Millie swallowed down the pill with a big gulp. She could feel the cold water trickle down her chest and land in the pit of her stomach.
“You may experience some nausea and dizziness for the first few weeks,” the doctor had said, “but that will pass. Some people experience a loss of sex drive, but symptoms are different for everyone.”
Even less of a drive than I already have? Lucky me, she had thought to herself. She turned the pill packet over and read the back: take once a day with food. She feebly picked at the sandwich she had made earlier to satiate the numb feeling in her stomach that she supposed was hunger. She barely felt the tingle of mustard on her tongue when she bit into it; nothing tasted quite like it did before.
She tapped out a cigarette from the pack. Cigarettes were on the ‘no-no’ list, but she reckoned it didn’t really matter anymore. Inhaling it, she let the smoke envelop her as she breathed out. She sat like that for a moment, in the patio of her garden, hearing the distant sounds of traffic, dogs barking, and children playfully shouting in the street.
“Excuse me,” the surprise voice jolted Millie’s blood like an electric shock. But when she turned her head, she saw that it was only her cleaner. “Ms. Millie? I’m sorry to disturb you at this time.”
“That’s okay, Patricia,” Millie looked down at her hand and saw a pile of ash under where her cigarette used to be, now a small stub between her fingers, “What can I do for you?”
“I was just here to collect my umbrella,” Patricia held it up triumphantly, “I left it behind. I was going to wait until I came back on Thursday, but it looks like it might rain.” They both looked up towards the pink sky. It was clear right above them, but an angry, grey cloud floated threateningly in the distance.
“I tried ringing you, and Mr. Chris, as I didn’t just want to let myself in,” Patricia pressed, “but nobody picked up.”
“Oh,” Millie let out a chuckle but it sounded more like she was out of breath, “I don’t think Chris will be answering either of our calls.”
Millie watched as Patricia’s face withdrew in an unfamiliar way. Millie wasn’t used to seeing her perfectly manicured face with a furrow in her brow. Patricia was always very put together, never without a bright headscarf or a vibrant lipstick to frame her pearly white smile. “There is too much darkness in the world,” she told Millie once, “I like to add a bit of colour to it.” Of all the cleaners she had, Patricia was Millie’s favourite. Always cheerful, always positive, and always took care of her appearance, even if she was just a cleaner.
“Is there something wrong with Mr. Chris’ phone?” Patricia asked, snapping Millie back into the present.
“No,” Millie turned around, stubbing the burnt out cigarette onto the garden table, grinding it into the pile of ash as if she was burrowing for something. “Chris doesn’t live here anymore.”
She heard footsteps come towards her, and out of her peripherals saw Patricia set down the umbrella on the table, and sit on the adjacent chair. They let the silence hang between them as the sky continued to darken.
“I just don’t understand why you’ve suddenly changed your mind.” Millie watched Chris incessantly shake his leg up and down, avoiding her gaze. She reached out to touch his leg but he sprang away from her like they were opposing magnets, eyes firmly fixed on the same spot on the floor.
“I didn’t change my mind. I never really wanted to do this in the first place.” She shifted in her seat, knowing that they both knew that wasn’t the whole truth.
“It’s all we’ve been talking about for the last year,” Chris shook his head in disbelief, “We’ve planned for this… Mils, we’re ready, why are you suddenly getting cold feet?” He ran his fingers through his hair, clutching at the root, “I know it’s been a hard road but we can’t just give up now.”
“I’m not giving up, I just…” Millie felt the hairs standing up at the back of her neck, “it was all hypotheticals, wasn’t it? We weren’t actually serious.”
Millie couldn’t see his face, but watched as Chris’ whole body tensed up, knowing that her words landed on him like a punch in the gut. His leg had stopped shaking, and she could hear this his breath getting heavier every time he exhaled. The silence stretched on for what felt like forever, until he simply got up and walked out of the door.
Millie only realised that silent tears were rolling down her face when she saw Patricia push a small pack of tissues that she had retrieved from her handbag across the table. Millie reached for them, and before she could pull away, Patricia placed her own hand on top of Millie’s and squeezed it tightly.
“It will be okay,” Patricia reassured her.
Millie sniffed, squeezing Patricia’s fingers back, “But I don’t think he’ll be back.”
“Oh no, but he will. Men are hot headed, but they start to see sense after a while,” Patricia stated, matter-of-factly. “He will calm down and he will come back. You’ll see.”
Millie didn’t respond. Because she knew that Chris wouldn’t come back. She knew he wouldn’t come back to someone who couldn’t tell him the whole truth. Someone who had built up his hopes of becoming a father. And he certainly wasn’t coming back to a woman who couldn’t make him a father.
And that was my final piece submitted for #SRSummerSchool: Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Storyteller! A product of six weeks of learning,writing, editing and workshopping – and I’m pretty chuffed to have it as a part of my creative writing series.
And of course, to catch up on my previous Shorts, click here.