After a Storm

February 15, 2018

Outside the café, the wind has evened off. Earlier it whooped and howled against the walls, and the windows, and thunder clapped and lightning seemed to split the sky. It seemed as though the wind would blow the light away, but for now it remains. Pale gray like the clouds filling the sky, it tints the light wooden floors and the cherrywood furniture. It soaks into the swirls of milk being stirred into the two cups of tea that sat upon a square table, waiting to be drunk by the lady and the gentleman seated on either side. His eyes are the color of dishwater, and her coat is dark green. They are the only patrons seated inside the café at this time, as few ever come to the place on a daily basis, and even less come after a storm.

“I’ve told you,” says the gentleman. “It won’t happen again. I love you too much.”

“I know,” the lady responds absently.

Outside, a straggling breeze blows the thin branches of a tree against the cafe window. They tap like impatient fingers. The gentleman finishes stirring his tea, the brief clinks of his spoon breaking the indistinct hum of the soft music playing around them. The lady’s eyes are downcast.

“Now. Don’t do that. It’s nothing. You’ll ruin your tea. There’s no need to do that, really.”

“Do you love me?” she asks him after a pause.

“Yes, of course. It’s nothing, really. Completely inconsequential. It will not happen again, I assure you. We’ll be more careful next time, yes?”

“Right. You love me, and I love you.”

“Yes. Of course, of course. Such odd flowers here on this table, I think. Now…now don’t you think so?” He can see the pale gray light seeping into the whites of her eyes.

“How so?” Her voice is small.

“Too red, I think.” He’s being honest. Their deep crimson color, somewhat heightened by the veil of light seeping in through the window, stains his vision with spots long after he drags his eyes away from them. He chuckles a bit when the spots form a small splotch around the lady’s face.

Perhaps it wasn’t really something to chuckle about, he thinks. How strange of him, chuckling over such trivial things.

“I understand if it’s hard to accept responsibility for these things,” he says after the lady remains silent. He begins to reach for her hand. “But…I think that with some time, and maturity, you can-“

“I don’t know if I want to talk about this,” she says quickly. For the first time, her eyes are locked with his. “I..I don’t know. I don’t know if I can talk about anything right now. Please.”

A girl in an apron outside the door sweeps wet leaves away from the storm drain. A car splashes through a puddle near her, the spray soaking her. She yells an ugly word at the car and keeps sweeping.

“I see,” the man says, without breaking his gaze. He slumps back tiredly in his chair and rolls a wilted rose petal in his fingers. The red spots continue to swim in his vision. He ignores the lady’s sigh and fiddles with his phone.

The lady sighs again. “Hey,” she says gently, placing her hand on his shoulder. “Hey. I’m sorry. Please, I want you to talk to me. I’m sorry.”

Her hand sits motionless on his shoulder. The red spots swim across her slender fingers. After a long moment, he meets her eyes again.

“I thought…that both of us might have been at risk. It was difficult to think straight, at that moment. I love you too much.”

“I’m sorry. I know,” the lady replies. “This was…my doing.”

“It’s quite alright. It was just a little blip, remember? You were just being careless. You’ll be more careful next time, yes?”

“Of course I will, yes.”

“And then something like this will not happen again, yes?”

“Of course.” They sit in companionable silence for a while. When she smiles up at him again, the color has returned to her face in spite of the light. He blinks rapidly to rid his vision of the red spots.

They stand up to leave, and he stacks their empty cups and plates.

“I’m sorry,” says the lady. “I’m sorry, for all of this. I love you.”

The gentleman looks up at her with a tight smile.

His hand is cold when she takes it in her own, and even colder when he squeezes hers tightly. As they step out, the wind whips around them.

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