Cold

The cold air made her eyes water uncontrollably but it was really hard to wipe the tears away with the ridiculous ski gloves that her mother forced her to wear even though they were just walking to school and not skiing and she didn’t really see the point of them because yes, it was nice to have warm hands but she couldn’t pat Mr McKenzie’s dog or feel the broken rubber on the button for the crossing lights or wipe the tears from her eyes and if her mother asked her one more time if she was alright and if she was then could she please hurry up because the baby shouldn’t even be out in this type of cold and if he gets a cold then the whole family will be sick and she doesn’t want that for Christmas does she then she just didn’t know what she’d do.

 

Kaitlin

“Kaitlin, when did Hitler come to power?”

“Kaitlin, what was the downfall of the Roman Empire?”

“Kaitlin, can you please put away that magazine and attempt the questions on page 14?”

“Kaitlin, do you really need to apply that orange nail polish in the middle of this test?”

“Kaitlin, other people may like to pass this subject so please, stop singing and sit down.”

“Kaitlin, either you can either explain the broken window to me or to the principal.”

“Kaitlin, whilst it is not recommended that you write this essay in French, I am happy to accept it in French. If you ever learn French, that is.”

“Kaitlin, at this point, there is no human effort possible that you could make to pass this subject. There are two weeks of classes left, you have not passed a single test, completed a single piece of work, or remained in the classroom for a single class.”

“Kaitlin’s mother. It is so nice to meet you in person. As I, and the level co-ordinator and the school counsellor and the principal have all explained to you over the phone, Kaitlin has not got either the attendance or the required work completed to pass this subject. No, she has not attended all classes. No, she has not completed any work. No, she has not passed any tests. I am pleased to hear that she can retell the story of Captain Cook and the First Fleet, however that was covered in Year Seven history and this is Year Twelve. I am sorry that you think this is my fault. I understand that you think that I am a poor teacher, however my average class score until this year has been over ninety per cent. Yes, I understand that you are prepared to go to both A Current Affair and Today Tonight over this, however I am not prepared to fake your daughter’s results so that she passes this subject.”

“Marlene, I know I have had an exemplary career over twenty-five years, however I must insist that you accept my resignation. I have been looking at the class lists and see that Kaitlin’s twin sisters are in both my English and History classes next year. I am extremely concerned that I will end my career with a charge of assault or possibly even murder. I wish my replacement well. And lots of luck.”

Purple

It was a purple Rosana didn’t think she’d seen before. It seemed to have the warmth brought about by a large amount of red, yet a steely coldness that could only come from a sharp blue. When she approached it from the side, there was a light sparkle that gave the whole panel depth, and when the sun hit it from behind it glowed.  She smiled, satisfied that her artwork was complete, and almost just when the client spoke.

‘I had hoped for a more natural colour.’

Rosana sighed and went to the storeroom to mix the new colour. She’s already been fired from three salons. She had to make this one last.

 

Dreams

No one had ever given her a decent explanation on so many things in life. Why do the autumn colours on the trees appear in such strange and beautiful patterns? Why does drinking water slowly cure hiccups for some people but not others? Why did she always feel the need to run away when she was at her happiest?

Some mystery was fine. Perhaps life would have been boring if she’d known everything. Sometimes, it would have been nice to not feel totally in the dark. To be looking at other people and not feel that their life was an unachievable joy compared to hers. To think that other children respected or even loved their mothers more than hers did. She wondered if other people lay in bed hating their husbands silently, yet still had his coffee ready with a smile over breakfast.

She read travel books constantly. Her dreams were of Africa and South East Asia and Boston.  One day, she’d promised herself, when the kids were out of school and she had saved up enough, she’d get a one way ticket and see if she ever came back.

 

Watching

Their apartment windows were level, with only a small alley between them. Sam watched, standing near the back of the room, feeling sure that he couldn’t be seen. This man was so similar to him; so similar that some mornings as they both raced to get ready to leave for their office jobs, he caught a glimpse of the other man and felt he was looking in a strange mirror. They rose and dressed at the same time on weekdays. They watched the same shows at night. Sometimes, Sam watched the pictures on the other man’s set whilst listening to his own. It was uncanny – they even seemed to bring women home on the same nights.

Today, something was different. The other man had been standing at the window, a glass of water in one hand, for over an hour. He was staring down into the alley. Three times, Sam had ventured forward to look down from his own window, but there was nothing there. Just an empty lane. Sam suspected the man was lonely. He continued to watch, wondering if the other man would ever move again.

 

Ticket

There were four in the queue already. The level crossing bells were ringing. The sound of the tooting horn was close. Marney looked at the people waiting to buy tickets. The person at the front was fumbling with change. The third person along hadn’t even taken her purse from her bag. Marney watched the train pull in. She knew if she didn’t get on, there was a very high possibility of being fired. On the other hand, if she got caught, the fine was more than she could afford after rent and bills. The doors opened people started to pile in. Looking up and down the platform, she saw no telltale gray jackets worn by the inspectors. She ran on and stood by the door. Each stop, she moved to the door as if leaving, just in case they got on. They didn’t, and by the time she got to work, she was a wreck. But she’d made it. She vowed to buy her ticket in advance tomorrow. Just like she had yesterday.

Dinner

The roast was in the oven, the homemade ice-cream was setting in the freezer and the table was set. Felicity sat in the chair, running through the plans for the night to make sure she hadn’t missed anything. She’d planned conversation topics for pre-dinner chit-chat and had some ideas for charades if conversation dried up after the meal. As she relaxed, she noticed the light flashing on her answering machine.

There were three messages. Her heart sank as she listened to each of the messages; each of her guests cancelling for the night. Sitting back down, she started to plan the rest of her week – cold beef sandwiches and roast vegetable salads. And the conversation topics could last. 

 

Peak hour

The muscle in her jaw tightened and then became slack in a strange pattern. Tight, slack. Tight, tighter, slack. Tight, slack. Tight, tight, slack. Her eyes skipped as they briefly grabbed the images of things that the train raced past. Apart from these small movements, she was still.

He’d missed the first train that, running fast enough to reach the closed doors in time to slap them as the train pulled out of the station. When the next arrived, there was only one seat available, and he moved quickly to beat the other two men who approached it.

When he threw himself into the seat, he bumped against the woman who gasped and jumped. He gasped and jumped in response, then both looked at each other and laughed awkwardly.

She returned her gaze to the window. He opened his paper.

 

Carpet

Cam stared at the spot on the carpet for so long his eyes started to dry out. He’d tried everything the internet had suggested: vinegar, soda water, baking powder, baking soda (he’d misread that last one), hot water, cold water, luke warm water.

The stain remained.

He was going to get in so much trouble.

He turned on the cricket, opened a beer and put his feet up on the coffee table. If he was going to get yelled at, he might as well make it worth her while.