Friday, 27 September 2013

"Heads we get married; tails, we break up." A Short Story By Bertha Mukodzani

     “Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.” Louise said tentatively.
      There was silence as James, her boyfriend of eighteen months, paced towards the bar situated in one corner of the living room where they had sat, discussing their plight. He got to the bar and stopped.
     “Are you kidding me? Are you willing to bet everything on a darn coin?” His face contorted as he ventured a look at her.
     “Well, if we can’t reason this out I reckon we should leave it to fate and in this case the coin will decide what that is.” She insisted.
     James’s eyes glazed as he dipped his hands into his pocket. He pulled out a shiny fifty pence coin and made a tight fist.
     “Flipping coin. Amazing isn't it?” His fist tightened. “Tell me Lou, how did we end up here? What kind of people have we turned into?”
     Louise glided her tiny figure towards the bar where he had perched himself on a stool next to the bar table. “The kind that is terribly confused about life.” She said reaching for his face, sliding her slim fingers tantalizingly along his facial contours. A move that sent a tingle down his spine.
      “Not now Lou. This is as serious as it gets.” He grunted.
     “Only you look so tense.” Louise said apologetically.
     James unclenched his fist to reveal a deep heptagonal groove on his skin. “Shit!” He exclaimed as his brain finally communicated the throb in his palm. “Sorry. I just think it’s a tough call that’s all.”
      “You’re telling me.”
     “Okay, heads or tails it is. You do it. I can’t.” His voice was resolute.
      He threw the coin on the table, peeled his weary body off the stool and walked to the front of the bar. Louise watched him for a while. With all his macho exterior, she’d since realised that he was just as sensitive and weak as she was. He would sooner bury his head in the sand than face life altering decisions.
     “Sure?”
     James shrugged, scanning the shelves inside the bar. Within seconds he had spotted a bottle of brandy. In times like these he needed something, anything to numb his jolting heart. Whichever way he looked at it, somebody was going to get hurt so he poured himself a generous measure in a glass. He gave Louise a glance, sighed and in one nervous gulp he emptied the glass of its contents.
     “Aaarghh….brrrr. I am sure.” He said shaking his head as the liquid slid downwards, burning his insides.
     “Okay. Here goes.”
     Louise flipped the coin with her index finger, tossing it into the air. From the opposite sides of the table they both watched anxiously as the coin spun its way towards the ceiling. For a moment time stood still as they flashed.
     Louise had met James in a local bar one night and had fallen in love in an instant. The sequence of events had left no doubt in her mind where she stood with him. If only it were that simple. She had a husband, Martin, a pillar of community in his own right; a dedicated father to their three boys. Since he’d taken office with the local council, spending most of his evenings engaged in meetings, Louise had felt neglected and for months she’d ruminated over their slipping relationship. Martin was no longer the man she’d married and her attempts to mend the holes in their marriage had been futile. Over time she’d simply fallen out of love with him. It had been months since the two had shared a bed. Louise had obliged Martin’s demands not to expose their boys to any kind of dissent between them and the happy family charade had continued until she’d met James. “We've got to end it.” Louise had told her lover during one of their clandestine meetings. As usual James had talked her out of leaving, insisting she was better off without her husband.
     James hadn't been spared the worry either. The clause in his father’s will had been precise. He was to marry a baptised Catholic girl if he was to inherit his fortune. The wine fields, his mansion, the fleet of cars as well as the millions tucked away in the bank were to be his as soon as he’d said ‘I do’. There was no chance in hell that his mother, who had been made executor of the will, would approve of Louise, who, among other things, hadn’t set foot inside a church’s door all of her life. “Over my dead body!” James could almost hear his mother barking at him.  
     The coin spun into the air a few times before it took a tumble, making its way back towards the table.
     “Well, come closer then. This is it.” Louise gestured towards James.
     There was a clunk as the coin hit the table. It swirled for a few seconds before resting flat on its face.
     “At the count of three we both look.” Louise said. James nodded, edging closer to her.
     “No regrets right?”
     “None whatsoever.”

     They embraced. Their hearts thrummed as they shifted their necks towards the table. A few moments passed as they absorbed what the coin had revealed. Their hearts still pulsating beneath their chests, they hesitantly tore away from each other to contemplate their sealed fate. 

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