I fear, too early: for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars.
– Romeo & Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4
Ronan rubs his fingers against his eyelids, scrunching his eyebrows towards the top of his nose.
‘Mm hmm, sounds good,’ he says.
‘Not finished,’ says Julia, ‘we then go to Malawi Beach, to Chipata, Chipata to Lusaka, Lusaka to Livingstone.’
‘What?’ she snaps, scratching at her scalp.
‘It’s off,’ he says.
Julia pulls at her white harem pants and bites her lip.
‘Us or the trip?’ she says, quietly.
Ronan raises his eyebrows, wide-eyed.
Ronan taps a shiny, black lace-up boot against the linoleum and plants his hands on his hips.
‘Time to be a real adult,’ he says.
‘Yeah, you’ll kill it,’ Julia says, wiping a dollop of yoghurt off her night-shirt.
Ronan chuckles, shuffling towards Julia. He leans in close to her and plants a warm kiss on her lips.
‘I’ve got to go, Grub,’ he says.
His keys jangle sharply as he shoves his phone into a trouser pocket. He leans in to the mirror, running pale fingers through his hair, before standing back to pout, ever so slightly.
‘Bye,’ he says, unsmiling, picking up his leather briefcase.
When she hears his footsteps disappear down the hallway, Julia rubs at her scalp and lets out a shaken sigh. Balancing her tub of yoghurt against her leg, she carefully reaches for her notebook on the bed-side table. She curls her lips thoughtfully and begins to write.
She’s swirling a Rose and French Vanilla tea bag around in a mug when Ronan walks through the door.
‘We need to talk,’ she says.
‘My day was good thanks, how was yours?’ Ronan says, winking.
Julia stands, letting her white dressing gown hang open, loose on her shoulders. She plants her palms on Ronan’s upper arms and squeezes, hard.
‘I’ve decided I’m not going to wait, Ronan. I’m going, with or without you.’
Ronan’s face remains smooth as silk.
‘Ok,’ he says, shrugging his shoulders.
Julia’s heart suddenly thumps hard in her chest. Her ears burn.
‘What the hell, Ronan. You’ve always known how much this meant to me. I’m staying here for you and your dumb, new job and you’re telling me now, that this whole time, it was fine?’
‘Don’t freak out, Julia. I’m just tired of having this same old conversation. You’re not a baby. You can do what you want.’
Julia stomps backwards, gripping her mug tightly, a sound, like a growl, emanating from her mouth. Ronan watches as she smashes the mug onto the floor. Hot liquid spreads across the linoleum.
Ronan darts for the door. Julia pounds at the tea nd broken china with the palm of her hand.
Ronan is on his lunch break when he gets the call from Julia’s mum.
His palms slide against the steering wheel. His heartbeat pounds against his temple.
He twists his head every few seconds to glance at his phone on the passenger seat.
The phone soon fades into sleep-mode. His chest aches as the seat belt presses hard into his body.
Approaching the intersection, he forgets to check the traffic lights.
‘We’d like to know why you did it, Miss Capulong.’
Julia rubs at the acne on her cheek.
‘I want to go to Africa,’ she says.
‘What do you mean?’
‘He should have known it wasn’t Mum.’
‘He never met her, Miss Capulong. How could he have known?’
‘Miss Capulong, you know you’re not supposed to use the phone without a nurse’s supervision.’
Julia picks at her fingernails. Her forehead creases.
‘I wanted him to how it felt to live without me. I thought, maybe, after the joke, he’d find it easier to let me go again?’
She bites her lip and scratches at her scalp.
‘He stole my passport,’ she mutters, ‘so, I’m not crazy.’
The nurse sighs.
‘Ok, Miss Capulong.’
‘Travel is my life,’ Julia says. ‘He knew that. Travel’s my life and he made me think I had to stay.’
‘Well, Miss Capulong. You’re going to stay with us now,’ the nurse says.
Julia ignores this.
‘Malawi Beach,’ she whispers, eyes wide and unfocussed. ‘To Chipata, Chipata to Lusaka, Lusaka to Livingstone.’
‘Sorry, Miss Capulong?’ the nurse asks.
Julia growls, pounding her fist into the hospital bed.
‘Chipata, Chipata to Lusaka, Lusaka to Livingstone,’ she says. ‘I’m not crazy. I’m not!’