Just Say It

Entry by: Seth Dinario

16th February 2018
Rivulets of sweat dribble down his back as he reaches across the table for the margarine. Even that small action results in more clammy liquid heading for his arse-crack. Could he sweat any more? What did they reckon the body was comprised of; seventy per cent water? At this rate, his percentage will be zero by teatime. He'll have sweated out every last drop of moisture. He will be a dessicated husk.
A dirty plastic desk fan languidly shifts hot air around their room. 
"Are you going to check on the air-con situation?" asks Violet.
Glenn doesn't answer immediately. He chews stale bread and stares out of the dusty window. "He said to come back later," he says eventually.
"It _is_ later," Violet says, pouring warm lemonade into her glass.
"He meant later than this. It's only been what - three hours?"
"Nearer four. You've got to keep on at these people. It's not like they care. You think they're gonna care?"
He hates her when she gets like this. He shifts greasily in his chair and rakes back his matted fringe. "By 'these people'," - he does air-quotation marks - "do you mean Greek people? Because that is denigrating an entire race."
"Den-i-gra-ting," she says, rolling the syllables around her mouth like a curse. "Being nasty towards? Slagging? I love your daily university challenge," she says sourly.
"I'm -" he begins, but Violet hasn't finished. 
"Why do you always do that?" she asks the table. "Use a bigger word when something more straightforward will do. You _could_ just call me stupid. It'd save time."
Glenn raises his eyebrows. "I just meant that you should try not to use cultural stereotypes."
"I knew what you meant. By 'these people', I actually meant folks who manage shitty three-star holiday apartment blocks, yet drive around in brand-new Mercedes. But yeah, why not the entire Greek nation? These are people who leave the top floors of buildings permanently unfinished in order to avoid paying tax. They are not going to give a rat's arse about our broken air-con unless you put a rocket up them."
He's too tired for this. Even without working air conditioning, she slept like a drugged narcoleptic. He was up half the night. But it’s always been like this. He always used to struggle more than Violet in the days after the kids played competitive insomnia in their formative years. "Fine," he says, in the universal it's-not-fine tone. "I'll go after we've cleared up lunch. Just let me finish my roll, would you?” He forces a smile. “I'm imagining it's moussaka."
Violet doesn't reply but begins to violently stack the table's contents. She moves towards the door, and as she shoves meat and cheese into their tiny fridge, she's muttering to herself. Glenn is unable to take much of this. "Are you speaking to me, or yourself?" he says.
Violet straightens up, face glistening with sweat. She mops it with a teatowel. "You. The moussaka comment. Not funny."
"I'm sorry. But the restaurants _are_ mostly air-conditioned around here."
"We've got a fucking budget, Glenn! Why can you never let petty, shitty arguments go? Why must you always rake it over like a cat in a litter tray?" She storms past him towards the balcony.
His heart roils and churns inside him. He thinks of how to change the subject while he munches the last of the roll and stares at her intransigent back. He mentally clicks through a few options, dismisses them all miserably, then falls back on the mundane. "Any cooler out there?" he calls, fanning himself with a magazine.
He hears her mutter something, then she yells back through the patio door, "No, it's still Daunte’s Inferno!"
"Dante's, you stupid bitch," he murmurs to himself, then instantly regrets it. What's happening to him? Why can’t he get a grip? He wonders why he’s so jittery, so worked up. Actually, he knows the reason, and it isn’t the bloody heat or lack of sleep. Well, not directly, anyway. He gradually realises that Violet has returned to their room and has been stood, watching him, for some moments. She is cast into shade by the air-bright glare of the searing Mediterranean afternoon. Despite this, he feels her eyes lancing into him.
"Your bit of stuff's outside on her balcony," she says in a flat voice.
His bucking heart empties and fills up with blood. "She's about eighteen," he says, dismissively.
"Eighteen? She's barely _in_ her teens, Glenn. Trust you to try and make her legal. Anyway, you should come out and stare some more. Y'know, like you were this morning. It’s okay – I think her parents are in another room."
He knows he should resist. But he bites. "I was _not_ staring at her this morning. I was looking at the balcony one over."
"Oh. Was there a fourteen-year-old on that one as well?" 
"No-one was there," he says, not rising to it.
"Wow. Interesting. Good job there was some intervening entertainment, eh?"
"No-one was there all morning. The curtains stayed drawn and they have been since we got here on Saturday. The manager told me he can't move us to a new room with working air-con because they're all full. There’s nobody in that one; why can’t we have that?"
Violet laughs. "You've come all the way to Crete on holiday with your wife, your kids are at home, and you turn into a weirdo. A curtain-twitcher.” She puts on what she thinks is a funny geek-voice. “Ooh, look at that room, no-one's in there!" She laughs some more, but it seems close to hysteria.
He sighs and grinds his teeth, first one way, then the other. He goes over to her. "What's wrong, Vi?" he says. She says nothing. He can see her face now, and it is serious. "Come on,  I can tell. What's the matter?"
"Don't lie to me," he says in a sort of low, urgent grunt. She takes a step back. He moves forward. "I've known you for twenty years."
"Twenty-two," she corrects him dully, making it sound like the announcement of a stretch in jail.
He shakes his head. "Just say it. Tell me what's wrong."
She looks away. Looks down at her hands. Then, slowly, deliberately, as if she’s reciting a rehearsed speech, she says, "I’ve had enough. Glenn - it wasn’t working before we came away and being here has just confirmed that we’re...dead. Dead in the water. Don’t tell me you don’t feel it too?” She seems almost tender as she says this, but it’s the wrong context, and tears are brimming in her eyes.
He feels taller somehow; enormous. He can feel the blood pounding in his ears. Is it relief he feels? The guilt that had been filling him up seems diluted now; dispersed in some larger emotion. Why shouldn’t that be relief?
Violet runs her hands through her hair, dragging it backwards over her skull. The action stretches tight the skin of her face, and she looks translucent, like an underwater creature. She looks at the ceiling, and says, “The room two doors down isn’t empty. There’s...a man staying in there.” She now looks at him. Her voice is a parched whisper. “Ask me how I know.”
Glenn blinks. “I don’t think I will,” he says. He marches over to the door, past the small table where they’ve had their cheap lunches. Past the fan, recycling the same stale air. He opens the door, and turns back. She’s a silhouette again. Hardly real. “She is eighteen, by the way...and better than you ever were,” he says as casually as he can, and heads towards the stairs, and the cool of the restaurant.
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