The path of the storm

by Jenny

You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Alison slams her mug down on the work surface and switches on the kettle.

“Are you sure you -?”

“I’ve already told you I’m fine, haven’t I?”

I close my mouth and let the silence rise up around us again. Outside the rumble of thunder in the distance.

The kettle boils and Alison pours water onto her teabag and stirs it ferociously. She yanks open the fridge door for the milk, banging her knee, but she doesn’t flinch or even register the pain.

There is nothing left to do in the kitchen, but if she leaves she can’t demonstrate her anger. She moves around putting things away, checking on the fish, moving tea towels about.

The air is crackling now, with unspoken words waiting to spill. At the window lightning flashes. One, two, three, four, five seconds pass before the thunder.

“So how was the pub?” She asks, too casually.

“Yeah it was alright actually. Only stayed for a few in the end.”

“Hmm. Who was there altogether?”

“Just the guys from the office. Scotty and Chalmers and them.”

“No-one else? Just you guys?”

Another flash. One, two…

“Oh the girls from the art team were there, but they were on a different table. Didn’t really see a lot of them.”

“The art girls. Right. So Sophie was there then was she?”

The thunder rolls around outside. The windows rattle in their frames.

“She was there, but I -”

“Well of course she was there. She’d hardly miss a chance to be out with you.”

“Look we didn’t even speak -”

“As I remember it, you didn’t do a lot of speaking last time. It’s not the speaking I worry about.”

“Ally, that was a year ago. You said we’d moved on.”

“Well that was before I knew you were out drinking with her in the pub every night after work!”

The wind blows up outside. Another flash of lightning, the thunder close on its heels.

“Babe - we have to get past this. What do you want? Should I never go to the pub because there’s a chance that she might be there?”

“Might be there? Might? She’s always there isn’t she?”

“What? I don’t know - what does it matter?”

“It matters because you fucked her three days before we were supposed to get married. It matters because you begged me not to leave you and I agreed as long as you didn’t see her. And now I find out you’ve been seeing her every fucking night?”

The mug slams down Tea sloshes out over the sides.

“So she’s there? It’s not like we’re alone together - or, or -”

“Or what” Ally says, her voice rising to that pitch that makes the hair on my neck stand up.

Then the kitchen is empty. I can hear Alison moving about upstairs. She is throwing clothes into a suitcase, crying. This time, I think, she won’t be back.

And suddenly rain is streaming against the windows, the sky is alive with lightning and the tension in the air is floating away in the path of the storm.