Tim and Jenny 3

‘I don’t want to.’

‘Yeah, I know Tim. But it’s a seventy-five per cent increase. That’s insane!  We can’t stay.’

Tim stood at the window like a child ready to throw a tantrum. His arms were knotted, and his bottom lip was actually jutting out. If his chin starts to wobble, I’m outta here thought Jenny.

I’m not staying to pay that much extra when he won’t fix the mould problem in the bathroom or in my room or the hole in the floorboard or the heater.’

‘I’ve been here for six years.’

Jenny rolled her eyes. ‘I know.’

‘SIX years. That’s a long time. That’s all of my adult life.’

‘Call yourself an adult?’ Jenny snorted. ‘I’ve seen people who behave more like adults in primary school.’

‘Oh, ha ha. Very bloody funny.’

Jenny went back to the classifieds. ‘Look, here’s a place in Fitzroy that’s in our range.’

‘I don’t want to go.’

‘Look, I know you don’t want to leave, but I can’t afford such a ridiculous rent increase and I’ve talked to the rental authority and it’s going to take too long to fight and we may not win and why the hell am I going over this again, I’ve already told you four times.’

Tim turned and laughed loudly, pointing at her.

‘Got you, got you, got you!’

‘Screw you, Tim.’ Jenny went to her room and slammed the door. Tim followed and stood outside the door.

‘Shall I reiterate what you said yesterday? Ahem. “I’m going to be calmer. This bikram yoga is great! I don’t think I’ll ever lose my temper again. Not ever!” That’s what you said!  Haha! I win!’

Tim walked back into the lounge room, grinning, but feeling slightly empty inside. Victory wasn’t really so sweet alone.

 

Tim and Jenny 2

Tim closed the door and let out a breath. He wished he had another housemate who could take on some of the responsibility, but it was a two-bedroom terrace, so it was just him. Brad, his current housemate, was leaving for Kenya tomorrow, and Tim had hoped that he would have found a new housemate by now, but they all seemed to be lunatics or psychos. Or both.

The first guy he’d seen, Pete, had not looked around at all. He stared at the ceiling and the floor and the wall, but wouldn’t meet Tim’s eye. Avoiding every question, the only thing he had said was ‘When can I move in?’ Tim had gently moved him on, only to receive an abused call from this guy’s mother a few hours later claiming Tim had built his hopes up. Apparently, Pete was quite high on the autistic spectrum, and his mother refused to believe that Tim was only conducting interviews.

Number two was Mary, a psych nurse who was on the run from her boyfriend who may or may not have mob connections. Number three was a guy claiming to be Mary’s boyfriend.

Fourth was Willow, the son of Sunbury hippies, who at first seemed perfect. He liked watching sports but wasn’t totally obsessed, was happy to smoke outside and wasn’t vegetarian. Almost as a joke, Tim had asked ‘So, what are you weaknesses?’ Willow responded by getting a very intense look on his face and saying ‘I sometimes get really angry.’ He then told about the three walls he had punched through at his last place.

The last one had just left. Jeff. Jeff kept unconventional hours and had unreliable financial sources. Tim had felt like asking why he had even bothered to come to a house interview to reveal he probably couldn’t pay the rent, but said what he’d said to all the others. ‘I’ll give you a call.’

There was a knock on the door. This was the last scheduled interview, and Tim was getting seriously worried. If this didn’t work out, well, he didn’t have a plan b.

When Tim opened the door, Jenny was putting a cigarette butt into his wheelie bin.

‘Hi, I’m Jenny, you’re Tim. Show me the place then let’s get down to the pub and see if we actually get along.’

Things were going to be ok.

 

Tim and Jenny

Jenny sat on the floor in front of the heater with a doona around her shoulders. The middle square of the five glowed orange/red. The other four were dark.

‘Stupid frigging landlord not fixing the frigging heater.’ She tried to move around so she could see the paper on the table and write whilst only allowing three fingers out of her cocoon. It seemed like an impossible task, but she was convinced she could do it. Balanced on one buttock, with the paper on four stacked textbooks sitting on a Feetseat, she was able to get some scribbling done. She smiled to herself, then realised she forgotten the topic. Damn it. It was in her bedroom.

A click was heard in another part of the house and she realised Tim was home. He came in, slightly drunk, warm jacket on.

‘Jesus! It’s freezing in here! It’s warmer outside.’

He stopped when he saw her, pointed and laughed.

‘Yeah, it’s cold. Now can you help me? Please?’

Tim raised an eyebrow. ‘How?’

‘The topic sheet I need, it’s on my bed. Please?’

Within a moment, her returned and placed the topic sheet within her sight.

‘Thanks! Oh, and one more thing?’

‘What? I’m going out for a dart.’

‘Cup of tea?’

Tim gave her and incredulous look and strode across the room.

‘Please?’ she called after him.

His middle finger was the last thing she saw as he disappeared into the kitchen.

 

Let down

It was like a shampoo commercial, the way Marla walked down the street. Everything seemed slow motion, and her hair really seemed to bounce as she shook her head. She smiled a knowing smile to herself and pranced down the stairs. Marla hadn’t been this happy for months. The interview had gone so well that she had been offered the job on the spot, the woman who made her coffee had seemed genuine when she’d asked Marla where she got that dress because it made her look amazing and she was pretty sure she’d counted four different men checking her out on the train. Things were going her way.

Confidently, she stepped onto the footpath and immediately collided with a group of teenage boys carrying skateboards with greasy hair, piercings and too much Lynx.

‘Oh! Sorry!’ she tittered.

‘Watch where you’re going, you stupid, ugly bitch,’ one responded and his mates laughed. Marla’s face dropped, shocked at the harsh words.

‘Yeah, filthy whore,’ another muttered and they continued to amble down the street taking over the whole footpath.

Marla stood frozen to the spot. How could some stupid punk teenagers treat her like this? How could they just take away all the confidence that she was feeling? She left like bursting into tears, but instead turned and slunk her way up the street. Her head hung low and her face was in a frown. Inside, she was furious but upset, and even the memory of getting her dream job wasn’t going to get rid of the rock in her stomach.

Best Laid Plans

It was only when she was on the tram that she realised she’d never sent the text message to confirm the movie. She pulled out her phone – it was almost dead. She was about to see a movie that she had bought tickets for but hadn’t actually made proper plans to see. Her phone connected.

‘Fi? Hi! What’s up?’

‘Hey, Stace. You know how you wanted to see that movie? Like, in twenty minutes?’

Fi imagined she could hear Stace roll her eyes.

‘You’re not on your way there, are you?’

‘Yeah, and I bought the tickets, and everything. I know I’m an idiot, but is there any chance you can still come?’

Fi waited for a reply, and when none came, she looked at the phone. Dead. She had no idea how much Stace had heard. The tram reached the stop and Fi headed to the cinema.

Master Chef

‘Cordon bleu!’

‘That’s not even a swear word.’

‘Yes, it is.’

‘No, it’s not.’

“Then what does it mean?’

Helen shrugged. ‘I dunno. But neither do you, so just shut up.’

‘Look, just come and hold it still.’

Helen squished up her mouth. She didn’t want to touch the dead fish. But, it was a special meal, and she’d promised to help her older brother.

‘How about I hold it with the fork?’

‘Fork? No, it can’t have pricks in it. Stupid.’

David rolled his eyes and placed the fish flat on the board. He tried to cut the fish open on the side, but it kept slipping.

‘Damn. I can’t get it. Hold it, will you?’

‘No, you’ll stab me.’

David’s chair wobbled.

‘Look, George said you just have to separate the fillet from the skeleton. It shouldn’t be that hard.

‘Yeah, but George isn’t trying to balance on a chair.’

Helen took the knife. They both concentrated on the fish. They leaned in. Helen slipped the tip of the knife in to the tail of the fish and started slowly cutting.

‘WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?’

Helen dropped the knife and they both froze. Helen closed her lips and wouldn’t speak. David wriggled about.

‘We were making that dish from Master Chef for Mum for mother’s day.’

Colin picked up the knife. He looked at the ingredients cut up and placed into little bowls along the bench. The kitchen was surprisingly tidy given the fact that the chefs of the morning were both under ten.

‘Firstly, traditionally, it is toast and maybe an egg for breakfast in bed, not stuffed Roughie. Secondly, that is for our dinner tonight. Thirdly, you do not EVER use knives like this without me or your mother about.’

The two children cringed as he shouted.

‘Finally,’ a smile crept onto his face. ‘When did you learn to cook like that?’

The sound of her voice (cont)

The winter chill cut through Phil as he stood on the platform. A billboard advertising an online dating site was behind him and blocked some of the wind, but even in this slight shelter, it was terribly cold. He looked down the track and saw the train approaching. The speaker beeped.

“Good morning passengers. The next train to arrive on platform one will be the 7:37 city bound train running express from Malvern to South Yarra.”

Sometimes, he still cringed. It had been months since she left.  Maybe getting on to a year. Mostly, he was ok. He’d changed jobs recently, which had been a nice distraction, and he’d even gone out on a few dates. They hadn’t gone very well, as all he had thought about was her, but he was sure it was a positive thing.

For a week, he’d tried driving to work but he couldn’t stand the traffic and it was against his slightly ecological leanings. Usually his iPod would block out her voice. Today, it was still by the computer.

The train pulled up and Phil pushed on with the other passengers. It was a full train, but Phil didn’t care. In the morning, there were fewer problems with body odour and bad breath. He held on to a strap and tried to read the sports over the shoulder of another commuter. The commuter kept edging away, clearly uncomfortable, but Phil kept moving. Finally, the commuter turned and stared at Phil. Phil didn’t look up, hoping to avoid confrontation.

‘Phil? Phil McIntyre?’

This was not the attack he had been expecting. He looked at the man.

‘Bobby!  Shit, I haven’t seen you since… what, since school?’

‘Yeah, that’s probably right. How you going, mate?’

‘Not bad, not bad,’ Phil said, almost believing it. ‘You?’

‘Yeah, good. I’m in at the ATO these days. Corporate, nothing fancy. How about yourself?’

‘I’m in at Ticketfast. It’s a phone ticketing service, but they’re going on the net soon. I’ve been developing the website technology.’

‘Ha! Still at the computers, eh?’ Bobby punched him in the arm. Phil remembered why he hated him. ‘No wonder we don’t see you on the field!’

‘Still playing footy?’ Phil wished there was some excuse to get off. But a conversation like this has to last the whole trip. Unless something causes it to end. Next thing, Bobby would be hassling him about being single. ‘Aren’t you a bit old, mate?’

Bobby laughed.

‘Never too old, mate! And how’s you’re love life? Married, kids?’

‘Oh, you know, can’t tie me down!’ Phil laughed, but it sounded hollow to his own ears.

‘Aren’t you a bit old to be single?’ Bobby laughed. ‘Just kidding, mate. I’m married, meself. Remember Tarryn?’

Phil remembered Tarryn. She’d been the first girl who’d gone out with him, the first girl who kissed him and the first girl who cheated on him and then dumped him. For Bobby.

‘Yeah, Tarryn. Pass on my hellos.’

The train jolted suddenly and Phil felt a warm liquid on his neck.

‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry!’ A woman behind Phil had a take-away coffee cup that was half empty. The rest of the coffee was down Phil’s back. ‘Here, let me fix it up.’

They had pulled into a station and she dragged a confused Phil off the train. She had a packet of tissues and was rubbing at his neck. Phil looked into the carriage as the train took off and Bobby waved.

‘I just had to save you,’ the woman said. ‘You looked so uncomfortable and he was such a wanker.’

Finally, Phil directed his attention to the woman. He had been about to yell at her, but her cheerful smile made him smile.

‘I’m Kel,’ She held out her hand. ‘Nice to meet you.’

‘Phil.’ He responded, barely even thinking of his ex.

Supermarket

Already there had been two couples, four women on their own, a family of five and the store had only been open ten minutes. Luckily, they had all paid by EFTpos, and so there had been no need to provide change. Because they couldn’t. Arriving at the store half an hour before opening, the Saturday manager, Felicity, had opened the safe and found all the money missing. She’d tried to call the store manager, but there had been no answer for fifteen minutes. Finally, she’d called the head office hotline and had been told to call the police and get the store open. All transactions would have to be cash free until the situation was resolved.

‘Isn’t there a problem with having customers walking all over a potential crime scene?’ Felicity had asked, only to be told to do as was instructed and not complain. Someone from head office would be out within the hour.

The police and the rep from head office arrived at the same time.

‘Is it true there has been a robbery?’ asked one of the police officers.

‘Yes,’ said Felicity. ‘There was no money in the safe this morning.’

‘Why exactly is the store open? This may be a crime scene.’

‘I was told by head office to open.’

‘I am James McPhearson from Head Office,’ James shook hands with both of the police officers.  ‘I’m not sure what she is talking about, that is totally against policy.’

‘What?’ The officer turned back to Felicity. She looked concerned.

‘I’m not making it up! They told me to open up!’

The police officers stepped away, chatted for a moment, and then returned to her.

‘Shut the doors, ask the customers in the store to leave. Then, we will check the safe and area and commence some initial enquiries. Beginning with you.’

Felicity felt her heart drop. 

Library chute

The tag scratched at the back of Jen’s neck, but she couldn’t scratch it. Her hands were full of books to be returned to the library, and they were heavier than she’d anticipated. Somehow, she’d made it from her house but even with the library chute in sight, she didn’t see how she could get there. She wanted to stop, to put the books down, to stretch her arms wide, but she pushed on.

A slightly sick feeling arose in her stomach and she tried to ignore it. The chute seemed to be getting bigger the closer she got. She sniffed and shook her head, and started moving the armful of books side to side, hoping this would give her greater momentum. It must only be fifteen more steps, she thought to herself. Fourteen, thirteen. She counted down, but when she reached one there were at least five more.Her chin wobbled and her arms shook. Finally, she reached it.

She put her knee against the wall and balanced the books, held with one hand, as she scanned the barcode to open the electronic flap. It took four goes but clicked open just as the pile of books threatened to overbalance. She pushed the flap open, but it wouldn’t open because of the huge pile of books wedged behind it.

Jen closed her eyes and tried to figure out what to do. Placing the pile of books on the concrete at her feet, she reached her arm in and tried to unwedge the obstruction. Nothing. She started to slide them down, one at a time.

Forty-five minutes later, covered in sweat, she forced the last book in and pulled the flap shut. Victorious, she started her walk home.

Footprints

The footprints in the frost on the grass were all that was left. She stood at the door and followed with her eyes the trail across the front lawn, then they disappeared where the footpath lay, and then they started again across the nature strip. There was a dry patch where his car had sat overnight. She sighed and even the steam from her breath seemed melancholic. It was over. She hoped. But she had hoped this before.