“Lovely swallow, where do you go?” Nina whispered.
The swallow fluttered in easy wavelike patterns.
She sat on the veranda, the sun warming her skin in the cool spring air. Nina smiled, swallows meant summer was close.
“Did you see the world?” She asked, as the swallow alighted on the beam above her. It twittered, then flew off again.
Nina had never seen the world.
She lay her head back and closed her eyes. Images of adventure flitted through her mind, like hummingbirds. She imagined herself on a ship, brave in a raging storm. Or in the jungle, making her way through the thick vegetation in the driving rain. Her favorite fantasy was the one where she climbed the Eiffel Tower.
Up, up above Paris she would climb.
Another swallow appeared and was gliding in its random, careless flight.
“Nina!” The voice called from the house. It ripped through the sunny calm. “Time to come in!”
Nina took one last look at the soaring swallows and sighed. She wheeled her chair around and rolled inside, away from the world.
There’s a fine line between justice and revenge, thought Christine, and what I’ve done is justice. But, was it? At least it was justified. However, somewhere deep down a little voice told her it had been revenge.
It all started a two years ago when Christine met Rowan at a class she was taking. He’d shown up, out of the blue and with a wink and a smile had won her over. Well, it hadn’t been that simple, but Christine was not wrong in claiming he had started it.
He flirted first, asked for her number, called her, invited her for coffee, drinks, dinner. Soon they were going to the movies, to concerts, to restaurants, day trips, nights out. They were always together, or else they’d be phoning, chatting and emailing.
Rowan was charming and amiable. He was also good-looking and smart. He was everything a girl could want, and without knowing when or how, Christine fell head over heels for him.
Except, he wasn’t interested. At least not in that way, he said, let’s just be friends, he said.But the flirting didn’t stop. Nor did the constant contact. Christine would cry herself to sleep wondering why he wasn’t interested in her, what was wrong with her.
Before she knew it, Rowan, unwittingly, answered all her secret questions. He would look at women, totally different in appearance to her, and say they were beautiful, but never Christine. No matter how hard she tried to look her best, she never got a compliment. Well, not a verbal compliment, because in behavior, Rowan acted like she was Aphrodite, Goddess of Beauty and Queen of Hearts. He would stand so near her that she would feel the warmth emanating from his body. He would look at her with eyes that said, “I see only you” and he would smile at her like she was the most radiant thing in the world. But in words, Rowan always retracted. His closeness would be contradicted by his hand on her shoulder, slowly pushing her away. His gaze would be followed by words like fat, ugly, pimply, casually thrown into conversation meant to sting, but assuring Christine that he wasn’t talking about her, or was he? The smile, Christine soon found out, was the worst. Hurtful comments like “you’re so weird,” “you’re so pushy, it’s creepy,” “gosh what a nerd,” would come wrapped in its treacherous warmth. They pained Christine to the bone. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. She should’ve walked away, but he wouldn’t let her. He still called, and emailed, and even showed up unexpected.
I should’ve just run, Christine thought for the millionth time. But she hadn’t. Instead, she’d held on to the hope he might one day change his mind.
When he spoke for the first time about a girl he was seeing, Christine almost died. She cried for hours. Every time he spoke of Lucy, it stung Christine so deep down that her soul hurt. So she came clean, and told Rowan how she felt about him, and that if he still wanted to be friends he’d need to leave her alone. She wouldn’t contact him, she said, and she would appreciate it if he didn’t either. Rowan agreed.
For one marvelous week Christine felt herself liberated of his presence. She still cried and looked at herself in the mirror wondering what was wrong with her, but Rowan wasn’t there to sting her with honeyed gestures, and she felt herself beginning to heal.
But Rowan wasn’t about to let go so easily. He called her the week after saying he missed her, and the week after that, until Christine, heart on her sleeve, told him she would never speak to him again, she never wanted to see him again.
And so it was for almost a year, until one day, she saw Rowan walking down the street. He was walking towards her. Christine lifted her coat collar and hid her face with her hair and sunglasses as he approached. There was a discarded piece of cable on the pavement. She gingerly and discreetly kicked it his way. It tangled between his feet and Rowan fell flat on his face.
“Timber!” Christine mumbled to herself and kept walking as if nothing had happened, smirking with satisfaction.