She was like a balloon that was too pumped up.
She even felt tense, her skin too taut when he accidentally touched
her as they passed each other in the small kitchen of the small
apartment. He could feel himself stiffening and tightening in response.
He noticed that he had unconsciously planted his feet, anchoring
They stood near each other, him at the sink, her at the hob. The only
sound was the dull clink of cups in water and meat frying in the pan.
The only light came from the grey winter sky outside the window. It
seemed to enter the room horizontally. She was staring thin-lipped
through the window and he thought the setting suited her. He thought it
made her look like an actress from an old film.
He stacked the pots and put the cutlery on the drainer and sat down
at the table. He picked up the newspaper and began reading. Something
banged behind him and he raised his head. He heard murmured words and
another bang and he asked if there was anything he could do. There was a
cat-fight sizzle as she poured the passata on top of the meat. She said
something else. He said I’m sorry and she said no you’re not. He said
no, I mean I didn’t hear what you said.
She walked out of the room.
He stared at the door for a few minutes. The meat sauce had been left
on a high heat so he got up and turned it down. He turned on the
extractor fan and the overhead light and stirred the sauce and then he
boiled the spaghetti and cut some bread. He laid the table and opened
the wine and then put out the meal. He opened the door and shouted that
it was ready. He waited for a few minutes and then called again.
He sat down and looked at the food. He poured out two glasses of wine
and took a big mouthful from one of them. After a couple of minutes he
began eating. He finished his meal and his wine and then poured out
another glass. He stood up and clasped his hands on top of his head and
looked out of the apartment window as the day died outside. He saw
people walking along the wet pavements of Division Street. He wondered
how they lived.
After a while she came back into the kitchen. She had been crying and
her eyes were red. She sat down in front of her food and folded her
hands in her lap. He stood up and took her plate and warmed it in the
microwave and put it back in front of her. She took a sip of wine and
said I’m too upset to eat and he said what are you upset about. She said
you know what and he said I don’t. I don’t.
They sat together for a long time without speaking.
Later, when the police asked her why she did it, she just couldn’t find the words.
From Steel Works, a collection of short stories by R. A. Kay set in Sheffield.
Find it on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QTCQ896.