Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Short story: Balance (part iii)

Michael woke before dawn. He was disoriented, shivering under a damp chill. An unfamiliar grey half-light came in through the window; a siren on the street below was foreign and threatening. It took a few moments to remember he was in his cousin’s room in Paris. He tried to ease himself back to sleep, but he his body was stuck on Thai time. The bed was uncomfortable and cold.

He groped in the dark for a light switch, accidentally knocking a framed photo off the wall. After finding the light, he reached to pick it up. A crack snaked across the glass making a fissure between Claudia and another young woman. They were standing beside a fountain, arms around each other, their faces happy but over-exposed by a bright light.

Michael touched the rough line in the crack and his finger passed over Claudia’s face. ‘She’s changed,’ he thought. Last night she had seemed skittish, nervous. She rarely met his eyes. When they were growing up she had been like a little sister to him. He was worried about the edginess and unease he saw now.

In Margrite’s room, Claudia woke with a start. She checked her watch and realized she’d slept in. She tried to sneak out of bed quickly, but got caught on in the blankets.

‘Sorry,’ she whispered to Margrite, who groaned and rolled toward the wall.

Claudia dressed hastily in the clothes she had worn the day before and quietly closed the door behind her. Michael was reading on her bed when she came into the room, forgetting to knock. They both jumped.

‘Oh, sorry. I forgot you were here,’ Claudia said. ‘I’m late for school.’ She darted around her room, grabbing a notebook and pen and stuffing them into her black bag. ‘I’ve gotta run. I’ll be back at 4:00. Sorry, Michael.... Um, help yourself to whatever you need. There isn’t much to eat, but there’s a patisserie across the street. I’m sorry. Are you going to be okay all day?” Her words tumbled out her mouth and fell onto the cluttered floor.

‘Stop apologizing,’ Michael said. ‘Go. You’ll be late. I’m fine.’

‘Okay.... I’m sorry Michael. See you later.’

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