On a Wet Day by Cath Barton
The thin, pallid girl looked out at the puddles. Circles were flashing on them and she squinted at the trees to see the movement of the rain. There was a row of drips on the underside of the metal rail attached to the top of the white-painted brick wall, which was peeling. The wall was not a thing of beauty, but it wasn’t meant to be. This place was all about function and pushing people through as quickly as possible. They wouldn’t be in a position to linger, to reflect on the beauty or otherwise of the balcony wall. But it was a wet day so there weren’t many visitors. No pressure on anyone to leave.
The voices of the women on the next table were irritating her. One was wearing pink and the other red, both were overweight and they were eating cream cakes. The harsh accents were not from her part of the country, so perhaps they were on a coach trip. Good luck to them, thought the girl. If they want to die young, let them.
There was no-one queuing for food now. Not surprising, as it was twenty past two and most people who wanted lunch would have had it. The thin girl hadn’t eaten, just had a cup of coffee, though it wasn’t like her not to be hungry. Someone had said to her once, “I wouldn’t want to grub you by contract”. She hadn’t understood what they meant at the time, so it hadn’t upset her. It was only later that she’d worked out that it was some sort of criticism of the way she ate. Well, sod them, she’d thought.
Circles were still breaking on the puddles. The cafeteria was emptying and she’d have to get up and find somewhere else to sit, at least until it stopped raining. Hang on, people were coming back. Or were they new people? They all looked the same to her, but these must be new arrivals. However greedy people were, however fat, they didn’t eat lunch twice. Or did they? The girl no longer knew. Her thoughts were tangled and snagged, like her hair first thing in the morning, and she couldn’t brush the tangles out of her mind. Not any longer.
Those fat pink and red women were still there, swaying back and forth laughing. Their guffawing was echoing in the big bare room. Can’t you be quiet? That was what the girl thought but didn’t dare say, because it would not be okay. She might be asked to leave. Better to keep her head down.
The newcomers were all spreading far too much butter on their rolls and slurping bowls of soup, puppy dog-like. Outside the window the puddles were still, and smaller. The girl knew she should move, but she carried on sitting there.
Two of the women supping soup were wearing pink. To be fair, they weren’t fat. The girl felt very tired and she wanted to lay her head down on the hard Formica table.
The catering staff turned out the lights on the food counter. It was alright for them, end of their shift and nice homes to go to, no doubt. Soon everyone would have to leave. The thin, pallid girl knew that she, too, would have to put on her coat and walk out of that cafeteria.
One of the fat women said, “It’s horrible out there.” The girl felt sick. Sick and so very tired.
A man in a white coat cleared his throat. “We’re closing now, ladies and gents. Thank you.”
Why was he saying thank you?
She dragged herself up, buttoned her coat slowly, picked up her bag and walked out. Like a normal person.
When the girl’s body was found in the undergrowth three weeks later they identified her by that coat. Because by then, animals had eaten her face–
Cath Barton lives in Wales, where she writes, sings, takes photographs, gardens, walks and generally enjoys life. She does not have her own website, (yet!) but blogs now and then on 6S and Thinking Ten. She has also been published here and there, including in Short, Fast, and Deadly, The Camel Saloon (where she has an exhibition of her photographs) and Flint Magazine.
As of this week Cath and her husband also debut a book of short stories, poems and photographs out on http://www.lulu.com. Their first collection and it includes “On a Wet Day”, with a credit for first on-line publication on cavalcadeofstars. The collection is called “Candyfloss”.