This is Part 8 of our fictional Lockdown Short Story series. The next instalments of our weekend Solo Lockdown Short Stories will be published next Saturday and Sunday the 23rd and 24th of May 2020.
Landon tapped his fingers against the table, green eyes drifting to his mobile phone for the fifth time in as many minutes. It lay there, silent and unassuming, but he unlocked it anyway. Unsurprisingly, no notifications. It’s fine, he told himself, Lucille is entitled to time alone.
She had promised to call an hour ago though, and he had been waiting patiently since. Maybe she forgot, he reasoned, and then immediately realised how silly that was. Lucille practically lived for her phone; it was never more than a few feet away. She even left it by the sink when she went for a shower, for God’s sake.
Running his hands through messy hair, Landon heaved out a sigh and stood. No point in staring at his phone for an entire day. Turning on the coffee machine, he pointedly didn’t look at his phone as he waited. His coffee machine whirred loudly – which was probably a sign it was too old for its own good – and drowned out any possible incoming calls.
Not that it mattered; when he returned to the table with a steaming mug in hand, there was still no sign of Lucille.
It really was pointless to wait. Lucille would call when she was good and ready. After three years together, Landon had learned that Lucille was never on time for anything. So, taking a generous gulp of too-hot coffee, Landon decided he could at least tidy up a bit. Phone abandoned but not forgotten, he trudged into the living room to get started.
Within the next hour, the living room had been cleaned top to bottom; dusted, vacuumed, windows washed, every available surface wiped down. Brushing hair from his eyes, Landon surveyed the room. It had never looked so good since he moved in, and all because of spite for Lucille-
Wait, what was that noise? Tilting his head, Landon listened – and then it clicked. His phone was ringing. Immediately he tossed aside the armful of cleaning products and practically sprinted toward the kitchen. He managed to grab his mobile on the last ring, shoving it close to his ear as he exclaimed, “Lucille!”
“Sorry I’m late,” she huffed, “I got sidetracked with work. There was something playing in the background; a movie, maybe. Although he couldn’t make out the words, it was loud. That meant one thing; she was lying about work.
He let it slide simply because he didn’t want to argue. Plenty of people in his life called Landon a pushover – he liked to think of it as refusal to get stressed about the small things. “How are you?” he asked instead, “I hope you’re not half as bored as I am.”
“Oh, well…” Lucille shifted, the phone crackling as she swapped it to the other ear. “Actually, I’m really enjoying the quiet. I’m keeping busy too; plenty of things can be done from home.”
“Like work?” Landon couldn’t help the sarcasm in his voice.
Lucille huffed, and he heard the dull thud of her collapsing onto the sofa. “You’re acting like I just sit around doing nothing all day,” she snapped, “this isn’t a holiday. You’re the one off work because you’re high risk or whatever.”
Landon scowled – which felt stupid considering Lucille wasn’t even there. “Come on Lucille, that’s not fair,” he insisted, but already that familiar disappointment was settling into his stomach.
They didn’t live together – and honestly, it didn’t seem likely any time soon. It sounded like a good idea at first, to have their own houses and own space. Now he was beginning to wonder if there was such a thing as too much space. Or maybe, if they had ended up in lockdown together, they would have only driven each other more insane.
“Look, Lucille, I know this is stressful but-“
“I have to go,” Lucille interrupted. In the background her movie continued, the kind of high fantasy nonsense Landon despised.
Frowning, Landon tried not to snap as he said, “Why? You just called-“
“It’s important. Work stuff. I can’t go into the details.” Then, without so much as goodbye, the line went dead.
Great. Fantastic. Lucille called less and less these days – and when Landon took the initiative to contact her, she often never picked up. Lucille liked her space, he had always known that – it was the primary reason they hadn’t moved in together – but this was ridiculous. It was as if… as if she realised how good it was to be by herself, and was slowly pushing Landon away.
Twisting his hands, Landon let his phone fall into his lap. He couldn’t ignore the heat swelling in his stomach, the anger crawling just beneath the surface. With a snort of humourless laugh, Landon typed;
If you’d rather watch shitty movies instead of talk, at least be an adult about it and say so. Then, almost as an afterthought, if you’re going to be petty, don’t bother calling me at all.
He hesitated before pressing send; but then he thought of the last few weeks, where Lucille kept leaving him waiting, kept breaking her promises, and then hardly said a word. With one last glare his resolve strengthened, and he sent the text.
Five minutes later guilt swelled in his chest, but he swallowed it down. Lucille was the one being distant, starting petty fights. She could deal with a mean text or two.
Three days passed without word from Lucille. Landon wanted to be angry, wanted to let it be proof she was losing interest; but instead all he felt was a heavy sense of emptiness. He missed her, but he still wasn’t going to be the one to call first.
Eventually, on Wednesday evening as Landon tidied up after dinner, his phone rang. Probably his dad, or one of his brothers, he decided and picked it up from the windowsill.
The name Lucille blinked back at him from caller ID.
Uneasiness rising, he answered.
“Landon, we need to talk.”
The abruptness of her tone, the sharpness, sent a shiver down Landon’s spine. Wincing to himself, he forced his voice to stay calm. “About?”
A huff, as if to say you know what. He did, too, but Landon wanted to hear it from her. The scowl on her face was audible as she said, “about the other day.”
“What’s to talk about?” he snapped, “you haven’t wanted to talk for the last month.” Flopping into the nearest chair, Landon tried to ignore how rough his voice sounded. It was strange even to him to hear him snap.
“That’s not it,” Lucille huffed. There was no movie in the background this time. No sound at all, in fact, as if her house was eerily still. “I’ve been busy with work,” Lucille continued with a sigh, “and yeah, maybe I’ve been enjoying the time to myself. You’ve always known I’m not much for socialising.”
Understatement, Landon thought, but let her continue.
Shifting, the rustle of fabric reached Landon’s ears as Lucille moved. She could have been in her work office, or her living room. They were the two loudest rooms in the house, facing a main road; but with lockdown, there were hardly any cars around. Sighing, Lucille said, “This is stressful, you know? I don’t mean to ignore you, but I’ve got family to keep an eye on. You’re an adult, you can deal with not hearing from me as much.”
It wasn’t just that. He missed her so much it hurt, and it wasn’t like he could just hop in the car and drive over like he used to. Seven weeks felt like a millennia; he was beginning to think he’d never see her again. Landon voiced as much, voice hushed as embarrassment flushed his features.
The phone crackled, but Lucille’s voice was kind as she said, “this won’t last forever you know. We’ll see each other soon enough, and this rough patch will be forgotten.”
He allowed himself a little optimism. A hesitant smile curled at the corner of his lips, his chest felt a little lighter. “I know,” he admitted, “but it’s difficult. You’re not a socialiser, you don’t miss people the way I do-“
“If you think I don’t miss you, you’re mad,” Lucille cut in with a laugh. And oh, he missed her laugh; deep and scratchy but so perfectly her. It was like music; no, better than music. “Every time I hear your voice I just want to say screw it, and drive all the way to yours just so I can hug you.”
Warmth spread through his chest – and this time, Landon did smile. Probably his first genuine smile in weeks, it felt strange on his features, but he didn’t try to stop it.
“How about this,” she suggested, “I promise to call at least every two days, and I won’t hang up until you’re ready.” A pause, and he imagined her head tilted in thought. Then, “as soon as this lockdown is over, you and I are going to book a holiday. Somewhere really fancy, so we can have proper time together.”
Landon’s love for her swelled, and he beamed even though she couldn’t see it. “Perfect,” he replied, fighting back the laughter that bubbled in his throat. Then, quietly, “thank you.”
“I love you Landon. You know that, right?”
A soft smile as he said, “I do; and I love you too.”