|Photo courtesy of Ron|
THE BALCONY SCENE
She had always thought Carl’s balcony was romantic, especially in the evening when the street lights came on. The soft amber hue made her think of the scene in Romeo and Juliet although there was nothing in their relationship that remotely resembled that famous Shakespearean pair.
Balancing on the low wall opposite the building, cursing for the umpteenth time that his doorbell didn’t work, Aggie felt all she could do was watch and wait for a sign that he was on his way out. Once the light was switched off he would be down those stairs in about two minutes and she would be ready for him at the outer door. Of course he might have left the light on to fool her. Aggie tossed her blond locks in anger; she wouldn’t put that past him. He’d been in a funny mood ever since their argument about who had the responsibility to propose. He maintained it should be the man but Aggie was adamant that a leap year gave women equal rights in the proposal stakes.
Aggie didn’t know if it was a modern practice. Would Juliet have dared to propose to Romeo in Elizabethan times? Did Anne Hathaway offer her hand to Shakespeare? Would Carl have been agreeable if she’d gone about it in a more romantic way?
It had started half-heartedly when Carl was talking about settling down and Aggie jumped in and asked him to marry her. He didn’t lose his rag straight away but he must have dwelt on it a lot because after the initial bout of ludicrous laughter he went into a three day sulk and then told her their affair was off.
Aggie had pondered long and hard. She talked to girl friends who all agreed that (a) Carl was an idiot and (b) although it was slightly unusual Aggie was entitled to propose. Her mother, of course, thought otherwise. She maintained that Aggie had lowered herself by being so forward while her dad put it down to female idiocy.
The road was quiet, devoid of cars and people, only an alley cat skulking from gate to gate in search of food. Everyone was probably out enjoying themselves and for several minutes Aggie wondered if she would ever be able to enjoy life without Carl. The evening chill was beginning to penetrate, forcing her to pull her wrap closer. She would give it another half an hour and then go home. Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou?
In the quiet of his third floor apartment Carl sprawled on the couch. Propped up by cushions, one long, jean-clad leg on a footstool, the other hooked over the arm, he drank his beer from the can. All evening he’d kept away from the window, hoping Aggie would think he was out. Ever since she stormed off he’d known she’d come back to harass him, looking up, waiting for him to show so that she could scream at him. She’d been there for three nights and he could almost hear her saying she wouldn’t budge until he let her in. It wasn’t that he was afraid to face her. On the contrary, he was more scared of throwing himself into her arms.
He still couldn’t understand why she had suggested marriage. It wasn’t as if they’d been going out all year. They had gotten close, though. His dad ventured to say they’d got too close, too fast. ‘Mark my words, boy, you don’t regularly sleep with a woman and expect her to wander off when you get itchy feet. Women aren’t made that way, son.’
Itchy feet? He’d only gone out with the other girl once and they hadn’t even come close to having sex. How could he when sex with Aggie was so good. It was fortunate that Aggie didn’t know about his wandering, that would really have given her something to shout about.
Oh God, he wished the thought of sex didn’t disturb him so. Thinking about their evenings of passion disturbed his equilibrium. So many times he’d wanted her to stay over but she always had to get home to her mom before a search party was formed. It had always been a bone of contention but he felt he’d overcome it.
Aggie lay in bed, her knees drawn to her chest in foetal position. She felt both sad and angry that she hadn’t seen Carl. Her mom said it was time they stopped acting like kids and made up but how could she make up with a man who wouldn’t show his face. She wished now she’d accepted his offer to take possession of a flat key, although it wouldn’t be proper to barge in, not after they’d split. Her insides positively ached for him and she knew she wouldn’t sleep. Perhaps if she got up and did something she might tire herself out.
Uncurling her body, she slid out of bed, slung her dressing gown round her shoulders, and crept out of the room. She could hear her father snoring in the adjoining bedroom. He and her mother always retired early. Passing her sister’s old room, Aggie wished yet again that
home. It was lonely here without her. She and Charlie had always been able to
talk about intimate things like sex. Not Aggie’s sex, of course, Charlie had
left home well before Aggie headed into that area. Charlotte
Barefooted, Aggie went into the kitchen, poured a glass of milk. She could still smell the sausages her mom had cooked for tea. Carrying the milk, she ambled into the lounge and flopped into an armchair. Spotting the laptop where she’d left it on the sideboard it crossed her mind that maybe she should send Carl an email. It wasn’t late, not for him anyway. He would probably still be chatting on Facebook.
Carl logged on to his
account. A chat with Freddie might clear his head. An email first, then if
there was no response he’d go on Facebook. Shoving a lock of dark hair off his
face, he typed with two fingers Are you
there? then clicked send.
He walked across to the window, gazed out. On the opposite side of the road, a light went on in the bedroom of the house with the red door. They were newly weds, just back from honeymoon in the
young woman waved to him. Carl lifted a hand to wave back, let it flop when she
drew the curtains. He adjusted a few of the taller stems on the plant that
stood in the window space, trying not to imagine what they were getting up to.
Lucky devil, he thought, and immediately wondered why he thought that. Was he going soft, did he want to be in the
same position? Married? All evening he had felt wretched and for the hundredth
time questioned his motive for staying away from Aggie. Seychelles
You have mail
Carl shot back to the computer.
Aggie had thought long and hard about the email, deciding she wouldn’t harp on their silly upset. She would simply ask him how he was and add a bit of chatter. There was the story her dad told her about a guy at his works who’d fallen off the toilet pan and broken his leg. It wasn’t funny but … oh maybe not. Maybe she should write something more delicate. She would tell him about Charlie’s new beau only Carl might think she was deliberately pursuing a romantic angle. She started to type.
Hi Carl. How are you?
Did you have a good day at work? Isn’t the autumn weather lovely? I bet you left your shirt off on the building site …….
No, no, no. Delete, delete.
Did you have a good day at work? This weather is brilliant; I really hope it lasts for a while. Mom and dad send their love. They’re both fine. Dad works far too hard but you know what he’s like. I am going to the hairdresser at the weekend. I feel like having a shorter hairstyle. Cropped is all the fashion. Oh well, that’s enough chat, I’m off to bed now.
Good night, Carl. I really do hope you’re okay.
Love Aggie x
Aggie closed the laptop and went back to bed, content that he could read nothing more than friendliness in her email. She was glad she’d made the effort. It was no use harbouring grudges forever.
NO! She mustn’t have all that wonderful hair cut off. NO, NO, NO. He saw with his mind’s eye an image of loose curls draping her pale skin, forming a cloak on bare shoulders. He saw himself weaving his fingers through the curls, bunching them together, making her laugh when he pulled those glossy locks around her lovely face, attempting to tie a bow under her chin. He saw how damp her hair got when they made love.
DON’T. I LOVE YOUR HAIR, AGGIE. DON’T HAVE IT CUT OFF. PLEASE DON’T HAVE IT CUT OFF.
Next day, right after work, Aggie sauntered towards Carl’s flat. She carried a lightweight jacket to cover her arms when the night cooled down. The jacket was new, bought that day to wear with her best black pants, a skintight red top, and the red tiptoe shoes. She wore her hair loose. She had made the effort to look good although the shoes might turn out to be a bad choice. She wore them because Carl liked them; he said they made it seem like she was walking on her toes, but apart from that they made her feel taller. She was such a midget compared to Carl who was almost six feet tall.
She arrived at the apartment and took up her position on the wall. If he came to the window she would merely wave and hold up the card she so carefully carried. She had a gut feeling that things would be all right now. But she wasn’t letting him have all his own way. She smiled, her mind taken up with a possible outcome of her action. She settled down to wait. Somehow she knew he would come to the window this evening. Carefully she took the card out of the A4 envelope, hoping desperately that the words were large enough to read. Holding it in front of her, she looked up at the balcony. And saw. A notice. Tied to the wrought iron with red ribbon.
YES, I WILL MARRY YOU
Aggie looked at her own card and grinned at the words.
MARRY ME, OR
Carl stood at the open window and held out his arms and suddenly Aggie felt so lighthearted she thought she would fly right up to him. They met half way, on the stairs. And they kissed as if they’d been separated for months, both knowing that their future was secure with each other.
Many years later, Aggie and Carl told their children and grandchildren about their romance and in particular about the balcony scene. Even in her advanced years Aggie had a good head of hair; she always kept it long, and Carl always wove his fingers through it at bedtime.