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Not Everyone Ends Up With Their Perfect Partner

By Andrew Seccombe

Megan ran the sponge gently over the dishes, the suds slipping away. She was due at a student’s house by five, needed to get in touch with a plumber, and had her audition to prepare for. It was only with her local amateur theater group, but she really wanted the part. Something in Sophia’s character chimed for her. She felt drawn to those lines, believing she was the only one who could express them with any heart. It felt like the school play again: she was anxious, determined, and dead-scared of failure. She had been assessing her competitors and dashing big red crosses over
their names each night as Sophia’s monologue sent tingles down her tongue.

She dried the last of the plates and encountered a moment of indecision as she considered her next chore. The phone rang.

The caller was in tears, which wasn’t out of the ordinary.

“Megan I can’t deal with it anymore—"

“You need to address that with him then. ”

“I’ve tried but he’s not ready or something, he doesn’t know what he wants, he doesn’t know what he feels—”

“Lily, Geoff needs to face up to the responsibility of his commitment to you, he can’t have it both ways. ”

“That’s what I tell him!”

Megan got a couple of calls a week from her girlfriends struggling with their relationships. Nothing was ever too dire, but they needed to talk through their frustrations with someone. And Megan was that someone. People always figured she had the time because her semi-attached ex lived out of town. But honestly, she felt busier being more or less single. Just as many jobs to do, but only her to do them.

And yet she made time. It was all a matter of continuing the dialogue whilst putting on washing, organizing the recycling, and feeding Lester, her tabby. The conversation ended about thirty minutes later. Lily’s situation hadn’t changed but she’d vented, and that sees people through most of life’s difficulties anyway.

Megan put her cordless back on its deck and gazed across at the door of her fridge. Amongst the newspaper clippings, business cards, and magnets was the photo of her and Scott. They were standing by their bicycles, hugging on some spring day. After each of these talks with her friends, Megan was forced to ponder what might have happened there. He’d asked her once, but it hadn’t felt right. Then she’d asked him but he wasn’t ready. So their relationship had drifted downstream to loved-up weekends every once in a while. It wasn’t going anywhere, but they both knew they’d reached the point where they didn’t need it to. Eventually the current would just carry it away.

But things to do, life to lead. She grabbed her phonebook and thumbed through to P for plumber. She dialed the number of one of the ads she liked, trying to remember if she’d filled up the car.

***

Two p.m., April 2nd. St. Franklin’s Memorial Church. Audition Day. Megan pinned her photocopied script pages to the steering wheel, trying to extract anything more that the worn pages might have to offer. The scene with Mason was so stirring. She’d be marvelously content if that’s all they ever rehearsed.

“There’s no more in me than there is in you. But I own it. I know it. And I have the courage to use it! What’s my life if I can’t wrestle my heart in the right direction when it counts?”

Sophia’s words devoured her soul every spare moment. She’d almost burst out with them as she’d waited in line at the market or listened to poor Phoebe Connelly struggle with her flute exercises. Sophia had the rage of life flowing so completely and truly through her. And there was no greater glory than when she stepped out of Mason’s apartment and quietly closed his door. Triumph was what we all needed most. It took care of the holes that they told you love would cover over.

Megan sat at the red traffic light but it was Sofia who scourged every car and pedestrian in sight. “They should know. Above all they should know!” She looked across to a neighboring car and the look of disbelief on the driver’s leathery, capable face. But she didn’t miss a beat in the line nor feel any blush within her cheeks. She simply stamped her accelerator and soared toward a church and a director.

Her muddled little station wagon pulled into the stony church car park. The sunshine lit the greens of the garden and she spied the open door to the adjacent fellowship hall. A few of the other members milled around the entrance, but Megan knew she would do no more than greet them politely as she entered that space.

She turned off the engine and felt icicles on her organs as her hands still gripped the wheel. Her handbag slipped off the passenger seat and she watched her compact and purse clatter to the floor.

***

For the drive home Megan had expected to be enraptured or deflated. She was neither. Lily had left two messages on her phone so she was racing home to call her. But she wasn’t going to do any chores during this chat; she deserved an armchair and possibly a pastry of some sort.

She walked into her lounge room and over to the piano. She flipped up the lid of the accompanying seat and slapped her script pages on top of the dusty pile of sheet music. She hadn’t needed them anyway. Megan crossed to the phone and began to dial Lily’s number. She pushed the fourth digit and found that she had no immediate desire to push the fifth. Hang on. Me first today.

The phone went down and she crossed to the cabinet. She picked out a tumbler and swept it over with a cloth. Then she uncapped the top of her bottle of brandy—the sound of it unscrewing always made her feel special. A dash of liquor, some milk and a couple of ice cubes went together to make a little cup of reward. She wasn’t quite sure how the mix would taste with her fat-free skim, but she’d risk it.

She had a sip and jumped into her armchair. It was quite good; after wine it was always her drink of choice. She swirled the little caramel colored wave around the glass and realized that she hadn’t felt this relaxed in weeks. It had been such a thundering build-up to her audition, but all those thick, indefinable days already seemed long ago.

Phone in hand, the fifth digit got pressed this time as well as the remainders. Megan snuggled down into the chair, looking forward to the voice of her friend.

“Megan I just wanted to say how good it was to chat to you the other night—”

“Anytime at all Lily, you know it’s no issue.”

Yeah, but I wanted you to know that me and Geoff managed to work some stuff out and what you said really helped.”

“I’m so glad.”

“On Friday we ordered in some Thai and just talked until 3 a.m. It felt like one of those nights when you sort of rediscover each other and realize..."

This conversation turned out to be a whole lot more positive. No tears, only fullness and a brighter outlook. Megan clicked off her handset and rested it against her cheek. Whether it was great news or grave news from the love lives of her friends, she always settled into the same glum moment afterwards. The what-might-have-been moment; so much worse than anything the present could throw at you.

Sunlight spilled through her glass as she downed the rest of her cocktail. She didn’t want to sit in that armchair anymore. The cupboard under the stairs needed to be cleared, Lester was whining to be let out and dinner wouldn’t cook itself.

***

Megan didn’t get any calls from her girlfriends in the week that followed. The plumber rang, as did students to change lesson times, but she only received one phone call of any interest. She got the part. The director said they needn’t have bothered auditioning the other ten actresses. Rehearsals would be Tuesday and Thursday nights as well as Sunday afternoons, starting next week.

She hung up and squealed and squealed in delight. Lester must have sensed something because he began rubbing against her corduroys. She picked him up and spun around; a perfect pirouette on her aging kitchen tiles.

“You want something to eat don’t you Lester-purr-purr!”

The fridge door swung open and Megan scanned the contents for something her tabby might particularly appreciate. She selected a leftover piece of marinated salmon and slid it onto one of the kitty dishes. The door closed and she found herself beaming at the faces of a couple next to their bicycles, beneath a blue sky. The girl was wearing the same smile as she, but in that moment Megan could barely remember the name of the man standing next to her.

 

Andrew Seccombe is a freelance writer living in Sydney, Australia. He has
work published at www.laurahird.com and has an upcoming story in Ghoti
Magazine
. He completed a degree in psychology in 2000, and has worked at a funeral home and a chocolate store. He is currently involved in writing an
episode of television drama.

Photo "Couple" courtesy of Sonja Mildner, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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