Anyway, just to amuse you guys, I've decided to post it here. I don't know if any of you have read The Robber Bride, but I was supposed to be imitating a scene in the middle of the book which starts out in the past tense with a bit of foreshadowing, then moves to the present and depicts a less-than-comfortable married couple's interaction, switching back and forth between the two characters and using very little dialogue. It's not one of my very best pieces or anything - it's not a particularly happy piece and it's not written exactly as I'd have done it if I hadn't had to follow the imitation guidelines - but it was fun to do nonetheless. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy writing.
They could not have known, then, how it would turn out. It was one of those postcard-worthy fall days in October: sunny, with a crisp breeze and an impossibly blue sky framing vibrant red and yellow leaves. Anna had Claire out in the stroller, pushing her leisurely down the street. They were on no particular errand, but stopped every so often – to chat with a passerby, to pat a friendly dog, to admire a particularly beautiful leaf. Anna wished several times that she had her camera along, watching Claire wrinkle her tiny nose against the sunshine and smile, showing her newly acquired pearly teeth. Anna, in a sweater and skirt, was thinking about Aidan and their upcoming evening out; it was Friday, and for the first time since having Claire, they’d hired a babysitter. Straightening her baby daughter’s lace sunbonnet, she smiled.
* * *
Shaking the snow from his jacket, Aidan climbs the stairs heavily, his shoes thumping against the worn carpet of the flat. He walks past the kitchen, allowing himself one small twinge of hope before his gaze falls upon the tower of dirty dishes, stacked just as high as they’d been that morning. Sighing inwardly, he passes the bathroom – small, dank, and dusty – the living room – every light turned off – and then the closed door – Claire’s room. Even without seeing it, he can picture the white wooden crib, the yellow walls with moon-and-star patterns, the antique rocking chair.
From the doorway of his own bedroom, he stares into the dim interior, eyeing the jumbled lump of blankets which represents his wife. In the fading winter light, the green and white room seems to be washed in shades of gray. Teetering on the brink of indecision, he decides to give it yet another try.
He approaches the bed. “Anna.” The room smells sour, like bad breath and dirty hair.
“Mmmm.” She turns over, burrows back under the blankets. “I’m fine. Just let me sleep for a while.” She hears him hesitate, draw a breath as if to speak again, then give up and leave the room. Good.
Aidan doesn’t understand her, never has, and Anna knows it perfectly well. In the early years of their relationship, it hadn’t seemed to matter. They had looked good together: he tall, broad, and blond, she petite and dark-haired. Aidan and Anna. She used to love hearing people say their names together like that, each complementing the other, like a matched set. Collect them all.
Someone has a portable stereo set up on their porch. Music drifts through the open window, a man singing softly in a language Anna doesn’t know. Lacy snowflakes, light against the darkening sky, spiral gently downward. Anna straightens the patchwork quilt and closes her eyes again. Sleep is her solace. Claire. She slides mercifully away before the tears can come.
Aidan is upset too, of course he is. He has closed the door to Claire’s room, moved her Baby Bouncer out of the living room, turned all the family photographs face down. But in the nearly-three months that Anna has been like this, Aidan has forgotten how to reach her, forgotten the little patterns and day-to-day routines of married life. He is floundering, drowning right alongside his wife. He knows it doesn’t belong like this, but he just isn’t sure how to put it right.