Initial Vote Winner: Wet.
“The weather isn’t sentient,” Lia reminded herself for the one billionth time since she had stepped into the puddle and felt actual muck road water splash up the inside of her jeans and onto her knees. This might be the death sentence for her favourite pair of far too baggy skater jeans, but she couldn’t think about that now when she was also considering the death sentence on her relationship.
“You are too old for this.” She said out loud, and then patted the jeans fondly so that they knew it wasn’t about them. No matter how old she got she was never going to want to stop wearing the uniform of her college years. Skinny jeans made everyone look like pins at the bowling alley.
On the one occasion she had worn them, removing them at the end of the night was a personal humiliation. The problem with skinny jeans is that the manufacturers have not factored in the feet at the end of your legs. Fest stick out at 90*. That’s a natural barrier to skin tight denim. Lia preferred the billowing vastness of her baggy jeans, though she had stopped wearing the little chain around the waist belt since she’d passed 30.
Usually rising damp was the worst problem in her floor sweeping leg wear but not today. Oh to only have rising damp as an issue! Today there was rising, sideways, big generic ploppy… all the different forms of damp cascading out of the sky, bouncing up off the pavements. Rain drops hit the walls of the library and threw themselves back at her. It felt like judgement, cold cold judgement.
She shifted her weight back on to the other foot and felt water squelch out from her shoe. They were obliterated by rain. She’d have to wear trainers tomorrow and hope that the regional manager didn’t pop in. Viv, her boss, locked up the double glass doors of the library and wave a sodden goodbye.
“Are you sure you don’t want a lift?” She called across the thundering wet bullets, “You could text …” she faded out as Lia shook her head. The hair shake made little sprig of water dance off Lia’s fringe. Her hair was soaked despite the enormous umbrella Keith had leant her. Keith had lent her the umbrella before they’d even left the staff room. Even Keith knew what was about to happen.
“Thanks though, Viv. See you tomorrow!”
Viv nodded and strode away quickly to the waiting Citreon Picasso of her wife Ruth. Ruth was never late. It would have been very nice to climb in the back of their car and hear them chatter and catch up with Ruth and ignore everything she had thought about today. But, it was the cowards way out, and Lia had decided to stand her ground and be a superhero. A very wet superhero.
In the warmth of the library, amongst the smell of books, nearing the end of her shift, Lia had made the decision that if Harry was late to pick her up today she was going to end their relationship.
A relationship was definitely already over if you were making pacts with yourself about certain things triggering its end, and Lia knew that, but this way it was easier. It was something to start with while she slowly unravelled all the problems in their relationship to him. Otherwise she just had to launch into “hey I don’t love you and this isn’t based on anything, just in general.” It seemed much easier to be angry about the lateness and then let that become every other thing that let her down.
As the day had worn on, she had oscillated continually on whether her silent pact with herself was a good idea. The excellent thing about a pact you had made only in your own head was that you could renege on it at any point. It was private. Like the memories of falling backwards off the bed as you wrestled skinny jeans over your hooves.
‘Why end it?’ She thought vehemently. ‘He’s so nice, and so fun to be with. He makes you laugh every day, and he’s kind. That is a GOOD list.’
This was the thinking the entire time she was on the counter portion of her shift checking books in and out for people.
By the time she was in a pre-lunch sugar dip tidying up the eternally shambolic children’s section of the library she’d remembered why. Because she already knew he was going to be late to pick her up. And so the resentment was bubbling a little bit, and it would stew into a delicious little dislike all day, that would then start to make her hate herself for being annoyed before he’d done anything wrong, and yet despite it having consumed her day, it would feel petty to bring up once she go tin the car and he started being nice, and reasonable.
After lunch, with a sandwich and some Hula Hoops in her system, the outlook for Lia and Harry’s relationship looked better. How on earth was she already mad that he was late to pick her up, instead of focusing on the fact that he was willing to pick her up from work every day? That was some Grade A lovely boyfriending just there. Willingly skipping across town to get her from work. She scolded herself, ‘And you want to break up with him, because he’s late?’ Grow up.
The hula hoops digested and slowly their magical optimism dissolved inside her leaving her weary, watching the winter afternoon wither bleakly into darkness far too early for her Vitamin D requirements.
‘It’s not about the lateness.’ She told herself, and herself rolled her eyes back and said “Duh” actually quite rudely.
Yes, it was kind of him to offer to come and get her from work every day. But, the problem was, it wasn’t really an offer she could refuse. Because she’d tried to refuse so many times. For one, the bus stop was handily outside the library and she could very easily get on a bus straight from the doors and know exactly what time she’d be getting home every day because the bus, unlike Harry, ran to a timetable. Harry thought buses were gross though, so the idea of Lia being ok with being on one was out of the question. He just rode roughshod over her on that count.
Her second argument was the climate. The one that was currently present in the form of world ending rain. He knew the increase of carbon footprint of him coming to get her made her skin itch, but he shrugged it off by always combining the trip to get her with groceries or some other errand. He made it seem so reasonable.
Her third, more pathetically offered argument was that he was late. A lot. It sounded so feeble when she had tried to bring it up in the past. He was never, well rarely, more than 30 minutes late, so why worry about it in the grand scheme of things? And when he said that in the warmth of the car with 6Music in the background, it sounded so emminently reasonable.
Fucking reasonable. Lia was sick of reasonable.
But before the car warmth and the 6Music there was the portion where she just stood outside the library waiting. Waving to colleagues who she was sure pitied her standing there alone every evening. Before the ancient air freshener that had long since ceased smelling of pine and the soft dull click of the indicator, there was the impotent fury that he insisted on collecting her and then showed no care over doing it well. The lateness. God the infernal lateness. Did he like that she had to wait? Was it control? Was it carelessness? Was it some secret stress at work that was better hidden than Shergar?
Whatever it was, it was the grit that had become unbearable. He was Kind with a capital K for coming to pick her up. A kindness that made it impossible to complain about, but a false kindness that contained very little consideration.
Either that or she was an ungrateful prick who just didn’t love him.
“There isn’t a minimum requirement for breaking up with him.” She said out loud to the poster about the Dewey Decimal System and it stayed resolutely just a poster, but empathetically, she thought.
‘So, if he’s late today, it’s unsalvageable.’ She had promised herself, in the staff room washing her mug and Tupperware and packing them into her bag, ‘and if he’s on time, I will take a closer look for salvage aiding spare parts and see how I feel.’ It was good.
But he was late. And the weather had made the decision to really consolidate the decision she had come to… it was soaking her. Drenching. It was making every second of his lateness a freezing, icy, barrage of inconvenience and insult. It was biblical. It couldn’t have been more of a sign if it was neon rain spelling out “Dump Him” as it slanted across the High Street and into Lia’s hair, shoes, eyes and optimism. He was late, it was over.
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