Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Life, During By Sarah Peploe

Tula left before noon. She cut through the condemned block where the CCTV didn’t reach, unless they had drones going. Travelling light. She hadn’t had a bag with her. Presumably it would be stashed somewhere.

Moni almost wished she’d been asleep for Tula’s departure, had the decision of their parting words taken out of her hands. There had to have been some perfect thing she could’ve come out with, like a cheat code. Not the usual yadda, I love you, and Don’t do it, there has to be another –

And, Come back for me. Though she knew it was an impractical, selfish thing to ask. It sat weird on her tongue, loving a soldier. As being loved did for Tula. Tula kissed her hands, the calluses and flaking, knackered nails. She had never done that before. Then eased herself out onto the fire escape and away.

Moni did sensible things – got out of bed, put some clothes on, and a coat since it was cold with Tula gone. She brought the buckets inside, and boiled their contents on the gas stove. Meanwhile, she paced the kitchen. Clicked her tongue and chattered to herself.

It had been good, the warm time when you could have the telly on always. Or some device to hand. Being able to pluck any bit of news out of the world like a Ferrero Rocher. The BOREDOM of life now, that was the one thing no-one ever seemed to mention. She washed some clothes. Put some beans to soak. Made some tea and drank it while reading a two-month old newspaper.

Dimly, Moni started to recognize the whirr of the building’s generator. Power hour. She grabbed her phone and made for the bedside plug socket. Internet too. Ambassador, you spoil us.

Even with her coat it was still cold. She got back in bed, burrito-ed herself in the blankets and lay on her side with the phone by her cheek. It had been hours since Tula left. Could she have done it yet? Would they have announced it, even if she had? Could she have changed her mind?

Refresh refresh refresh. Each time, the same news, same losses and routs. For months Moni had wondered if she’d see Tula’s corpse laid out on the screen. Not today at least.

She kept running her finger down her phone. Between one scroll and the next, the world could have turned. So Moni huddled in the delicious warmth, close as a lover to the phone, waiting, touching, waiting –

She woke. She knew it hadn’t just been a nap – it was full dark. She could smell sweat and metal. The smell of too late.

Like always, she thought, when it happens, when it Actually Happens, you’re off somewhere else. She touched her phone and brought it to life. The faint blue of it picked out the edges and eyes of Tula, standing in the doorway, saying My god. I must be mad.

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