This week we have a short story from a brand new writer, Emma Middleton. A Storm is Brewing explores the theme of trust in relationships. The subtle style of this piece allows readers to look beyond what causes the turning point in the story, and question what has been brewing beneath the surface of the couple’s relationship.
A Storm is Brewing
When she exhaled the air came out in a quick, disapproving puff. He felt it tousle his hair and consciously reached up to fix it. Flattened it smooth. She liked it better wild and standing on end.
“I’m sorry,” he said, tasting the martini on his breath. She always made fun of him for drinking fancy, $15 per glass, up yourself drinks. She laughed, though it wasn’t funny, and spit in the shadowy grass like she too could taste the sickly sweet syrup.
“I was out with the guys from work – ” his words felt like rocks on his tongue, pushing them out one by one was taking all of his concentration – “you know Ted and Salim, we were talking business.” He kept talking, telling her about that deal, she knew which one he was talking about, the important one, the one that could change his career. Mostly sticking to the facts. She didn’t react.
“You smell like lavender,” she said, not accusing but dangerous nonetheless.
“D – do I?”
“You smell like lavender,” she repeated. So had the girl at the nightclub, he remembered now. He should have thought to spray some cologne on after, or wash his mouth out with soap like his mother had when he was young and his lips committed sins. This sin was much bigger than swearing on the playground, though. He thought about swallowing the soapy water this time as some kind of inner purification. It wouldn’t be enough.
She stood, head cocked to the side, arms crossed, staring at his lips instead of his eyes, and he wondered again if she knew more than she was letting on. She wasn’t waiting for an explanation. Her dark skin was shining, reflecting the unnatural white glow of the porch light. She wore the better nightgown, the satin one he loved to run his fingers over, pretending the fabric was her skin, feeling the pulsing of her veins underneath.
With a throb he remembered the nightclub girl’s skin – not as dark and not nearly as smooth. He remembered tasting himself in her breath as she kissed him after, sitting in the front seat of his car. He’d have to get a new car now. The old one smelled too much of her.
She turned without warning then, her hips moving tantalizingly from side to side as she made her way into the house. He walked in after her, careful not to close the distance between them. She moved slowly up the steps, not checking to see if he was following, not checking to see if he was watching. There was something in those hips, he told himself, something hypnotizing that suggested either fog or a flash flood. Both were deadly enough.
He waited for her to slam and lock their bedroom door. This was only the beginning. She’d be cold for days before snapping and screaming his injustices for the whole world to hear. Throwing books and picture frames at him like a hurricane, intent on destroying him and any trace of him. A day later, they’d pretend like it’d never happened. But he’d still find broken bits of glass in the carpet for weeks after.