The Rainbow

The Rainbow

A rainy afternoon without rainbow and lots of frustrations for a middle-aged woman


Literary fiction

Author Image

Csilla Béresi (Hungary)

The Rainbow She had been lying on the balcony the whole afternoon. It was time to get up and watch her lover’s show on the telly. She had been waiting for him, in case he’d cycle through the little street in front of the house, among the walnut trees. Of course, he had come for her. How else could it be? However, she was not totally sure. She had not seen him face to face for quite a long time. Since February. At that time, he was cycling in front of her flat in the Capital, right, when she stepped out of the gate. He looked at her, but she was frightened by his glance. It hurt her somehow. So she looked away, but she felt the weight of his stare. He cycled before her while she was dragging her wheeled shopping cart. By god, how loudly! The seconds ticked by very slowly. Time slowed down in the same manner as it did when an oily pan had caught fire in her kitchen, and she had doused water at the flames. By now she saw only her lover’s back, as he pedaled further and further away down the narrow residential street. She knew if she called his name, he’d stop. She didn’t and then his bike disappeared. Now at the full bloom of summer, everything became more difficult. This afternoon, at her father’s country house, she saw him passing under the balcony in a white T-shirt. After half an hour she decided that “He” was a sinewy man, clad in black. Following another half an hour a man in yellow T-shirt and a baseball cap was more like him. How could he be here when he was on the telly at exactly the same hour? As far as she knew, it was a live show. Yesterday, during that program, she had been on the lookout for shadows. There had been none. Thus it might have been noon. Despite that fact, everyone on the show had spoken about afternoon. Then how could he get here, to this little town, far from the Capital, within a few hours? Heavy clouds were rolling on the sky, and the yellow of the ripe seeds was shining harshly through the canopy of leaves, against the grey backdrop. Beyond the walnut trees there stood a group of lindens. If anything, it was worth coming down here just because of them, because of their heady, oh, how heady smell. This summer, however, the blossoming of the linden was shortened somehow, perhaps owing to the heat. She had been smelling that honey-sweet fragrance for a few days only, on her way to the fountain – she preferred fresh mineral water to bottled one –, then it ceased altogether. Still, she enjoyed this summer. Yesterday she watched a cabbage butterfly for a long time. It had been flitting about before, but later he or she came with his or her spouse, and they were waltzing their bridal dance according to the same frenzied rhythm. However, today she saw only one of them, although she didn’t know which, or whether they were the same at all. She didn’t know about the life-span of butterflies. It might not be too long, she guessed. Perhaps these ones endure until the end of the summer. Hot, crazy dance, lasting a season. She didn’t want to go inside the crammed little flat, to see the rickety furniture and the broken lamp, to hear her father’s croaking. He was old, very old. Now, he was sitting in the smaller room, with his potbelly resembling an enormous drum , very close to the telly, because he could not see well, if at all – he mostly slumbered with his head bent toward his chest. If startled, he’d say he was wide awake. He was not willing to go to the bed, and within minutes, he resumed his sleep. It began to drizzle. She rose from her reclining chair to avoid getting drenched. Under the balcony, on the street, children were loafing about. One of them looked six years, the other eight, the third about four. They lived in the house. The oldest said, “ It’s raining, but the sun is still shining. There might be a rainbow.” “That’s it”, she thought. She then went to the end of the balcony to look for it. “It has to be!”, shouted the younger brother. But there was none. The three children started toward the tracks – the house stood beside an old, closed railway station. Through the open window of their flat, she could hear the voices of the afternoon soap opera. “I protest!”, said a man. “I accept”, said another. She stood at the very end of the balcony. Any other time, she wouldn’t dare to come here because anyone could see her from the street. There was a bar on the other side, in the building of the one-time railway station, the Macho Club, which was already open around this time, at half past six. She hated this club, she couldn’t sleep because of the noise. By the time she drifted to sleep – she was a bad sleeper –, the racket had reached its peak. Hordes of guests were coming and going, but the worst was before dawn. After the whole night’s techno din – that hammered to the syncopic rhythm of her heartbeat – had stopped, only the staff remained: the Big Machos and their whores with their platinum blonde hair. “Your mouth is so wet”, one of them said to her companion the other day. “Have you thrown up?” Now the middle-aged woman drew back from the end of the balcony, because the first guests began to drift in already. She stepped beside the open window of their flat. “Do you have an alibi?”, asked the previous male voice. “Please, leave me in peace once and for all. I’ve been hurt in the war, you know, on which part. I couldn’t do that anyhow – if you understand what I mean”, said the other man. Now, I’ll sit before the telly. His show’ll begin in five minutes, she thought. I don’t know whether he or his colleague will be on. If I see him, then, who were those fellows this afternoon?

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1



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