It was the thunder we heard first. The morning had been glorious – just perfect for lazing on the grass with iced coffees from the market, perusing the papers and generally just enjoying life and each other. But sure enough, as I looked up behind Grace’s mess of red hair, I could see the clouds rolling in.
They were angry, and switched her mood in an instant.
“What’re you doing?”
I ignored the scorn in her voice and continued to fold away the pages of newsprint that were strewn around us.
“It’s going to rain.”
“So we need to go.”
She stood up then and turned away from me to look across the park. Everyone else was on my side with this one – picnics were being packed into hampers, babies bundled back into their prams. There was another crash of thunder and she lifted her face towards the sky as the first drops of water began to fall.
They were slow and heavy. If we didn’t move now, we’d be drenched.
“Come on, Gracie, this is silly.”
Grace had let her bag drop to the floor and was shrugging off her shirt, unselfconscious in the bikini top beneath. I felt the familiar tug of longing as I saw her bare skin, curving in at the waist where it was met by the denim of her shorts.
“What’re you doing?”
“Just go, will you?”
I wanted to force her to look at me, to grab her arm and spin her round. I wanted to kiss her, but instead I ran. As the raindrops increased their urgency I found shelter beneath an oak tree, squeezing in beside a couple leaning on their bicycles and a man who had squatted down to read his book.
The thunder echoed off the tower blocks again as Grace raised her arms, her hair trailing down her back now as water dripped from its ends onto the grass below. There was a flash of lightening then too, and in that moment I had a vision of her going up in smoke before my eyes, her footprints scorched into the earth. Still clutching the papers under one arm I sprinted out into the wet. I had to save her.
But when I got there she was laughing, an expression of pure glee on her face.
“Isn’t it wonderful? It’s our chance to be free, Charlie. To be alive.”
She reached out for the buttons of my shirt, trying to undo them so I could join her even though I think she knew I never would. I wriggled free and she spun away, shouting something that was lost amidst the storm.
The anger of the clouds had infected me now, and I strode alone towards the home we shared. She’d come back when she was done. She always did.
Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this story with her prompt of ‘Thunder’, and also to Nicola at Nikki Young Writes who inspired me to explore my characters further through her post for last week’s What I’m Writing.
This story captures a moment in my protagonist’s past, seen through the eyes of her ex. I’m not sure they lasted long after this incident – and I’m pretty sure Grace would have seen things very differently.