Joy – a short story.


Joy means many things to many people but to Annie it meant only one thing: freedom. Once it had meant something different. Once it had been about togetherness.

***

Annie looked up from her cappuccino, extra chocolate sprinkles and extra sugar as an extra treat and smiled to herself. Life was pretty good. She was sat at her favourite table looking out at her favourite Piaza, soaking up the late afternoon sun. Soon the coffee would be gone and it would be replaced by a cold glass of Pinot Grigo, the delicate bowl of the glass holding the golden liquid, deepening its colour and its appeal. And she would sit sipping at her wine, waiting for her friend. He would be late as ever, held up by a last minute drama at work, but not too late. He always said nothing could keep him from her for long.

Until he came, she had the view, the musical notes of Italian around her, interspersed with the scraping of chairs and the clink of crockery. Until he came she had the anticipation of his arrival which would bring the luxury of making a decision about where they would eat and the pure joy of his presence.

Until he came! She smiled and sighed and looked down at her hand grasping the coffee cup. It was a pretty hand with smooth shell pink nails that stood out all the more against her golden tan. He said he loved to hold her hand because it was so small and soft. His was big and broad, the thumb nails were square and substantial, each finger had a solid sense of strength. She loved to hold his hand as much for its strength and size as he loved hers for its vulnerability. Joy: two people who fit perfectly.

Until he came, she could wait. she drained her coffee and as she put the cup back in the saucer the clock in the square chimed the hour – 6pm. It was later than she had thought, wine o’clock as she liked to call it, knowing that it made him smile. She caught the waiter’s eye.

He moved to her and smiled, “Signora?”

“Un bicchiere di vino bianco si prego.” She smiled up at him, enjoying his beauty more because it brought to mind the one she waited for more immediately than for its own sake, and settled back to wait for her wine. Should she have ordered a glass for him? He would surely arrive before the waiter came back with her order. As she was deliberating her phone beeped: a text, from him of course. Telling her no doubt that he would be there soon and to order him a drink.

She had half risen to call back the waiter when she caught something off key appear on her screen. He was sorry. He was very sorry, but he wouldn’t be coming. What they had together had been special but it was over. He had a wife and a family (bambini). She must have known it couldn’t last and he hoped she’d understand. It would be “embarrassing for them both if she made a fuss. That was the gist but in fewer words. He managed to be both curt, crass and cruel in a few spare words. She stared at the screen still half standing. She was still staring and half standing when the waiter came back with her wine. He placed it in front of her, a faint frown of concern creased his face and then was smoothed away by a smile. She looked at him and smiled back, woodenly now, as she sat back in her chair and shook her head.

He turned to leave but she called after him and pointed at her glass. “ Una Bottiglia.”

He nodded seeming to understand far more than just her simple request and returned very quickly with a bottle of the wine and a carafe or water.

She drank the one and ignored the other, playing a series of scenarios in her head.  

That night she slept with the beautiful Italian waiter and in the morning, she cried in his arms. Cried in shame and disgust at herself and anger at the man whose arms she should be in.

In the afternoon she bought a kitchen knife from a local hardware store and before the evening had fully taken over the day, the knife was firmly embedded in the chest of the man who had betrayed her. Afterwards, she had gone straight to the cafe on the edge of the Piaza, ordered another bottle of the Pinot Grigo from the waiter and waited for the police to come. 

They came and as she offered no defence the case was relatively straightforward and the trial was short. There was a scandal of course. A local politician with a young wife and family, killed by the family’s au pair, how clichéd it all sounded in the papers. The Italian press loved it as did the English press back at home.

Short though the trial was, she was barely mid-way through it when she realised quite suddenly that she had never loved him.

Joy was not to be found with a man, an untrustworthy man. Joy was freedom and this she no longer had.

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