It’s Day 4 here at word challenge week and today’s words are: Car, snot, biscuit, rowing and seashell.
It was in the kitchen drawer—the place where we keep all the odds and ends and pieces of paper we really should keep but really don’t want to. It was at the top, face up. How stupid could he get?
‘Thanks for the other night. 😉 x D’
There is no mistaking the handwriting. I’d like to give them both the benefit of the doubt, but I know that would be a waste of my energy. How could they do this to me?
Ten years together. Ten. The tears are threatening to boil over the lips of my bottom eyelids and my breathing is shallow, yet heavy. I sniff. I can’t deal with this right now. I have to go!
I grab a stale biscuit from the cookie jar and shove it between my teeth before gathering up my keys, wallet, phone and sunglasses. Nathan is still in bed. He never comes to my meets anymore. He says he’s too tired from a full work week.
Our dark blue Honda Civic is parked in the drive, the drizzle making it sparkle in the morning light. My hands are so full I struggle to locate the car key on my enormous set of keys. The rain starts to get heavier and all of the things in my hands start to jostle and tumble from my hands.
‘Shit,’ I mumble through the cookie as my keys land in the only puddle on the driveway. And without even realising it, the tears begin to fall in torrents down my cheeks.
When I finally get into my car, the tears have coated my chin and my nose is dripping snot by the bucket load. I need to get it together. I can’t do this. Not now!
The shell necklace suddenly feels like it’s choking me. The pendant seems like it weighs ten kilos, and the black cord it hangs on seems shorter.
Nathan, Dana and I went on a holidays to the Whitsundays last year. One afternoon, I came down with a stomach bug and I was on an endless run from toilet to bed and back again. Though, both Nathan and Dana wanted to stay and make sure I was okay, I insisted that they go out and enjoy their holiday.
They spent their time, swimming, sunbaking and checking out the resort’s gift shop. I was so happy that my being sick didn’t impede their fun. Now, in retrospect, I should have made Nathan stay with me … maybe.
Who knows how long that note had been there?
When they came back, and I was lying in bed devoid all energy and nutrition. With anticipatory grins, they presented me with my sea shell necklace. I loved it as soon as I saw it. It was a deep purple with cream flecks and it hung from a plaited black cord. I’ve worn it every day since—I thought it symbolised our harmony, our friendship, combined to make one impenetrable triangular force field.
The car rolls to a stop at the traffic lights in town. As soon as it stops, I roughly pull the necklace from my neck and throw it on the floor on the passenger side. It hurts to breathe.
The light turns green and the car rolls forward as I release the brake and wipe the tears from my face. The clock reads 7.48. The meet starts in 12 minutes. I gently press the accelerator that little bit more.
I reach the river a few minutes later. The water ripples endlessly with the current. It’s going to be a battle today. We’re moving against the flow.
Stepping out of the car and into the air, the sound from the tinny loudspeaker fills my ears.
‘Eight minutes. All registered rowing crews to be in their sweeps at the starting line in eight minutes.’
My team, over by the water, are checking their watches sporadically and ensuring that our sweep is in working order.
‘There she is!’ Dana squeals as I make my way over to them, ‘There’s my bestie!’
She hugs me. I resist the urge to shove her into the river.
‘Where’s your necklace?’ She frowns at me.
‘Didn’t feel like wearing it today.’
‘Oh. Are you okay? You seem … sad.’
I stare at her, aware that my expression resembles what teens today call “resting bitch face”.
‘Just … don’t talk to me, Dana.’
‘Alice,’ she begins.
‘No. I’m too tired, okay. Let’s just row, so that I can go home and pass out in bed. Okay?’
‘Can I help?’
‘No, you can’t “help”. You’ve done enough,’ I sneer.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ She looks like she has just witnessed the murder of a puppy.
We push the sweep into the water and I hop into position next to Dana who is now looking at me like I have sprouted a bonsai from the top of my head. Our teammates are oblivious to our exchange. The boat floats into position as the loudspeaker sounds again.
‘All teams into position!’
Dana is still looking at me with her eyebrows raised.
‘“Thanks for the other night”‘, I wink, ‘” x D”’
I slide my sunglasses onto my nose and grip my oar with ferocity.
‘On your mark,’ the starter bellows from shore. Pointed at the sky, the gun releases a harsh crack across the tranquil sky, and my world goes from an idyllic stroll to a struggle to stay afloat.
If you missed out on days 1-3, here they are: