Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Short story: Balance (last segment)

Michael watched his cousin pull apart her croissant. She was still so guarded with him. They had spent months living on opposite sides of the world, but it was now that he felt farthest away from her.

“Claudia,” he said, then paused. “You and I, well, we’ve sort of gone in different directions since we left Canada.”

Claudia bristled, hearing his words first as a criticism. But she looked up to see his eyes smiling kindly at her. “I don’t think whatever you’re doing is bad,” he added. “If anything, I feel intimidated because you’re not afraid to be doing all sorts of things that I’ve never tried.”

“I guess I thought you were criticizing me,” Claudia said quietly, staring at the cup between her hands.

“Well, you criticized what I was doing in Thailand.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Claudia mumbled. “I didn’t really mean what I said.”

They were both silent for a moment; then Michael spoke carefully, cautiously. “Look, we’re both changing. And we’ve kind of being doing it at opposite ends of the scale.”

Claudia was reminded of the two of them as kids, riding on the teeter-totter. Stronger and heavier than her, Michael used to get her stuck in the air, kicking and protesting. Then, when she wasn’t expecting it, he’d suddenly push off with his legs so her end would come crashing down. If she didn’t stop herself in time, her seat would hit the ground with a heavy bump and he would cackle with laughter. ‘Use your legs, Claude,’ he’d call out as she’d vainly try to bounce him back.

Light from the skylight lit the table between them, a patch of lesser grey in the hazy half-light. Claudia smiled at her memory. With Michael facing her across the table, she could almost imagine him sitting on the opposite end of teeter-totter, only now instead of trying to bump each other, they were attempting a wobbly, uncertain stasis. Claudia held her breath, poised in mid-air. She looked at her cousin and was surprised to realize he was doing the same. They both let their breath out with a laugh and the light seemed to waver, but the balance held.

1 comment:

  1. I love the line ", but the balance held"

    Thanks for the story