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by juleschoc 

Posted: 26 November 2004
Word Count: 991

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'You're looking good,Sue,'Rob says when he comes to visit. He walks over to Sue slowly, pausing before he rubs his chin into her shoulder. She smells of soap instead of perfume, but he speaks softly into her ear. 'Really good.'

Sue stretches her neck away.

'You came to see Jack,' she says.

Sue tells Jack to eat all his dinner. She looks tired as she gets out of the chair. She picks it up and tucks it flush against the table. She doesn't look at Rob. She goes over to the sink and rolls up her sleeves. A Ray of Lemon Sunshine slowly oozes its way from the washing up bottle.

'And how's Nina these days?' Sue asks. Hot water spits into the pans. Her hand splashes the water furiously to make the bubbles. 'Is she looking good too?'

Rob's shoulders sag. It will be harder to get around Sue this time. He watches Jack shake a bottle of red sauce before he turns it upside down nover the chips. But nothing comes out.

Rob pulls out the chair. The seat of it puffs in defeat as he sits. The cigarettes are in his hands before he remembers Sue's rule. No smoking in the house. Not any more. He winks at Jack who is still tapping the sauce bottle, before he tucks the packet into his pocket.

'Let me have a go.'

Rob takes the bottle. It's a lot smaller in his hands. He shakes, then he taps, but the sauce is still stuck.

Sue comes over. She wipes her arms down the front of her jumper. They look raw below the elbow where the hot water has been. Her eyes are blank as she takes the bottle from Rob. She picks a knife up off the table. She sticks it into the neck of the bottle and twiddles. The seams on her pale dress strain as she stretches over to Jack's plate. She gives one big shake and the sauce spills out thick and even.

'Your mother's got the knack for it,' Rob says. His eyes shine as he looks at Sue. He tries to catch on to his wife with a gaze, but she passes. She goes out of the kitchen. In a minute she comes back wearing her coat.

'What time are you going?' she asks.

Rob doesn't answer.

'I'm popping round to Lynn's,' she says.

Rob gets up off the chair. He watches Sue as she buttons up the coat. Her chin falls in folds onto the collar. Rob swallows and the apple in his throat bobs.

'I thought we could talk.' He waits for Sue as she fiddles with the last toggle.

When Sue has finished she looks up. There are dark circles under her eyes. She shrugs heavily in the coat. She looks at Rob and sighs.

'What's there to talk about?'

Suddenly Jack is running from the table. He wants to get his coat so that he can go with his mother to Lynn's. Sue stops him at the door. She tells him he has to stay with his father. It'll be nice if she could have a cup of tea in peace at Lynn's for a change. He can play with Rory later. His father can drop him off there. Right now she wants him to stay.

'We'll play some footie,'Rob says. He tells his son to go set up the goalposts in the garden. He watches Jack run out of the back door on his fast little legs. Then he turns to Sue.

'You don't have to to go to Lynn's,' he says. He goes over to Sue. His hand shakes as he touches her hair.

Sue shrinks back. Her lips are set hard and straight.

'I'm going round to Lynn's,' she insists.

Rob stands in front of the door. He knows it's not been easy for Sue. She's had to put up with a lot. But he can make it up to her if she will give him the chance.

'I'm asking you to stay,' he says.

'I'm going,' Sue replies. She looks down at the cracks on the lino.

'It's you I love,' Rob says.

Sue looks up. Rob's face has that sorry look. His eyes are half closed and his mouth droops at the corners. He's like the Rob she first met. A stranger. He's not her Rob any more. He hasn't changed anything about the way he looks but he's different. Sue finds it hard to believe she has shared naked flesh and groans with this man. A part of her still longs for the intimacy. She misses the leisurely hours of talking and listening. The furious fights and the fast loving that came after. She moves towards Rob and drops her head onto his shoulder. She closes her eyes and breathes in the starch on his shirt. It would be easy now to slide back into the natural rhythm of things. The ebb and flow of their marriage. The loving and hating. The hating. Hating but living. Still living. She could reap the situation for all it was worth with Rob and revel in the revenge where Nina was concerned. Her son would have his father again and she could finally sleep during the long lonely hours of the night. If she went back she could have all these things.

She finally lifts her head. The starch smell fades. She shrugs and sighs. It would only be a matter of time before he came back to her door with his apologies and promises.

Rob sees the glassy eyes. His shoulders droop as he senses the fianlity in her stiff manner. He knew all along it would be a matter of time and Sue would not give in any more. He opens his mouth to speak but Sue puts her finger to his lips.

'Like I said,' she says calmly,'you can drop Jack off at Lynn's anytime.'

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 07:58 on 27 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Jules,
There are some lovely details in this: I particularly liked the 'A Ray of Lemon Sunshine' and the subsequent effect on her hands. You showed Sue's character and her deep weariness well.

I got a bit confused about who was who at the beginning and had to re-read " He tries to catch on to his wife with a gaze," thinking there was another character in the room. It was probably the mention of Nina at the beginning, and the fact that Rob seemed more youthful than Sue.

This also threw me "'What time are you going?' she asks." as SHE'D just put her coat on. Maybe 'leaving' would make it clearer?

What marked me about this story was the fact that they both knew she'd come round, it was just a matter of time. The trappings of marriage.

I can see your Carver influence here. This felt very small town American.

ps I thought Cuckoo was excellent - good title too

Dee at 11:00 on 27 November 2004  Report this post
Jules, I really enjoyed this. There are some wonderful moments: the sauce bottle, the detail of her pale dress, Jack not understanding that it’s ‘visiting time’.

I found the over-use of her name a little distracting. She is the only woman in the scene so I felt you repeated her name too often… for instance:

He walks over to Sue slowly, He’s just used her name in the preceding line of dialogue.


'I thought we could talk.' He waits [for Sue] as she fiddles with the last toggle.
[When Sue has finished] she looks up.

I think you could cut the words I’ve put in the first brackets, particularly as he’s not actually waiting for her, he’s waiting for her to respond. The words in the second set of brackets are also redundant as we know she’s on the last toggle.

'I thought we could talk.' He waits as she fiddles with the last toggle.
She looks up.

And one little typo:

he turns it upside down nover the chips

Apart from that, I thought it was a neat little story that really captured the war-games played out by countless couples every day. Is she deluding herself that he’ll try again. Does he really believe he’s missed his last chance…



juleschoc at 13:11 on 27 November 2004  Report this post
thanks for taking the time to read my stuff Dee and e.g.

It's interesting how you commented about the over use of 'Sue' Dee. Last night I had two attempts at copying this story because my computer went (frustrating). In the original write up I did use words that you had suggested like 'leaving'(Elspeth) instead of going. I also used 'she' instead of Sue in the particular places you did point out. I don't really know why I even changed them...I must have been confused after trying so hard to get the story on screen before something else happened and the computer went down again. The typo was also a result of this I imagine.

The stories I have posted so far are old stuff. I haven't actually wriiten for two years. I am going to have to get going again!!! This site is such an inspiration I love it.


anisoara at 17:39 on 27 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Jules,

A bitter moment this, isn't it?

I also found certain images striking - the details of the dishes and washing up, her raw arms, the red sauce bottle. (I loved the way the big man couldn't get the sauce out of the bottle.) And I found the temptation for Sue to have her revenge on Nina very realistic.

Yes, you should definitely get going on your writing again! This is such a fantastic site for so many reasons, and it really does inspire writing!


Joel at 22:34 on 27 November 2004  Report this post

Hi Jules,

I thought this was really poignant snapshot of a broken family. A brilliant example of showing and not telling the reader. You built the characters up very convincingly, although I did also have to reread a bit to clarify who was who when jack was first introduced. I think Ani's also right about there being too much use of "Sue" instead of she. It somehow slows the tempo a bit. Otherwise, I thought it was captivating, you managed to capture all the conflicting emotions and made me feel for everyone in less than a thousand words. Good job!

Look forward to reading some of your newer stuff.



nasha17 at 18:35 on 02 December 2004  Report this post
Hi Jules,

I liked this, especially the way my empathy travelled from Sue to Rob and back to Sue. He seemed horrible at the start but you showed that he does actually want her back.

I liked the imagery, with the washing-up liquid and the "red sauce". It is also compelling how the child is always in the background.

I thought it was well written and I personally think it might be more dramatic in the past tense, maybe draw the reader in a bit more, making them wonder what happened next.



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