by Robert Steward
Standing by the wrought-iron balcony, I sip my coffee and look at the view. The sun is low and the sky light blue with tissue clouds scattered here and there; the heat has gone out of the day. It is a long way down to the gardens below. A footpath snakes through the manicured lawn, passing weathered stone sculptures and leads to an ornate fish pond. The leaves on the trees are turning brown. It reminds me of England.
Rosa appears, holding a paper cup with 'cortado' written on the side. She is slightly tanned with long brown hair and emerald eyes. Stunningly beautiful.
“Nice afternoon, isn’t it?” I say.
“Yes.” She looks at the view.
There is a silence.
“So, how long have you been studying English?” I ask finally.
“At this school? More or less two months,” she says, turning back to me.
I take a sip of coffee, and she takes a sip of hers.
“And what about you, Oscar--how long have you been teaching in Barcelona?” She looks up at me.
“Since September.” Rosa smiles, and I feel a tingling in my stomach.
The sun slides behind the trees; the sky now tinged with crimson. A flock of nightingales land in the gardens below.
“I wanted to ask you something,” Rosa says, looking into my eyes. “I was wondering if--”
Before she can finish, a fleeting shadow passes the balcony. There is a flapping and a bubbling, a cooing sound. A flock of nightingales fly by, low, very low; there must be about fifty of them, aggressive, feral, and behind them, in their wake, they shed skirts of white matter, spewing, splattering, pouring like rain. And then it is over. They vanish behind the roofs of the nearby buildings. A few feathers float to the ground.
“What the..?” I step back, amazed I didn’t get hit.
Rosa doesn’t say anything. Hunched up, she looks down at herself with her hands in the air, as if someone has thrown a bucket of water over her. She is covered in a white muck: her hair, her blouse, her jeans, even her trainers. She is plastered, caked, stuccoed, her face pallid, her eyes screwed up. The floor around her looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.
“Mierda!” she says finally.
Robert Steward teaches English as a foreign language and lives in London. He is currently writing a collection of short stories, several of which have appeared in online literary magazines, including: Scrittura, New Pop Lit, The Ink Pantry, Adelaide and The Foliate Oak. You can find them at: twitter.com/theroadtonaples
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