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Living Beneath the Rain

Jennifer Summer

There was not a single person who could make a valid argument about the flowers not being lovely. They were, in fact, lovely. One could venture to say that they were the loveliest flowers in existence, but that would be a bit of a dramatization; an extreme exaggeration, if you will, and Livonia went out of her way to avoid such behavior. The very idea that she had reluctantly caved and recognized the attractiveness-factor of the flowers was a direct contradiction to the endless cynicism that seemed to seep out of her every pore. She was almost on the verge of berating herself for not remaining true to the inner voice that told her that the "niceties" of life were something she would never be able to clearly see due to her muddled, tarnished depiction of the world. All of this was a bloody lot to be mulling over in regards to some glorified plants, and she hadn't even yet touched on the issue of whom the flowers were from.

           "Babe," read the card. "You can't run forever. From your Psychotic Lover." This little message was certainly not something that would cause most women to become weak in the knees, and Livonia was no exception. She wondered exactly what measures she would have to take to make it clear to Julian that he was no longer any lover of hers, psychotic or otherwise, and hadn't been for quite some time. The duration of their inevitable separation had been well over eight months at this point and poor, misguided Julian was still sending her flowers, candy, cards, and leaving frequent messages on her machine, consisting mainly of heavy breathing and, oddly, passages of Edgar Allen Poe poems.

           She sat down abruptly at the small table in her London flat and tossed the flowers over her shoulder, making a perfect shot into her spacious garbage can, while simultaneously flipping open her newspaper.

           It's always raining in London, Livonia thought as she perused the selection of chocolates at the store that was within walking distance of her flat. Outside the store, the rain pelted angrily against the glass windows, and Livonia watched, with a bemused expression, the people scampering about, trying to find refuge from the water cascading from above.

           "A packet of Silk Cut," Livonia told the clerk, as she slid her selections across the counter -- one box of chocolates, a pint of Vanilla Bean ice cream, two bottles of red wine, and a box of tampons.

           "Getting wet out there, are ya, Love?" The clerk asked as he roughly tossed her purchases in an already split bag and eyed her breasts with morbid fascination. Livonia looked down at her white t-shirt to try and discern what he found so interesting about her chest, and then realized that in her haste for sugar, alcohol, and feminine hygiene products, she had forgotten to put on a bra. No wonder this bloke was staring at her so intently.

           "Sod off," she muttered, and grabbed her bag, rushing out into the downpour. She sprinted the three blocks to her flat and bolted through the door just as Mrs. Liebowitz was leaving.

           "Oh, now what are you up to, Missy? No good, I imagine I can rightly say!" said Mrs. Liebowitz as she chuckled and held open the door for Livonia. Livonia gave her a disinterested glance and started to walk past the elderly woman without a word when it suddenly dawned on her that so far her day had consisted of receiving flowers from someone with pathetically apparent mental problems and then being objectified akin to a piece of meat at the shop and that it would be only right to give a kind, lonely woman such as Mrs. Liebowitz thirty seconds of her time.

           "Mrs. Liebowitz," she said, kissing both her cheeks. "It's lovely to see you. Everything well?"

           The older woman looked at her strangely before responding. "Oh, jolly good. You know, my grandson is here. He's staying for a few weeks to help me with some projects. He's painting and redecorating my bathroom," she said proudly.

           This conversation had already gone on much longer than Livonia had intended. "Right," she said, hastily. "That's marvelous. I hope you enjoy him and your, er, paint."

           Mrs. Liebowitz's gaze settled on Livonia's bag from the shop. "Dear, did you buy ice cream? I believe it's melting and leaking through the bag."

           Livonia pressed her hand against the bottom of her bag. "Fucking hell," she muttered, forgetting for a moment her self-initiated rule about not swearing in front of elders, clergy, and. who else was it? Oh, children. That was it. Children.

           "Well, you best be getting upstairs, Love," Mrs. Liebowitz offered, completely oblivious to Livonia's choice of vocabulary. "I'm off to Mrs. Canden's house. She's going to show me pictures of her great-grandson. Can you imagine?"

           "Can't even begin to," Livonia said distractedly. She gave a half-wave and then turned to walk up the small flight of stairs to her flat. She was fumbling with her keys when she heard a very distinct male voice yell, "Bloody bastard!"

           She stood very still, and listened closely to see if there would be a follow-up to his outburst. It didn't sound like anyone in the building that she was familiar with. Seconds later, she heard a door slam and then footsteps pounding down from the third floor. Another moment passed, and then she saw him. He had stopped about a foot away from her and had a mobile phone pressed to his ear.

           "This is bloody red. I told you bloody idiots that I wanted maroon! Do you think my grandmother wants to have a piss in a red loo? She'll feel like she's in Hell, for Christ's sake!"

           While the man continued to sputter and argue with the unfortunate person on the other end of the line, Livonia took the opportunity to study him.

           He was about six, one, and maybe two-hundred pounds. His dark hair hung in haphazard waves down his back, and then slightly flipped at the ends as though it just could not commit to a growth direction. He was wearing a black t-shirt that proudly proclaimed, "I Fuck, Therefore I Am" in bright yellow letters. From the gist of his conversation, it was becoming apparent that this was Mrs. Liebowitz's grandson. So much for Livonia's worry about her choice of words; if this was the sort of shirt her grandson wore in front of his grandmother, then no doubt Livonia's expletives had passed right over the woman.

           He sighed impatiently as he listened to his small, gray mobile. It seemed to suddenly occur to him that he was not alone in the hallway and his eyes darted towards Livonia. She smiled feebly, and ran her fingers through her hair with the hand that was not holding the bag containing her melting dairy product.

           "Well, you can tell your manager to just sod off! I'll be returning this paint straightaway. I suggest you teach your employees the difference between red and maroon." He pressed the end button on his phone triumphantly, and tossed it onto the floor. He stood, looking at it quizzically, as though it may begin to speak.

           "Um," Livonia started. "'Ello. I live, er, right here." She gestured to her door. "I'm Livonia."

           "Pleasure," he said, looking her up and down. "I'm Taylor. Mrs. Liebowitz is my grandmother and I'm---"

           "---Staying with her for a few weeks and painting and redecorating her bathroom," Livonia finished for him.

           "Right." He waited for her to say something else.

           "Well, if you need anything, just holler. Like I said, I um, this is my flat right here, so, let me know."

           "Your ice cream is melting," He said.

           "Everyone keeps telling me that," she said with a strangled laugh. "Guess I better get this inside."

           "Do you fancy coming up and having a drink?" He said these words very quickly and in such a muttering voice that for a moment Livonia thought he had said, Do you fancy growing up and seeing a shrink?

           "My ice cream is melting."

           "Go put it in the icebox and then come up."

           "But I wanted to eat it."

           "If you don't want to have a drink with me, just say so."

           Livonia stood there a moment, feeling torn. She did want to have a drink with him, but she didn't want him to know that.

           Oh, the silly games women play. Why is it we can never just be honest about what we want? Livonia wondered. We're taught from day one that we have to be coy and shy, presenting ourselves to be emotionally unavailable while simultaneously exhibiting a strong sense of innocence. It was all too much to handle.

           "Your ice cream is melting," He said again, and then turned to go upstairs.

"You know," Livonia said, sipping her wine and then taking a long drag on her cigarette. "A few weeks have turned into a few months. Don't you have a job that you're about to be fired from?"

           Taylor laughed at her and stroked her leg. "I'm a freelance photographer, Pet. I come and go as I please. However, I do appreciate your concern for my well-being. Or is this just a veiled attempt at getting me to leave?"

           "No," Livonia said, reluctantly. The truth of the matter was that she wasn't sure how much longer she could handle her relationship (if that was in fact what it was) with Taylor. When he had invited her upstairs for a drink, and she had stood there babbling on about wanting to eat her ice cream, she hadn't known that she would be spending a large amount of her time with him over the next two months. He certainly was not her type; anyone could see that. Not that anyone had seen that -- Livonia hadn't taken Taylor around any of her friends. She could only imagine their horror when they saw Taylor in his torn jeans, ripped t-shirts, and his wild, unmanageable hair. He certainly didn't look as though he could successfully play the part of her significant other. His loose, disheveled style was the polar opposite of the urban hip, British punk fanfare in which she regularly adorned herself. When she pointed out that his hair, which she loathed, seemed to have a mind of its own and could possibly be a serious danger to others, he went out the next day and had it cut short -- the classic prep hairstyle that she was accustomed to seeing on the heads of her suitors. She couldn't figure out why this didn't please her.

           He was so not what she usually wanted. It was nearly comical -- she imagined that she was someone else and she was observing the scene right now in his bedroom. He was sitting next to her on the bed, his head propped up with a pillow, wearing a long white t-shirt, black boxer shorts, and an ashtray perched precariously on his stomach. He took long, deliberate drags on his cigarette, and then blew smoke rings.

           She was next to him on the bed, wearing only a bra and a pair of his fuzzy socks. Her black hair was pulled back and held in a ponytail with a rubber band. She had one bare leg draped casually over his thigh, which he alternately leaned down to nip and stroke.

           "You look cute in my socks," he said, obviously forgetting what they had been discussing, which greatly relieved Livonia.

           "I'm always cold," she offered.

           He lit another cigarette and held on to a handful of her hair. "So, it's been two months that we've been," he trailed off. "Have you heard from Julian?"

           Livonia was alarmed. She had just assumed that he hadn't been listening to what she said most of the time. The fact that he had heard, and retained, information regarding her unstable ex-boyfriend made her a bit queasy.

           "Um," She cleared her throat. "Well, let's see. Last week he sent me a dead chipmunk in a box with a card that said 'I love you, you cunt.' Does that count as having heard from him?"

           "That counts," Taylor said, bitterly. His gaze moved over to the window and he silently watched the rainfall. "It's always raining in London." He said.

           She sat up a little straighter. "I was thinking that a few months ago. It just falls and falls and we scatter underneath it, trying to keep it from soaking our lives."

           "Yeah," Taylor agreed. "We just sort of, live beneath it."

           I could marry him, Livonia thought.

           "Marry me," Taylor suddenly said, flatly. The inflection in his voice was the same as if he had just said Go get the fags off the dresser, or please iron my shirt. Livonia, caught completely off guard, and feeling as though she didn't really belong here, reacted the way she always did when she was nervous and frightened. She began to laugh.

           "What's so funny?" Taylor demanded. She laughed more. "What's so goddamned, bloody funny?"

           "Nothing," she replied, feeling immediately guilty, yet still choking on her laughter. "It's just, I mean, marriage. It's been two months. Two months, Taylor. I don't think you mean it."

           He hesitated, looking pensive. "I mean it," he said, thoughtfully.

           "Okay," she replied.

Mrs. Liebowitz's biscuits were not turning out well. She tried to remember the pointers her long deceased mother had given her on the art of making attractive baked goods, but at eighty-two, her memory was not what it used to be. Added to that, there was the issue of her hands shaking uncontrollably whenever she attempted to do any tasks involving skilled placement of her arthritic fingers. In spite of all of these obstacles, she was still determined to complete her project and have it turn out well. The late Mr. Liebowitz had adored her biscuits when they were first married. She suddenly felt a deep stab of longing for her husband, something she was not accustomed to experiencing.

           The sudden knock on her door caused her to drop a wad of dough that she had been kneading. She brushed her hands off on her apron and approached the door.

           "Livonia!" she exclaimed with pleasure. "How nice of you to stop over. What can I do for you, love?"

           Livonia stood in the doorway, looking shy and scared. Her finger twisted around a lock of her hair and she chewed her lower lip. "I.was here visiting Taylor the other day, and I think I left my earring in his room. May I go look?"

           "Certainly, Dear," Mrs. Liebowitz answered, and she held the door open so Livonia could walk into the room.

           Livonia made her way down the hallway, and stopped to peer into the newly remodeled bathroom. She finally approached the bedroom and she sat down on the bed, feeling as though the weight of the world was on her shoulders. She pressed her face against the pillow, inhaling Taylor's scent that mingled with her own. The bed was neatly made, there were no clothes strewn on the floor, no bottle of wine next to the dresser. She knew, without a doubt, that Taylor had left.

           She stood up and walked back into the bathroom. Her fingers traced the new shower curtain; she slipped off her shoe so that her foot could caress the new rugs. Finally, she pressed her forehead against the cool maroon-colored wall and sighed.

           Livonia walked slowly down the street, feeling the unmistakable ache in her groin that she had begun to recognize as her need for Taylor. Feeling as though the wind had been knocked out of her, she flopped down onto a cement stoop in front of a large building.

           She watched as the bustle of activity on the street built to a shattering crescendo of people merging together, shouting greetings, and simply going about their lives. Everyone looked carefree and happy, but Livonia noticed that the clouds above were beginning to darken and look ominous.

           The first raindrop pelted her on the forehead, and slowly rolled down her face onto her lips. She licked it off, and thought, it's always raining in London.

           She hoisted herself off the stoop, and began to walk slowly towards Julian's house.

© 2002 Jennifer Summer, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission

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