Sandra and Charlie

Fiction
Margaret Andrews


“I’ll walk you to work,” said Charlie.

“Looking like that?” asked Sandra, standing in her crisp white uniform.

“What?” asked Charlie, looking down at his own slovenly sweatsuited body. Dirt splotched the arms and legs, while holes dotted the seat of his pants. “I don’t have to be anywhere looking like anything.”

“You look like a bum.”

“Thanks. Okay, forget it, I’ll just stay here. On the couch. All day. Doing nothing.”

Sandra knew he was manipulating her. Goading her. Talking to the part of her that wanted him to get off his ass and do something, instead of lying around the apartment all day. At least he was willing to leave the house. Maybe he’d stumble onto a HELP WANTED sign. But he would want to go out as a slob, ensuring his safe return home without a job application.

Her desire for him to be more constructive with his day outweighed her disdain for his staying at home simply because he wouldn’t put something else on. If he wouldn’t listen to her, maybe somebody out there would tell him he looked like an idiot.

This was what their relationship had become. Everything he did or said whether innocent or not, had a selfish agenda. She challenged him on everything now. He couldn’t say anything right. Why didn’t she just end it already? Was she waiting for the right time? There was never a right time. She was busting to let him have it, but something was holding her back. She wasn’t up to the fight that would be his response. She was waiting for the right time for her, not for him. She wasn’t ready. Meanwhile, her focus had become arguing his every attempt at manipulation.

*

“Have you thought any more about looking for a job?” asked Sandra while they waited on a pedestrian-laden corner to cross the street.

“I still have trouble focusing on that sort of thing right now,” said Charlie. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“What. Joelle?” she asked.

“Yes. Joelle.”

This made interesting conversation for their fellow man.

“Charlie, she’s been dead for six months! How much time do you need?”

Innocent bystanders struggled to keep their eyes averted. What do these two look like? some people were dying to know. They wanted desperately to turn this radio soap opera equivalent into a television drama. Much willpower was exercised at that particular moment on that particular street corner.

What a loser, thought a woman standing in front of them in a purple dress. I’ll bet he’s got long messy hair, faded holey jeans, hasn’t shaved in a week or two, the bum. Charlie. Yeah, that’s a bum’s name. What could she possibly see in him? Get out, sister, while the getting’s good.

What a jerk, thought another woman in a pale blue DKNY pant suit and matching Coach handbag, who was suffering more than the first woman because she could only see the couple in her left periphery. It was like torture. It’s harder to judge people if you can’t see them. What they’re wearing. What they look like. What could she possibly see in him? Maybe she’s ugly. She tried to look to the side without turning her head, but that hurt her eyes, so she tried to look down and saw the girl’s sensible white shoes. Yep, she’s probably ugly, and clingy, and naggy.

“Sandra,” said Charlie as if for the hundredth time. “She committed suicide, for Chrissakes! Get off my back.”

Sandra and Charlie, thought the woman in the purple dress.

Sandra and Charlie, thought the woman in the pale blue suit.

Sandra and Charlie, thought a man in a brown suit standing behind them. Who do I know who’s a Sandra? Oh yeah, that girl in Accounting. She’s kind of a pain in the ass. Gets on your case about everything. Always bitching about the mess people leave in the break room. This chick sounds just like her. I’ll bet this bitch is a nag, too. Yeah, a nag, she probably has the face of a horse. I wish she’d just turn her head a little more, so I could see if she’s got a horse face.

Sandra and Charlie, thought an elderly man wearing the same white button-up shirt and brown relaxed-fit pants for the sixth day in a row. His wife passed away several years ago and the young couple’s argument sent him back fondly to a time when he and his wife would carry on a heated conversation. He knew that later on, Sandra and Charlie would go home for a passionate night of lovemaking to which all fiercely fought discussions led. He had no qualms about staring right at them to get a good look at them. He could tell that they loved each other like mad, the way they stood so close to each other. Charlie’s tone of voice suggested that this wasn’t the first time they’d had this conversation, so he knew everything would be all right. Otherwise, he’d have left her by now. Men. It’s amazing what they’d put up with for a little roll in the hay. Or do they still call it that, he wondered.

“I don’t know anymore, Charlie,” said Sandra. “You gave her those pills.”

Oh my God, thought the purple dress. I just have to see what these people look like. I wish this light would hurry up and turn green. I’ll just go slow and let them pass me, so I can get a peek at them. Damn it! I’ll bet everyone else here can see them but me.

A few heads turned in their direction, as if, Charlie suspected, they thought he may have had something to do with it too. He shot them all dirty looks until each of them looked away, but clearly still listening. I don’t have to defend myself to these strangers, thought Charlie. But now, thanks to Sandra, they think I’m a murderer. “She didn’t have to take them,” he said. “I tried to stop her. I told you that.”

He looks like he would do it, thought the pale-blue pantsuit. He looks like the selfish type. He probably makes a habit of mooching off women and doesn’t have a problem with it.

“I don’t know what to think anymore, Charlie.”

“What are you saying? Are you breaking up with me? Is that it? All because I haven’t got a job yet? I need some time. I have to get my head together.”

This chick just won’t get off his ass, thought the brown suit. Give him some space or he’s gonna leave you high and dry, honey. Buddy, if I were you, I’d have been gone a long time ago. I wouldn’t put up with that shit. Tell her off. Right here in front of everybody. Embarrass her a little. That’ll put her in her place. I’ll do it for you if you want. You want me to do it? ‘Cause I’ll do it.

“I’m sick of paying your rent, Charlie. If you don’t get a job soon, you can find another… sugar mama.”

I knew it, thought the pale-blue suit. He’s a mooch. She should dump him. I should tell her that. If this light doesn’t turn green in a second, maybe I will. Yeah, I hope this light stays red for a while longer, so I can give him what for. Okay, if this light doesn’t turn green by the time I count to ten, I’m going to say something.

“Sugar mama? Are you kidding? I don’t need you. I can get a job, and another girlfriend anytime I want.”

Four… five… six…

Oh man, this is getting good, thought the purple dress. She looked across the street at the red DON’T WALK sign. Please don’t turn green yet. I gotta hear the end of this!

That’s it buddy, you tell her.

Seven… eight… nine…

“Well, I wish you the best of luck, Charlie. I’ll pack my things tonight so you can start looking for another girl to support you right away. ‘Cause I’m done.”

WALK… WALK… WALK…

“Fine!” said Charlie.

“In fact, you can start right now. Don’t even think I want you walking the rest of the way with me.” Sandra turned on her heel and started walking back home. “Excuse me!”

“No problem,” said the smiling man in the brown suit.

“Wait! Sandra!” said Charlie.

Oh no, thought the purple dress and the pale blue suit turning around to watch the quickly disappearing couple. Now what’s going to happen?

“It says ‘Walk’ lady,” said some short bald guy to the purple dress.

“Turn around and go already,” said a tall skinny jogger with glasses to the pale blue suit.

Oh yeah, thought the same clothes for a week, moving to the side to let everyone else by while he watched the arm-flapping couple move further down the street. There’s gonna be some hot and heavy sex tonight. Or do they still say that?

pencil

Margaret Andrews is a computer programmer slash writer. She rides the Southwest Airlines fence between Los Angeles and Sacramento. Her other work has appeared in Long Story Short and The Glut. She recently placed in an Elk Grove Public Library Short Story Contest and has won Honorable Mention in the Writers Digest Short Story Contest. She is currently working on her first novel “A Slice of Heaven.” E-mail: manjo[at]citlink.net.

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