Mermaid

By Vita Forest

IMG_0183[1]

Prue walked deliberately down the hallway, her toes shooting needles of pain up her shins every time they made contact with the floor.

“Please wear them,” Owen had begged her, and she had put on the shoes with the ridiculous heels.  Though she would be on her feet all night, though she would be walking back and forth from the kitchen, from the front door, from the deck.  Laden with food, laden with drinks, laden with plates.  The perfect hostess.

“Please.”

His work colleagues were coming.  The whole office.  The whole lot of them.  He had been in a state all day, adjusting the furniture, checking the menu, checking the bulbs in the fairy lights.  How much it took to give this appearance of unstudied elegance.

They had nearly had words.  Prue had come in from the garden with an armful of gardenias to see Owen, hands on hips, pulling selected cushions from the lounge.  Her tapestry cat, the patchwork number their son had made in primary school, the cheery yellow knitted cover she had bought at a craft market.

“Not appropriate?” she had teased, smiling.

He turned to her, preoccupied, his face serious.  Then he scooped up the cushions, walked by her to the bedroom and threw them in.

“I know you don’t think so, but this is important.”

She blinked and felt her eyes smart.

Then the shoes.  As she was dressing, he dug around at the bottom of the closet and produced the box.  She had forgotten them, they were so uncomfortable, so ridiculous, so not her.

“Please.”

So she had put them on and here she was, mincing up and down the hallway.  The interminable hallway, the endless hallway.  Brandishing the tray full of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears.  Prue stopped at the end of the hall, adjusting her eyes to the darkness beyond.  Most of them were down in the garden, there were just a few up on the deck, leaning on the verandah balustrade, drinks in hand.

She paused and then she saw them.  She blinked and looked again.  It was not a trick of the light.  She was not mistaken.

There they were.  Her husband Owen and that Cressida.  That Cressida who he was always mentioning.  Her husband and that Cressida leaning on the verandah looking down at the garden.  Shoulder to shoulder.  Innocent from the garden.  Two colleagues having a chat.  But from behind, from where Prue stood, the light from the hallway caught their hands.  Their two intertwined hands, fingers twisting together out of sight of the party below.

Prue stared.

She backed away, away from the party.  She turned into the dark study and put down the tray on the desk.  She found the chair and lowered herself into it.  And with great tenderness, reached down and removed the shoes.

Nothing, not much

By Vita Forest

Inner turmoil

Inner turmoil

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“What happened today?”

“Nothing, not much.”

But it was not fine and much had happened.  But not so anyone else could tell.  Only inside Sonia’s head was a tempest, a storm, a whirlpool, a tornado of emotions that miraculously stayed contained inside the box of her skull.  She wanted to tell her mother what her friend had done.  She wanted to tell anyone.  Was Mia a friend anymore?  Everyone thought so, even Sonia.  But was that really what friend’s did?

Sonia wished she could go back to when she was five years old when she told her Mum everything.  Every new sound she had learned at school, what other children had told for news, what Mrs Carroll had worn to school that day and if her nails were painted red or pink.

Sonia wished she could go back to when friends were easy to read, when they knew how to say to each other, “Stop it, I don’t like it!” when the other did something wrong, when their feelings were hurt, when they wandered off the “kind” path into “meanness”.  Back then it was OK to like the same thing – the same sport (soccer), the same books (Tashi), the same kind of lollies (Lemon Sherbets).

Perhaps it would still be OK if the “same things” were not boys.  When your best friend didn’t end up with the boy you liked.  And she knew!  How could she not know?  Sonia had kept it secret, she had told no-one, not even Mia.  It had been a strange maelstrom of suppressed emotions that bubbled to the surface whenever he was near, whenever he was mentioned.  For a while Sonia hadn’t even known herself, didn’t link the way her body seemed to react violently for no apparent reason when she thought about him.  The sticky tangle of highs and lows that were all to do with whether she even saw him.  Whether they spoke.

But Mia knew.  Like Sonia knew that Mia liked chocolate ice-cream but not mango sorbet.  Without being told.  Just by watching.  Just by paying attention.

She would have known.

Why had she done it?  Why had she chosen him?

Today at lunch they had suddenly appeared together, hands linked, laughing. In front of everyone.  Mia hadn’t even told Sonia first.  Mia and Ryan.  Ryan and Mia.  The whole group had stopped talking, stared at them.

“You all know Ryan,” Mia had announced in a new voice.  A simpering voice.  A sly voice.  A betraying voice.

“Yeah, we like, all go to the same school!” said Sam in a sarcastic voice as he checked his phone.  “We know Ryan.”

Sonia had been grateful for his response, her lunch turning to cardboard in her mouth.  She concentrated on chewing the bread, on her jaws mechanically opening and closing, her teeth pressing and grinding it into paste.  She had let her hair fall forward over her face so the others wouldn’t see the shame of this announcement, the shock.  How long had it been going on?  She and Mia talked everyday, all the time, yet she hadn’t even thought to mention it, to her best friend, hadn’t confided in her, hadn’t thought her worthy of anything more than this public announcement on the school oval after Maths.

Sonia hadn’t spoken to Mia after that.  She had walked through the rest of the day in a daze and had wondered, how many people out there were like her?  How many people were trying to adjust to major disruptions, catastrophes, while they went through the motions of everyday life.  Write down an answer.  Pack up a bag, Get on a bus.  Walk home.  Looking normal, looking like everything was under control.  When inside they wanted to scream and rage and tear their friend’s hair out.  How many people swallowed it down, kept their voice at a reasonable level, continued on their path that suddenly didn’t mean anything anymore?

How many people said it was nothing, not much?

 

 

L is for… Love

By Vita Forest

IMG_4079[1]

Stella wants to scream.  She just cannot believe it.  Yet it is absolutely no surprise.  It could have been predicted.  Anyone else could have predicted it.  But she was in love.  She would always give him the benefit of the doubt.

She felt ashamed.  And blindingly angry.  Enraged.  Absolutely.  Brimming.  With.  RAGE.

She stalks up and down the room.  This used to be her sanctuary.  This used to be her home.  She had made it their home.  She had put her work aside, her ambition, to make this their home.  Doing all the mundane things that needed to be done so he could concentrate.  What a fool she had been!

She had let her in.  Stella had let her in.  Stella grabs a cushion from the sofa and screams into it, pressing her face into it, smothering herself.

But not enough.  She feels a small hand on her leg.

“Mummy?”

Stella breathes into the cushion one more time, then puts on her happy face.

Must not frighten the children.  Must calm down.

“Sweetheart.”

She picks up the small soft creature and hugs him to her.

“Can I have a drink?”

“Of course.”

She dances him over to the fridge and pulls out the bottle of milk.  She swings over to the shelf and finds his favourite blue cup with the kitten on it.  She pours him some milk.  He kicks her gently and slides down to the floor, reaching up for the milk and trotting away with it.  She leans on the counter and remembers.

“I need to focus, can you take the children out?”

Of course.

“I have to go to this silly show, publicity you know.  You don’t need to come.  It will be late.”

Of course.

What a fool she was.  What an idiot!  She had enabled him to pursue this new, shiny thing.  This unattached, adoring person who was never tired, never drab, never anything but alluring.

And he had gone out again now.  Right after he had told her.  He would give her some space, he said.  She rushes to the sofa and beats and beats and beats it.  And now it was the witching hour.  Bath time, dinner time.  Time for tears.  But not hers.

Stella grabs her phone and rings him.

“Come home, I need to go out.”

She hangs up.

Marlena… no Sophie.  No they would be busy too.  No, she needs to be alone.  She needs to think.  He better get here soon, he at least ought to show her that courtesy.  What was he doing?  Untangling himself from her grip?  Toasting his bravery?

Stella wants to scream, but instead she marches to the bedroom.  Under the bed, her pencils, her sketchbook.  She pulls them out.  She will draw it all out like she used to.  She will exorcise all these emotions through her fingers.  She will drive away and find a table somewhere, anywhere and draw.

Stella wants to scream but instead she will scribble.  Instead she will do something she had given up.  Something there was no time for anymore.