Why was Becky Smiling?

by Joshua Michael Maher

Becky watched her marching out, with a smile on her lips.

Floating in the bowl, on a piece of torn paper, this is the only sentence I can make out. There’s a quarter of a page in the toilet, it’s sunken and the ink is running. I aim for the porcelain so I can read it again as it floats and bring the only book from the bathroom to my room. Her clothes leave a trail from the door to my bed and I’m waiting for her to wake up. I sit in jeans and no shirt, wearing no underwear, with my back against the wall. I’m holding the book. Every now and again I look out my window to ash my cigarette. My room is on the second floor and there is a blue Volvo parked across the street I have never seen before. She rolls to her stomach and stretches her arms but they don’t reach the sides of my bed. I flick my cigarette out the window and light another before she looks at me.

“Your rooms exactly how I left it,” she says and she rubs her eyes.

“You still have your bird and movie posters. The old record player and bookshelf.”

I nod because I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I hold up the old hardback of Vanity Fair, and I look at her and say, “I don’t really like it either, but did you –”

“There was no toilet paper,” she says, nonchalant. “And it sucks anyway.”

It’s grey outside like one big cloud rolling over the houses and I ask her, “How long are you back for?” And she says, “Just the weekend” and she sits up and puts on her bra, and then I ask without eye contact, “Will you call me before you leave again?” and she pauses and says, “Yeah, yeah for sure” and she slips her underwear on and sits back down on my bed.

I don’t say anything and then, “I’ve got your number right? And we’re friends on Facebook?”

I reach for my phone and she says, “Yeah, Josh, we are.”

Inhaling smoke I ask her, “Are you here for any reason?”

“Mum just wanted to see me,” she says. “She paid for the flights.”

I exhale and say, “That’s alright.”

“Is it?” She asks. “Twenty four, back in a country town, getting hand outs from Mum.”

She pulls her shirt over her head and stands up and puts her pants on. She’s inside, and it’s dark outside and she puts on sunglasses, oversized wayfarers.

“Are you going to see anyone else?” I stand up and walk to the corner.

“I’ll try see everyone,” she says. “Don’t know how much time I have.”

She puts on her socks and shoes and stretches as she stands up.

“Ashleigh?”

I look at her for a minute and see myself in her shades standing stretched, warped and dark.

“Yeah?”

“If I don’t see you again, have fun while you’re back.”

She runs her hands through her hair and says, “Yeah, yeah I will.”

She opens the door and steps out when I say, “Ash?”

Without turning around she says, “Josh.”

“I want to tell you something.”

She looks over her shoulder at me, my hand through birdcage rubbing the budgies head.

“Nothing,” I say, “good to see you.”

I hear her walk down the stairs and the door slam. I look out the open window and squash my cigarette against the roof tiles. The blue car is gone. Outside it starts raining.


Joshua Michael Maher is a budding fiction writer, who subsidises this trade as a copywriter from Melbourne.

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