Casting Shadows Part 2

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Viola flung the rest of her stale drink into the garden and carelessly dropped her glass on the day table. She turned and watched the remaining yoke of the sun slide away and as quickly, the darkness enveloped her. The evening breeze caressed her, nudging her silk cream blouse under her full breasts. Her navy linen pants hung loosely about her short fat legs. It felt weird but nice. No-one has touched her for so long. She made no attempt to rejoin her guests inside. The time had crawled to 6:30pm, when the automated sprinklers were due to start spitting. She paced the verandah to check if the entire irrigation system had come on to water her beloved garden. Her mind went back to events earlier.

Nora had asked her if she was all right - the stupid girl. Viola felt anger rising in her like bile, but swallowed it, only responding with “good”. For years, Viola had been telling her friend about how ‘he’ had treated her. Nora knew. Just like she had, Viola gritted her teeth and told Nora everything was good. 

To Viola, “good” was a great word. When people ask how she was, she would reply on a reflex, “good”. According to Viola, the word good was so vague and final that anyone who asked could not ask any other questions. They left her alone. The word ‘good’, Viola thought, had protected her all these years. The word kept her safe from the pity and concern that exhausted her so. Viola hesitated, then remembered and put the outside lights on. The lights instantly flooded the lush bushes enclosing two carports and her guests’ extra two cars parked next to her black BMW and his silver Nissan 280Z. He would catch the $150 cab ride home tonight. She felt glad, she was not picking him up from Brisbane airport.

Over the years, she had kept all her feelings deep inside her, in the smallest pocket of her heart, layered with obligations and responsibilities as the daughter, mother and wife. But tonight, she was going to tell him everything when he came home. She would tell him she has had enough. She began thinking of her plan. Letting the scenario play out, she strolled back to the front of the house. Viola noticed at the end of the verandah that the sprinkler at her rose garden, nearest to her neighbours was off. Without thinking, she stepped bare feet onto the wet, dying lawn and walked straight across towards the dark shadows to turn the sprinkler on. The light switch was near the tennis courts.

As Viola walked briskly across her lawn, the grass-padded earth met her naked feet and lose sandy-soil mixed with the moisture from the sprinklers grabbed and gathered, forming a flat dirt-cake under her feet. She left the bright and entered the dim light, slowing to let her eyes get accustom to the lighting in the dark corner. Suddenly, she heard a sharp noise; a steel door closing, piercing the gentler evening chatters of nature.  Viola saw a movement. A shadow, as large as a human, ducked behind the neighbour’s metal shed. Viola stopped. Her heart raced. It was so close to her low wire fence, only five metres away. Goosebumps snaked down her back. She could not move, unsure whether or not to proceed the last 10 metres to the inky dark, and brave the unknown or scream and run to her verandah. She looked back to the house, listening. Even the comforts of Nora’s silly laughs were further away than the dark lurking shadow.

Her mind told her to relax, but a small part of her felt ignorant...ignorant and exposed like prey. She took three steps back and waited. No sound. She turned and headed quickly back to the front verandah of her house, fighting hard to not run nor look back. Viola was not sure if she should tell Nora. The ladies were too drunk and they may suggest something silly like, “let’s go and see who it is”.

In her house, she could see Nora's slender figure in a light cotton red dress. Nora's white pearls were dangling forward as she said something to her two friends and they were all laughing and falling back into their black leather couch. There was something beautiful, yet settling about her friend Nora.

At that moment, Viola heard her mobile phone ring. It was on the verandah. That would be him. She started running back to the house, forgetting the sprinkler and the shadows.

On the verandah, Viola wiped her dirty feet on the straw mat and reached for her mobile phone in her black leather bag.

"Hello!"

"Hello darling, the plane is delayed", a man's voice spoke.

"What?" Viola said.

"Don't worry, I will be there soon. It is only an hour delay", he said and hung up before she replied.

Viola threw the phone back into bag, angry. She walked into the house, surprising the guests with her abrupt entry and walked to the kitchen. She filled and turned the kettle on.

"Hello darling", the same words echoed. Nora threw herself on Viola, trying to hug her as she staggered and nearly tripped Viola over. Viola reached quickly and steadied herself on the vast white marble surface of her bench-top. Nora grinned. She stank under her Calvin Klein Eternity.

"Are you girls going home soon?" Viola asked Nora. Nora's make-up had caked and streaked, making her beautiful face artificial, like an old barbie doll. Beautiful eyes and lips, all the right colours, shapes and sizes, only, not real.

"Yes, we are thinking of heading off”, Nora said and eyed the other two. They all giggled.

Viola ignored the slap of mockery and their hidden venom. She turned the kettle on and warmed to the crackling sound of the electrical elements heating up her water. She needed to cool down, and relax. Outside her kitchen, through the window, she suddenly remembered the shadow and anticipated to see something. All she could see were bright shades and reflections of lights thrown to and from the colours of her  Bromeliads and her Pink Ladies.

Nora and her friends picked themselves up and each gave her a peck on the cheek before they staggered out of her front door.

"Bye!" Viola said quietly.

"Will you be okay!" Nora asked her again.

"I'm good".

"Is he coming?"

"Yes, he is"

"Okay, bye darling. As usual, it was a fantastic day", Nora concluded and walked out with her two friends.

They stepped heavily down the Queenslander. Someone fell over. Viola tensed up, wondering if one of her guests hurt herself, then she heard heavy banging and shouting, then car keys falling.

"Oh shit!, you alright darling"? Nora said and there was more laughter and more swearing. 

Viola took her eyes away from the direction of the drunk and their noise. Her front door was ajar. She reached up for a white mug in a glass cupboard and pulled the top draw for a teaspoon. The keetle steamed and spurted to a stop. From the pantry, she decided she would have an instant coffee. Everything in the pantry were laid out neatly in tubes, cans and packets. All convenient parcels of quick meals and snacks; how her life has been to this point, she thought. The coffee should keep her awake for the unfinished business, her plan. This final thought almost made her smile to herself. It was an eventful day, but she felt a surge of energy. She gave Nora's crowd ten minutes to drive away. Viola knew, not to make them think she was that rude. She looked up at her clock. After the white kitchen clock counted the ten minutes, she would walk to her front door, and lock up until he arrived.

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