This piece evolved from the prompt of setting the story in a place that is familiar. I chose one of my favourite places and started from there. Bonus points if you recognize it!
It was a curious structure that, as far as could be found, served no particular purpose other than decoration. A small round house, more of a hut really, stuck in the centre of a path in the grassy square, enclosed away from the frantic hustle of the city. The structure mystified Danni, and many visits to the peaceful square had yet to yield any further information on it. She found herself drawn back to it time and again. The Tudor style was attractive and acting as a centrepiece, it gave the impression of being thrown back in time.
There was a statue guarding the house, either in front or at the rear of it, dependent on which direction you approached. Danni didn’t know who the statue was of, but with long, regal hair and a neckerchief, she was pretty sure he was important.
The park itself was small, contained by iron fences. The patchy grass was separated into sections by a walkway that snaked along, connecting the open gates on either end. Benches lined the paths, serving two purposes; seating for the park’s visitors, and a latrine for the birds that resided in the trees.
In particular the tall trees that grew seemingly random throughout the grass and mud. Danni shifted her scrutiny from the Tudor shack to the statues sitting across the way from her. The group of four sat sculptured in the mud. Carved into relaxed postures and facing one another; the illusion of conversation.
“Are you even listening to me?” Evans’ voice cut through her thoughts. Danni startled and turned her attention to Evan, his annoyed eyebrows making her cringe.
“See, this is what I’m talking about” he sighed as he looked straight ahead, away from Danni as they sat side by side on the park bench. “It’s like you’re not even here.”
Danni looked down at her hands, ashamed. Her half eaten cupcake, held in her lap, had lost its’ appeal. Evan always said she was too distant, too disinterested. Admittedly, he wasn’t the first, as much as she tried not to be.
“I know,” she tried, “I’m sorry I—“
“Stop saying sorry!” Evan interrupted her fiercely. He glanced around at the other occupants of the park and went on, more quietly, “You always say sorry and it’s fine, for a while. But only for a short time.” He sighed again and turned in his seat, angling himself towards Danni. “I just think that whenever we spend time together, you’d rather be anywhere else.”
“I know,” Danni repeated, “It’s not that I don’t want to be with you, it’s just—” she floundered, no idea how she wanted to finish her sentence. How could she explain something she hadn’t figured out herself yet?
Evan pursed his lips, as if to choose his next words carefully, delicately. Danni braced herself, wholly aware of what was next to come.
“I think it might be better if we took some time apart from each other.”
And there it was.
Danni swallowed, making sure her voice wouldn’t waver and then looked at Evan, mimicking his pose,
“You’re right,” she said, unwilling to drag it out any longer, “That might be for the best.” Danni had expected Evan to look relieved but he just looked sad when she said that, making the heaviness in her chest tighten. With nothing left to say, Danni just stared at her hands again, noting where the blue frosting had smeared on her skin.
“I should get going.” Evan stated emptily, he stood up, reached out and laid his hand on Danni’s shoulder. “I hope we can still be friends.” Danni finally looked at him again and smiled. Her smile felt crooked but she hoped that it didn’t look as watery as she felt. Evan patted his pockets, an endearing habit he had and nodded awkwardly to Danni one last time, then walked away.
Danni didn’t move, her eyes once again fixed on the Tudor hut but it blurred without permission. The tears were surprising, more surprising than the things Evan had said. It had been the same thing for the dozenth, for the hundredth time. Danni’s interest was hard to gain and so easily lost, she always ended up hearing the same words; distant, disinterested, detached.
It wasn’t as if she did it on purpose, but that was yet another boyfriend she’d driven away. Danni didn’t hold back tears because she’d been dumped again, but because there was no worse feeling than when she knew she’d hurt someone else. Evan making that decision was a relief, it was something that she didn’t have to force herself to do. She just wished she didn’t keep unwittingly hurting other people because she could never figure out why she lost interest just as she started to get close to someone. At what point do I give up? she wondered.
Not keen on lingering in the park any longer, being judged by everyone else there, Danni stood, tossing her cupcake in the bin as she walked past one on her way out to the street.
Danni closed the front door behind her and stashed her keys in the pocket of her coat. She could hear movements in the kitchen down the hall, just out of sight.
“Hey.” She called in greeting, stripping off her coat in the warm flat. Rani’s head popped out from around the doorframe of the kitchen, and returned Danni’s greeting with a smile.
“Hey. I was wondering where you were.” Rani said, ducking back into the kitchen as Danni followed.
“I was just down in Soho with Evan.” Danni said vaguely. “How was Temple?” She laid her coat over the back of a chair as she leant against the dining table to watch Hurricane Rani sweep through their tiny kitchen.
Rani fluttered around, opening this cupboard and moving that bag; a small collection of plastic bags gathered on the counters being quickly whittled down. She was a whirlwind of order, putting everything in its’ place as she talked animatedly at Danni about her day.
“It was good,” Rani said, “Mum got her knickers all twisted up because Aarav was late.”
“Hungover again?” Danni asked, and Rani shrugged in response as she unpacked a carton of milk.
“Knowing my brother? Probably. I ended up calling him before we got there, so I think I woke him up.”
“You’re a good sister.”
“Of course I am!” Rani said with a chuckle, “He made it anyway but Mum gave him hell afterwards.”
“Which I’m sure he loved.” Danni laughed.
“We had lunch at Mum and Dad’s afterwards and Dad wouldn’t stop with the terrible jokes so Mum whacked him with the spoon she was holding.” Rani continued, her hands worked deftly, pulling out apples, chicken and cheese. “Which, at least it wasn’t the big wooden one she used on me and Aarav when we were little, but then Dad whinged for a while until Auntie told him to stop being such a baby.” Rani spun between the fridge and pantry, an intricate dance to the beat of her story.
“Then Simi called and wanted to grab lunch on Wednesday but I told her that I’ll be working that extra shift they asked me to take. So we’re meeting up on Thursday instead.” Danni liked watching her flatmate when she was focused on something, systematic and calming.
“Oh, and Mum and Auntie made some extra curry for us.” Rani said, brandishing a small stack of Tupperware she extracted from a bag, “They made that one you like, I just have to pick up some roti from the shops next time I’m there. I forgot to get bananas though, so I might get them both at the market in the morning.”
Bags empty and packed up, Rani turned, hands on her hips and refocused her attention to Danni, unwittingly giving Danni the opening she knew she couldn’t avoid.
“How was Soho then? Did you and Evan go anywhere nice?”
“Evan and I broke up.” Danni said, ripping off the Band-Aid.
Rani’s hands dropped off her hips, her shoulders drooping softly as her face fell; her mouth turning down as the space between her eyebrows folded.
“I’m so sorry babe,” she said. Danni straightened where she was standing, knowing what Rani’s next move would be. As expected, Rani closed the space between them and scooped Danni into a hug. She clutched at her friend for a brief moment, bolstered by Rani’s comfort before she pulled back slightly. Following her lead, Rani released Danni and tugged the dining chair she stood next to out, sitting down as Danni followed suit.
“Do you feel like talking about it?” Rani asked and Danni felt warmed by her friends concern. She smiled at Rani and shook her head,
“No, I’ll be alright. It wasn’t getting that serious anyway.” Danni knew she was brushing it off, but Rani didn’t call her out on it and only nodded, taking Danni’s cold hand between her warm ones.
“Well, if you ever do, you know where to find me.”
Danni nodded again, quiet for a moment before pointedly changing the subject,
“So what else will we need from the market? We should make a list.” Danni was grateful when Rani went along with the non-sequitur, nodding once before rising and grabbing her phone off the counter.
“Kate’s coming over on Tuesday, so I was thinking we could do a wine and cheese night.”
“That sounds like fun.” Danni replied, standing up to help. Perhaps Danni didn’t have a boyfriend any longer, nor any answers to deeper questions about herself but she had her friends to pull her up when she needed them. For that she was grateful.