Not a very cheery offering for the latest 800 word effort from author Eden Baylee in Canada and me in Scotland but the prompts are randomly chosen so there’s nothing deliberate about any of it – except, of course, to entertain. So don’t hesitate to let us know what you think – of both the stories and the overall enterprise.
This month’s prompt: On Tuesday, Margaret told me she liked the little oranges with the seeds better than the ones I bought. I hated her for that.
Parts 1 and 3 were from Eden and 2 and 4 were mine.
Mighty oaks from little acorns
I know this sounds weird but sharing a flat with Margaret has almost certainly made me decide not to get married. We’re not a couple or anything but it’s just bloody annoying having to incorporate someone else’s preferences into the choices one makes.
OK, we’re totally different personalities, always have been, but we always got on well together at school. We were good friends even though we wanted different things, had different priorities. There was no competitiveness, no real disagreements. But now it seems that going to university and deciding to share a flat to keep costs down has made helluva difference. Not in any of the basics: I still hand in essays on time, read the set texts, keep the flat clean and the fridge stocked, and Margaret’s still switching boyfriends every week or so, skipping tutorials, spending more time in clubs than in the library. But it’s always been like that, and it didn’t matter before. But lately…
Well, for example, I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping. That’s fine. I enjoy it. Then, on Tuesday, Margaret told me she liked the little oranges with the seeds better than the ones I bought. I hated her for that.
I marvel at how tolerant I can be of all our differences over the years, and then one little thing like orange seeds sets me off. And I mean really sets me off. You can say it’s what broke the camel’s back of our relationship, perhaps one that had always been tenuous at best. Why else would a seemingly innocent comment from Margaret cause such rage in me?
“From now on, do your own fucking shopping and cooking, bitch. And that goes for cleaning your room too!” And just like that, we were no longer friends. She tried to apologize, made some excuse for her poor choice of words. For over a week, she begged my forgiveness, only I wasn’t interested. I was pissed, and no amount of grovelling from her was going to change that. In fact, I quite enjoyed seeing her misery as she tried to domesticate herself.
My life became easier. I didn’t have to accommodate her needs anymore. I bought the oranges without the seeds, the ones I liked, and I ate them with glee in front of her. She’s lucky there were no seeds; I would have spat them at her if there were.
But it was the silence that got to me in the end. I usually enjoy it. Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, housework, my mind’s always going – usually thinking over my studies, trying to make sense of the harder bits, basically just reducing all sorts of complicated ideas to things I can understand. I need peace for that. But after that row, whenever we were sitting down to eat or to watch TV, more and more I became sort of aware of her as a presence. Strangely, I wanted – maybe even needed – to talk with her. Needed her to be… well, a person.
But she never showed any inclination to want the same. So we sat, ate, watched, or just got up and went to our rooms. We didn’t even say “goodnight” any more. In the end it was awful. Before, I used to know the names of her boyfriends, where she’d been with them, what they’d done, but now she was just… well, an object, something that came into, then went out of my space, with no more significance than a chair or a coffee pot or… for that matter, a bowlful of oranges – big or little, with or without seeds.
It was hailing the first day of winter. I left the flat before sunrise and drove to the library. High winds almost blew me off the road.
For two months, Margaret and I had barely spoken. I learned she was moving out when she stuck a note to my bedroom door.
It read: Dec 21st will be my last day.
In a subsequent text, she provided names of three potential roommates to replace her. I contemplated sending a message to patch things up, but too much time had already passed. I’d even forgotten why we weren’t talking anymore.
I should have twigged to the fact that Margaret was leaving. She’d stockpiled cardboard boxes in her room for weeks, and although I was curious, I chose not to say anything about it.
The sticky note she wrote me turned out to be prophetic. On the morning of her move in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, an eighteen-wheeler truck collided with her cube van, ending in a multi-vehicle pileup on the highway—ending Margaret’s life.
I never said good-bye to her, never even wished her good luck, too afraid to appear awkward after our long period of silence.