fiction Persist

Unfinished

The longevity of a relationship is tested in Kate Oliver's fiction, as two lives spent together are looked back on.

by Kate Oliver

How strange it is then, that he should find himself here again.

Fighting for air, for clarity, for silence.

This feeling isn’t new, but life had seemed to be moving in the right direction. A direction which he felt though wasn’t his own, was palatable. She had energy and maybe that’s what he needed. A different kind of unrelenting. They had walked through the streets earlier commanded by a frivolous warm air – not foolish enough to think it was all over, but with a childish innocence that has always plagued her.

Four months ago, as they sat and talked about taking the very same walk as the winter slush melted away, he had told her he was ready to move forward, to take a risk and to be challenged. Funny then in some ways that he should feel this depth of despair again – a challenge neither one of them had asked for. In bed that night he heard a siren of doubt for the first time in months, circling around him as he tossed from pillow to pillow. Her hand still trying to intertwine with his.

And in the plane holding that hand, when her eyes were filled with unspilled tears, fearful to show that inside she felt without a home too – how able he was, as always, to reach in and absorb those fears. To continue to set her free like he has done for the last three years, bringing her home to herself.

She knew whilst packing that their lives would not fit into two matching bags. They have, by their own admission, never matched – but have grown into one another – like bulbs growing underground waiting to permeate the soil. Music played loudly that day, at first the radio to give an air of business as usual – and then their songs – songs which had built them, directed them to each other, and then kept them moving when at times it seemed impossible to take a step.

“They have, by their own admission, never matched – but have grown into one another – like bulbs growing underground waiting to permeate the soil.”

When the music plays, she sometimes thinks about their first kiss – about what an accident it was. An accident because it didn’t happen under some perfectly moonlit sky with time enough for those few moments to look each other fully and deeply and enjoy what was about to happen. In some ways she feels angry that they will never have that story to tell, and in others she knows it is the most perfect way their first kiss could have ever happened. Clumsy. Chaotic. Essential.

And that first Christmas together sharing each other with family, friends and traditions, trying to pick what they would keep as their own, to be protected forever. The breakfast wasn’t right, too much fuss she said – and the bird wasn’t grand enough at lunch he noted. But the quiet afternoon brandy which slipped down as their hands squeezed behind carefully placed pillows was a moment which they would make sure was their own in years to come.

Staring into the light from the TV in the corner of the room, he remembers these moments and he wonders how much she remembers them too. He has always thought she had a terrible memory and often feels betrayed that she could ever forget – but in this moment he knows he doesn’t care. He swallows tears in exchange for the promise that she won’t remember him like this.

The next day is brighter than usual, and the bags are urgently unpacked to find cotton and coolness. She knows all about last night from the way the bed is made on one side before she wakes. Moving into the kitchen to find him, she shouts out, to break him from his thoughts and give him a chance to console himself. It is love in the purest form sealed with a kiss that might just give them enough strength to carry on for today at least.

Neither one of them knows whose story this is to tell, but it is not finished. They will carry on, as they always have, loving one another and hiding their truths, optimistic that time herself is waiting to reward them.

 


Kate Oliver | @KaoliverOliver

Kate Oliver is a twenty-something living in north London, but constantly pining for the actual North. She works in the charity sector advocating for the right of charities to speak up and campaign, and helps smaller organisations develop their social impact goals. She can be found commenting on mostly everything at @KaoliverOliver.

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