Grace entered her girlfriend’s apartment with the spare key that she was given months ago. It had a little wooden sheep attached to the keychain with the words ‘Love ewe’. They bought one for each other during their first trip together in Inverness. The white fur of the sheep had now turned into a brownish yellow with grey edges and a grey stripe running through part of the word ‘ewe’.
Lea stood behind the kitchen counter with her phone in her hand.‘Hey Love,’ Lea said as she looked up and turned her phone towards her, ‘I think I just caught a- what is it called? An Igglybuff?’
‘That’s great. I didn’t think you played anymore?’ She put the key inside her pocket and hung her coat on the usual hook when she noticed Lea’s sports bag hidden in a corner of the room.
‘Of course I do, gen 2 was released the other day.’ Lea’s face disappeared behind her phone. ‘We can go for a walk after dinner, maybe you’ll be able to catch one too.’
‘I don’t play anymore. How was tennis training today?’
‘I didn’t go,’ she said without looking up. ‘You can play Pokémon on my phone if you want to.’
‘How come you didn’t?’
‘I didn’t feel good enough.’ Lea opened one of the cupboards and turned her back to Grace. ‘What shall I make for dinner tonight?’
Grace walked towards the counter and took a seat on one of the chairs. ‘What’s wrong, sweetie?’ she said.
‘I just didn’t go. What do you think of sausage and mash?’ She opened another cupboard.
‘Anything’s fine but why don’t you sit down so we can talk first?’
‘We’ll have sausage and mash then.’
Lea rummaged through the cupboards and put the different ingredients down on the counter. Grace waited until she finished but Lea didn’t leave her spot when all the ingredients had been taken out. Instead, Grace got up and walked around the counter where she reached past Lea to close the cupboards.
‘Sweetie, I think we should talk.’
‘About how you’re doing.’
‘I’m fine.’ She moved past her and left the kitchen without explanation.
‘Where are you going?’ Grace watched her leave without response. She sighed and sat back down on a stool. She looked at some of the ingredients but didn’t really see any of them. Her glance moved from the counter to the cabinet in their living room. It held a framed picture of the two of them in Inverness. In front of it stood Lea’s sheep, the same keychain Grace had. It wasn’t attached to a key and didn’t look like it had been used at all. In fact, if it weren’t for the brownish yellow colour of its fur, the keychain would have looked as if it had only been bought yesterday. Grace looked at their smiling faces in the picture. It didn’t make her feel anything.
Lea came back in with a bag of potatoes in her hands.
‘Lea,’ Grace said. ‘I want you to tell me if you aren’t alright.’
‘I’m fine, I just told you.’ She made her way back to behind the counter.
‘You didn’t feel good enough to go to training today.’
‘I have been going to training sessions. It’s not like how it was before.’ She ripped the bag open.
‘I think we should do something if you are feeling bad enough to miss training.’
‘We don’t have to do anything. I am fine right now.’
‘What about this morning?’
‘Stop telling me something’s wrong when there isn’t.’
‘Then why didn’t you go to tennis?’
Lea put the potato down on the counter with more force than usual. ‘Running around trying to hit a ball doesn’t make me happy.’ She opened a drawer and then closed it again. Grace went quiet. She thought of the first time she’d taken Lea with her to the tennis courts. It had cheered her up then even though Lea couldn’t really play.
‘What makes you happy?’
‘You do when you stop telling me that I’m unhappy,’ Lea said.
‘What else makes you happy?’ Grace asked after a little pause. Lea had started to fill the pan with water.
‘Why is it a bad thing that you make me happy?’ She left the pan for what it was. Her hands dropped to the side of her body and left the tap running.
‘I didn’t say that,’ Grace said, ‘but when was the last time you saw your friends?’
‘They have been busy.’
‘Why don’t you ask them when they have time?’
‘I can’t see them because I don’t want to be with them on my own.’
‘Isn’t that a problem?’
At once, Lea closed the tap. She grabbed the pan, poured out some water and put it on the stove. ‘Do you want me to make dinner or not?’ she said as she held her hand above the temperature knob.
‘I just want us to talk.’
‘We are talking.’ Lea turned the knob.
‘I’m worried about you. Maybe you should consider getting help.’
‘I don’t need help. I’m alright on my own.’
‘You’re not, you need me.’
‘I don’t need you to be okay.’
‘Sweetie, please talk to me.’ Grace tried to hold Lea’s hand but Lea kept herself busy by adding a second pan to the stove with sausages. Grace looked at her girlfriend. She couldn’t remember the last time she had cooked herself. It had become so normal for them to fulfil their specific role.
‘I don’t know what to tell you,’ Lea said.
‘I want to talk about the issue.’
‘There is no issue.’
Grace reached for her head and closed her eyes. She turned away slightly to the window, and then lowered her hand.
‘Would you be okay if I took a train to see my friend in Germany tomorrow?’
‘Of course I would be.’
‘Would you?’ She turned back around to look at Lea who had a neutral expression on her face and now finally looked at her too. ‘You expect me to spend all my free time with you,’ Grace said.
‘I just want to be around you.’
‘Yes, all the time.’
‘You make me happy,’ Lea said.
‘I need you to be happy without me too.’
‘I don’t know how to be happy.’
‘Maybe a doctor can help you,’ Grace said.
‘I don’t need to see a doctor.’
‘This is affecting me too.’
‘How do you think I feel? Don’t you love me?’ The potatoes and sausages were forgotten. It was as if a destructive force fell down Grace’s stomach dragging with it all that was around until it became as heavy as a stone and hit the bottom, leaving behind an empty space in its fall.
‘I love you. It’s not that I don’t love you,’ Grace said.
‘If I go to the doctor, will you love me again?’
‘That’s not the issue, Lea.’ Grace looked away. She only vaguely noticed the boiling water in the pan. Instead, her glance fell back on the keychain on the cabinet.
‘So if I go things will be all right again?’
Grace didn’t immediately answer. She thought of her own keychain and its grey edges. ‘I want you to go for yourself,’ she said while still staring at the little sheep.
‘I will go and maybe I can finally finish making dinner now,’ Lea said as she turned back to the stove. ‘Shit.’ She grabbed the pan with boiling water and carried it to the sink.
‘I don’t want you to go if you don’t want to yourself,’ Grace said.
Lea sprinted back to the other pan where black smoke came off what was left of the sausages. ‘Shit,’ she said, ‘Shit,’ and took the second pan off the stove.
‘I don’t want you to do it if that’s how you feel,’ Grace said now looking at what was supposed to be their dinner.
‘Don’t you want us to stay together?’ Lea said.
‘Of course I do.’
‘I feel as if you’ve already decided to break up with me.’ Grace couldn’t take her eyes off the burned sausages.
‘That’s not true,’ she said. ‘I wouldn’t be talking to you if I wanted to break up with you.’
‘I don’t want to talk anymore; I don’t want to be unhappy for any longer. Can we stop arguing or do you want out?’
Grace didn’t say anything. Lea took the sausages and threw them in the bin.
‘I don’t want us to break up,’ Grace said, ‘but I don’t want you to go if you don’t want to.’
Lea put the pan back on the stove and grabbed two new sausages from the packet.
‘Let me make dinner. Sausage and mash does that sound okay?’
‘Yeah, that sounds okay,’ she said.
Written for a creative writing assignment. A story in which two characters have a conversation in which they skirt around the issue. Example text: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway. Unlike Hemingway’s, my story aims to convey more emotion, rather than leaving the reader to guess at what topic is discussed.