A navy sky extinguishes the day. Sitting on the balcony, Kate reflects upon her laziness. No excursions to the volcano for Kate, just a sunbed, a pile of paperbacks and the company of Robert. Still wearing his shorts, Robert stretches his legs then scratches a mosquito bite on his knee. Kate is cool in her strappy dress. She reaches for the tumbler, drains the contents then crunches a sliver of ice.‘One more before we go down for dinner?’ he asks.But he’s not even dressed. Hasn’t yet had a shower.‘No thank you,’ she says. ‘I’m fine.’‘Good.’ He sits back in his chair.What now? She waits. Irritation makes her skin prick.‘Are you going to have steak again tonight?’ she asks.‘Think I’ll ask for it blue this time.’Yes, mooing, even.From behind the mountains comes a rumble. Although Kate knows these steamy days can lead to storms, she hopes she’s wrong. Holding her breath, she clutches the armrests and counts. A flash comes before she’s reached number eight. She’s rigid in the chair but Robert gets up for a proper look.‘It’s coming this way.’ His voice is gleeful and he cocks his head. Doesn’t he know it’s ridiculous to swagger in flip-flops?‘I’ll get inside.’ Kate reaches for her bag but when she turns, Robert is blocking the doorway.‘Surely by now you can face it.’She hesitates. Does he know what she’s thinking? What she’s planning? Of course not! Robert means the lightening.‘Let me pass,’ she says.‘No.’ He grabs her shoulders and manoeuvres her for a better view. Kate closes her eyes, resists his pinching grip.‘There’s no point in struggling,’ he says. ‘You can’t be scared your whole life.’Kate breathes through her mouth, takes comfort from the steady pumping of her heart, listens to the gushes from her lungs. The crack and the searing light skewer her to the spot but she controls the trembling.‘See, it’s not so difficult, is it?’When the thunder comes again, she’s ready. This time with eyes wide open she waits for the crack and watches the chink of light brighten the gloom. A path to her future is illuminated. She can do it. She really can.
GAIL ALDWIN’s debut novel The String Games has been longlisted in The People’s Book Prize for fiction. To get to the next stage depends upon public support. If you like Gail’s writing, why not pop over and give her your vote?
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