Beyond the lip of the shelter roof the rain was unrelenting. Beyond the rain, and a railing, was the sea; grey and topped with angry white, wind whipped, rain spattered. Inside the shelter Jane sat at one end of the elderly wooden bench and Paul at the other. He sighed, turned to her.
“Don’t you bloody dare” she said. She drew her coat closer, tighter around her. She’d tried to leave, had been driven back by the sudden furious downpour, sat in her corner with the empty diet coke bottle and the “Sens 4 Jaffa” graffiti with her hair plastered to her skull.
She turned, baleful eyes beneath that slicked fringe, and bared her teeth.
“Shut it. Do you hear that?” The pause was filled with the pounding of the rain. “That is the only sound I want to hear.”
Paul was pale, wide eyed, stricken. He shifted and writhed as if constricted, stared at the ground. There was nowhere to go except into the rain.
“I’m sorry” he said “I know it was wrong. I let myself get carried away. I wish I could pretend it didn’t happen or that I wasn’t in control. I was really, really stupid.”
The rain intensified. Jane shivered and tried to curl up on the bench, but couldn’t.
“I’m seeing Darren” she said “He’ll bloody kill you if he finds out.”
Paul nodded. Darren had been against it from the outset, but he was in court that day – again, Paul didn’t say and didn’t wish that someone would finally give the man a custodial sentence – so Jane had needed distracting. It seemed like a good idea at the time; a run down to some sleepy seaside town, one of God’s Waiting Rooms, to spend the day looking at the sea and eating icecream. It had just been Paul and Jane, like back when they were kids and the happy glow of that memory should have made him smile. Instead it twisted his stomach and something made him say
“He’ll kill you too when he finds out you kissed me.”
“I did not bloody kiss you. You kissed me.”
Paul stood. He was trembling. Nerves? Anger? Both.
“Oh yeah, that was me,” he said “standing there saying about how I’d had such a lovely day and you were just the best friend who always understood you, looked out for you, cared about you. Oh no, wait. That was you.”
“You stuck your hand up my top” she said. No heat, no anger, just flat. There was no getting away from it, no avoiding it. Paul deflated.
“Yeah, I did. And I shouldn’t have.”
“No you should not have.”
“Look, I was an idiot.”
“You stuck your hand up my top on the sea front at Eastbourne. In broad daylight. After an otherwise very pleasant kiss.” Jane stood and faced him, even though he was trying very hard to be somewhere else.
“I said I’m an idiot.”
“The worst of it is, it was a nice kiss” said Jane in a very small voice. Paul felt like he’d been struck by lightning. “I mean,” she continued “we’ve been friends for years and I’d never thought about it until today, but it turns out you’ve got a very nice kiss. I’m partial to that, I am.”
Paul stared, words deserting him even as he tried to say them. She’d never thought about it. He always had. He closed his eyes, took a breath.
“Can you forgive me?”
The rain slowed, stopped. Jane looked out at the sky and sniffed.
“Not yet” she said. She stepped out of the shelter and looked back at him. “Maybe next week. Maybe.”
Paul sat in the shelter, picking at the flaking green paint and staring at the ground, listening as she walked away, wondering what forgiveness might be like.