TWO NEIGHBOURS • by Delphine Gauthier-Georgakopoulos

Mary is woken by her two little boys. They are already fighting in their bedroom. She can hear objects crashing, bodies tumbling, chaos coming.

***

When Julia wakes up, she takes the sheets and the thin summer blankets to shake them on the balcony and leave them under the sun. Then, she silently makes coffee and prepares breakfast for the family.

***

Mary makes breakfast, warning them to stop fighting, trying to keep the peace until their father leaves. She glares at her sons, silently reminding them to behave. The minute he leaves for work, the boys turn into wild tornados destroying all in their wake.

***

As they eat their breakfast, Julia drinks her coffee and cleans: every crumb, every drop, every glass, every cup, every knife, every plate. While her husband and children rush to get ready for the day ahead, she remains in the kitchen slowly, carefully, methodically cleaning.

***

She trips on Legos, shrieks, and kicks a box of toys in anger. A rainbow of plastic flies and crashes against the stained wall. She screams in frustration.

***

When the others leave, she cleans the bedrooms, one sheet at a time, one bed at a time. She brooms and mops, obsessing about the spotless flat that is drowning her, in the heat that is suffocating her.

***

She sends the boys to the garden to play, hoping to have half an hour to clean the disastrous mess surrounding her, drowning her, the heat suffocating her.

***

When there’s nothing left to do in the bedrooms, she goes to the living room. She grabs all the pillows big and small, dismantling the sofa, to shake them on the balcony and leave them under the sun.

***

She tries to prepare lunch while keeping an eye on the boys through the kitchen window when she hears a woman shouting. She sprints to the garden to discover her youngest peeing on a bush in full view of Mrs Clean-Freak on the first floor.

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When lunch simmers and bakes, she goes to the bathroom. She uses a toothbrush to access the hidden corners between the tiles, she scrubs, rinses, scrubs, rinses until the cooker brings her out of her laborious torpor, brings her back to the kitchen.

***

She goes to the bathroom and gags when she discovers pee all around the toilet seat. She grabs the shower and rinses it off.

***

When lunch is over, she chases every crumb, every dust. She sponges, brooms, and mops, she twirls around like a crazed godmother spraying clean magic into the summer heat.

***

She tries to make the boys eat their veggies, then gives up and lets them finish the meat and potatoes while she eats the greens. She finally breathes when she puts the sweaty bodies down to nap.

***

In the afternoon, she throws water on the balcony, and into the garden below, still fuming about the little pig peeing in the garden this morning.

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When the father returns, they all make their way to the sea, the heat has finally abated, the boys splash and crash into the waves with glee as she floats dreamingly.

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When her husband returns, the two of them leave their teenagers behind and make their way to the sea. The heat has finally abated. He swims towards the horizon, thrashing against the waves as she floats dreamingly.

***

Two neighbours, sitting in the evening summer breeze, one on her spotless balcony, the other in her rugged smelly garden. Two neighbours staring at the darkness, quietly exhausted, deafeningly lonely. Two mothers on holiday, listening to the waves crashing on the beach down below.


Delphine Gauthier-Georgakopoulos is a writer, teacher, mother, music lover, nature lover, foodie, and dreamer. She writes Flash Fiction as a procrastinating technique to avoid editing her novels. Her work is forthcoming in Pure Slush, Sweetycat Press, and Funny Pearls. She is Breton (not French) and lives in Athens, Greece.


If you want to keep EDF around, Patreon is the answer.

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