The thunder clapped through the storm and the rain poured in the dark clouds that could barely be seen beneath the night sky. On the tip of the hillside he stood, with his fedora hat forward to keep himself dry. His name was Cunningham, from the Western seafront, born and raised, and in the house that hovered behind him was the woman who had enraptured his imagination for the past two years, and he was never going to see her again.
As he arrived at the beachfront and the partners from the firm advanced forward in the soaking wet atmosphere, prepared with papers to finalise their divorce, Cunningham stared into the horizon and wondered if it had happened at all, or if it were all just a dream in his head. The lucidity of his remembrances flickering through his mind was like a colourful showreel. It was as if he had simply watched a movie, as now the curtain had drawn and ahead was only life as it was, without all the magical qualities she had inspired and transformed.
They had met in early hours of the morning outside the courthouse. He had seen her in the distance, not her exactly, but something red, her mouth, standing out in cool grey, almost black and white surroundings. As she approached she had stopped by the entrance where he smoked a cigarette and as she checked through her purse she had dropped a small make up container and they had both watched it bounce down the staircase.
"Let me," he offered, as he jogged down the steps and watched the container snap open on the sidewalk before he reached it, and picked it up. Soon he handed it back to her and noted the smudge under her eye, and reached for it gently with his course but warm hand and wiped it with his thumb and her eyes met his and they were connected and it was always going to be this way.
Later that night they were in the ocean, by a small cove that nobody could see and they were kissing, arms writhing around each others bodies, and it did not take long for them to realise that they were in love and that they never wanted to let go. Soon they were sleeping in his open top convertible with the wind keeping them warm and he felt like he had found his girl, and he thanked the universe for making his life complete.
They drove to the Riveria, to the finest restaurants in the town, and hotel rooms where they lay draped in soft sheets sweating in the beaming sun. And, on a night at the end of the summer, when the sky was turning cloudy and dark they spoke about the future and agreed that they would get a house by the beach where they spent their first night together and that he would work on his business, and she would paint, and then they might raise a family and grow old in the blissful companionship of destiny.
They were married in the fall, in a chapel not far west of the town where he grew up, and their parents wept as they kissed beneath the draped and winding rose plants but when he looked deep into her eyes, he knew then that something was not right.
They built the house in the winter of that year, with contractors from the city and while he worked she met the local women in the village and they taught her how to cook the local cuisine, to make the right kind of bread, salads, and to prepare and cook meat, and fish. When the house was finished they celebrated with a party of family and locals. Music played and he sang a song his father had taught him and he had watched her and noticed that her mind was elsewhere for the first time.
He worked longer and longer hours managing new business ventures and trying to build his fortune. There were ventures in the East and the South, and it required that he travel for many days, and she was supportive, but almost too supportive, and it made him wonder, but he trusted her. While he was away one time he found a phone in a train station and called his home in the evening and she wasn’t home and he had an uneasy feeling in his stomach, one that made him want to leave immediately.
When he returned he noticed that she wasn’t the same as before. She had no enthusiasm for the things they liked to do, like swim by the cove, and eat at the restaurant on the local pier. One day he arrived back in town early from a business trip, and in the taxi cab to the house he saw her in the fairground with a local man he knew from one of the poorer families in the village. They were holding hands, and she was reaching her arm around his waist affectionately. The young man had a bad reputation as a drunk and he realised then he had seen them together before, frequently, in various social settings and the moments clicked together, and he thought that this affair had been going on for a long time, perhaps even before they were married.
That night the sky broke, and thunder railed from the heavens, and she sat on a wooden chair in their marble living room with her makeup smudged in tears. The men from the law firm had arrived and had explained to her what she would fairly own, and continue to receive. They explained that she would leave the city and region, and never return. As they did so he stood behind them and he could see that she was terrified and distraught. But, he could also see the dishonest liar that she always was. Perhaps, he always knew that and pretended the whole relationship to himself.
He went out into the rain and felt the shower continue to rail down heavily upon his hat and coat. He reached into the bushes and picked at a handful of roses, and as he did so he noticed the lawyers approaching, nodding their heads that it had been done and that she would be gone tomorrow and would not return.
As he noticed her silhouette in the house’s large patio entrance, hurrying across the walkway in distress he looked down at the flowers. “Roses come, and roses go,” he said. Sometimes moments of significance that feel as if you are touching upon eternity, are but as transient, and shallow as the acknowledgement of a stranger.
Story by Marc Michael