot, and she bought xem their favourite hazelnut coffee. They debated over which stall sold the best fruit for the best price, and compromised by purchasing bananas at her favourite, and strawberries at xyrs.

When they emerged, the wind pushed them toward the river, the crowds thinning from the main streets, funneled into the clubs and pubs, or heading home with their late night shopping. They wandered, slowly, their destination only half formed in their minds, their purpose still unspoken. They ate the strawberries and shared one of the chocolate cakes she’d bought, licking the melted chocolate from their fingers, laughing at the icing sugar on her nose.

There were always people by the river, but their unspoken words wrapped them in a cocoon of quiet, the strangers passing no more than shadows, insignificant and irrelevant. The words were stronger now, their scent enveloping them, drawing them closer as they sat on the bank, their jeans damp from the grass.

The words would be said later. For now there was only fingers tangling, breath mingling, lips meeting. At last. At last. It wasn’t expected, but it wasn’t a surprise.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Image from: http://www.phuket.com/shopping/banzaan-market.htm

The Beginnings of Joy

The coldest nights always showed the brightest stars, scattered across the arching sky like icing sugar carelessly dropped onto a slate tile. Galaxies swirled and danced above them, living creatures made of distant fire. He rarely saw them, living in the city, where light pollution blotted out all but the very brightest. He kept his eyes skyward, a half-smile permanently etched on his features. Here, the faintest lights still glimmered, dust-like, still visible behind their nearer companions. It was difficult to imagine the infinite stretches beyond those glittering crystalline lights, to imagine the lives that were lived around those stars, the other beings who, even now, might be looking up from their planets and wondering about them. And all that light, the seemed so fresh and cold and new, was aeons old before it even reached them. Many of those stars were long dead, along with whatever life had formed from them.
Xe huffed out a sigh, xyr breath fogging in the frigid air, barely visible in the dim lights that lined their path. Xe banished the gloomy philosophic thoughts. This was not the time and place for considering impossibly long-dead civilisations. Here, the air was still clear and fresh, smelling of damp and dead leaves and running water—full of life.
“This way,” xe said suddenly. Xe turned and scrambled up the hill, laughing as xyr feet slipped in the wet grass. Xe felt as though xe danced, although to the casual observer, xe had all the grace of a half-grown puppy, all long limbs and too-big feet, and the sense of always being just on the verge of falling.
“Where are we going?” he called, following more carefully, dignified as always. Xe grinned, invisible in the darkness.
“To get a better view.” Xe didn’t wait for him when xe reached xyr goal, but immediately grabbed hold of the closest bar of the climbing frame and swung xyrself up. The bars were damp and freezing, sending shocks into xyr fingers, but xe ignored the discomfort and concentrated on climbing as quickly as possible. It had been a while, and it took more effort than usual, xyr muscles protesting at such unreasonable treatment. Xe looked down as he reached the top of the hill and grinned again. It was rare that xe got to be taller than him. He examined the frame carefully, apparently not trusting xyr chosen path. He selected a rather more circuitous route to the top, climbing with the caution of one whose usual exercise involved a gym, or at the very least, a paved running circuit.
“Holy shit, these bars are freezing,” he muttered. “If I break anything falling out of this, you’re going to be the one looking after me.” Xe snorted.
“You could try not falling out of it,” xe suggested helpfully. He paused in his climb and xe knew he was sticking his tongue out at xem, even if xe couldn’t see his face. He finally reached xyr perch at the top of the climbing frame and hauled himself up next to xem, looking out over the lake that now spread out below them, the tiny lights that lined the path around its edge twinkling as they reflected off the rippling surface. They were just bright enough to show the edges of the mist rising from the water, the air already nearly cold enough to form frost where they sat. For a while, they sat without speaking, the only sound the muttering of waterfowl below, the chattering of the stream, and the hush of settling dew. The stars watched them.
“My arse is going numb,” he said eventually. “And I can’t feel my fingers. It’s bloody freezing up here.” Xe laughed and shuffled closer, taking his bare hands between xyr gloved ones and rubbing them gently.
“You poor delicate city-boy,” xe said. “A numb arse is all part of the experience.” Xe sensed him turn to look at xem, his expression intense, even in the darkness. There was a sharp intake of breath, then a sigh, then another deep breath.
“City-girl,” she said softly. “Not city-boy.” Xe scootched round to look more closely at her, but she’d dropped her eyes and was staring determinedly at the lake. Xe didn’t say anything, just wrapped xyr arms around her and laid xyr head on her shoulder. She sniffed loudly and swiped at her nose with one hand, the other sneaking around xyr waist. Another long quiet descended.
“Thanks for telling me,” xe said finally. A surprised laugh stuttered out of her mouth.
“I had a whole speech planned, you know,” she said. Xe grinned.
“You wanna give it now?” She leaned back and looked down at xem, smiling as though she would never stop.
“Why not,” she said.

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