Story Detail

Red Sky In the Morning by Terry Spring
by Terry Spring
Pages: NA
The cliff path of Sydney's scenic Bondi Beach is well-known as a place to exercise but it can be dangerous when runners battle it out. For more of the author's gripping stories and work, visit www.terryspring.com
Reviews: 3

She'd been waiting for a day such as this. Last night it had rained, a heavy tropical downpour, leaving puddles of rainwater on the uneven footpaths and kerb-side gutters. The concrete pavements glistened under lampposts, radiating a dull light into the morning gloom. Margaret stood on the steps of the building, inhaling the fresh cool air and contemplated the run ahead of her. She loved this time of day, just before daybreak when nothing moved.

Just what I need Margaret thought with a smile as she looked up at the sky. Now it was beginning to show streaks of red and orange, illuminating the Sydney suburb in a glow of light. The birds had woken and from the trees above she could hear them start to cheep, their cries echoing around the quiet street.

Not wanting to join a gym, Margaret enjoyed exercising in the clean open air of the cliffs at Bondi. It had been winter when she first starting her early morning jogs along the nearby coastal path, but spring had come early and the warmer weather, that came with it, made running hot and difficult. Consequently, she had set the alarm clock earlier and earlier to avoid the heat of the morning sun. It suited her to know she would be ready for work just as others were getting out of bed. Margaret always found her morning run exhilarating. It gave her energy and a clear mind, before launching into her frantic world of share trading.

It’s going to be a wonderful day, despite that red sky. ‘Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning’, the old adage came back to her and she shrugged. Funny how things have worked out...must be fate.

Running in the darkness had its good points but personal safety was a risk since the streets were deserted. Margaret strove to remember to stay alert in case someone lurked in the bushes as she recalled her early foray. 

At first, she had smiled and nodded, acknowledging the Chinese female…the only other person she passed in the gloom. Jogging in the darkness, the young woman had signaled her greeting in return. This continued every morning for a week before they found themselves pounding the same route, in the same direction. For the first time Meg saw the woman's face as, panting in the darkness, they ran the coastal path together in silence.

Eventually, the tiny Asian had offered her name and Margaret had introduced herself as ‘Meg’. Towering over the small frame next to her, she tried to come to terms with the coincidence. Astonishingly, the woman who stood between her and marriage to Chris - his wife Ruby - jogged beside her.

Just thinking about Chris sent a thrill of desire through her body. Their attraction was all-encompassing. Like two magnets, they were drawn to each other but he could not obtain his freedom from a failed marriage; it clung to him like a sticky spider's web. He had described, as a student, his flatmate Ruby had wanted to stay in the country and avoid deportation after her student visa ran out. She had spun a sorry tale and he had wed her. No way would she give him a divorce now, after all, she had gone through to get him to marry her. For years, she had not only drained him of his money she also sapped his life force. After university, Chris had worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder. These days, as a captain of industry, he earned a large salary and annual bonuses. The money Ruby sent back to her homeland allowed her extended family to live well. As Chris had said many times, Ruby was a girl from 'the school of hard knocks' and he was her meal ticket.

When the female runners shared that they were both planning to run the Sydney City to Surf Marathon, Ruby had suggested they coordinate their exercise schedules. They met daily at the beach before first light, when the streets were deserted, feeling there was safety in numbers. In the darkness, the women jogged at an easy pace where they could still hold a conversation.

Although they ran the beach and cliff top together, there had been no other contact between them. In the beginning, they merely exchanged first names, yet the experience of running together along the rocky paths bonded them. Over the weeks, their exchanges had become more confidential. Margaret stayed silent about her own life but Ruby found it easy to confess her unhappiness to a stranger. She told of her cheerless marriage to a rich husband and his adultery and how he wanted a divorce but she wouldn’t give him one. The morning run helped to alleviate the stress she was under.  Brashly she admitted she would kill Chris’s mistress if she thought she could get away with it. She had absolutely no intention of ever letting him go. Ruby seemed so caught up in her problems, she never asked any questions or even noticed her running partner's stricken face.

This morning, because of the rain, Margaret felt certain there would be few people around when Ruby came in sight - out of the darkness. The puddles of water had made the pavements slippery and the grass dreadfully muddy. She greeted Ruby with a wave and shouted, ‘Hi’. The two women fell into step alongside, agile legs striding out along the rocky path. Margaret noticed the ocean below looked grey and angry, the waves pounding the sea wall and almost drowning out the thump of their running feet on the stone. Breathing noisily, the two set up a steady pace, side by side, splashing through the puddles.

For a few moments, the wind died down and the only sounds heard were their panting and the thud of feet striking the wet stone. The women splashed through

the puddles, and Margaret gasped for breath as they turned into the cliff face and another gust of wind off the sea hit them. Ruby struggled to keep up and talk at the same time.

‘I’ve been thinking about the City to Surf run, ‘Ruby panted.

'Hmm…?' Margaret answered. She increased the pace another notch up, as they came to the headland where the path narrowed.

Ruby kept pace and continued. 'Yeah…I think we should meet here at the beach and go into the city by public transport' she gasped. 'Then when we run back -' she struggled for breath - 'our cars will be…'

Margaret nodded her head in agreement and slowed down, motioning with her hand for Ruby to take the lead as she fell in behind her. Ruby continued to talk but the gusts of wind carried her words away. '…our cars will be here. We will have to get to the beach early because of…'

It had stopped raining some hours earlier, but Margaret knew the craggy surfaces would be incredibly slippery. Now the path neared the edge of the cliff and the wet bushes brushed against their legs. Time to go Margaret thought. Heart thumping, her right hand shot out with force, catching Ruby squarely in the middle of her body, pitching her forward. The bushes parted and, in a flash, Ruby was gone. Her scream drowned out by the noise of the wind and waves, she tumbled down, over the precipice, into the water below. Margaret looked over the cliff top, into the greyness below. As dawn began to break on the horizon, all she saw in the gloom were the white crested waves crashing against the cliff face. Regaining speed, she turned for home and sighed, glancing down at her running shoes, noting they were wet through.

 

She had never told Chris about her jogging partner. She didn’t want him to

think that she had somehow set up a meeting, when in fact, it had actually been a coincidence. No one else had known of their running schedule and it would be assumed Ruby had tripped in the dark, on the wet, uneven path.

She congratulated herself. Chris was now free to start a new life with her. It was

not just the dawning of a new day, it was the first day of the freedom that she and Chris had only dreamed about. It was just that Chris didn’t know it yet.

Triumphant, Margaret slowed her running stride to a fast walk as her unit block came in sight. No one around, it was time to cool down and stretch. Under the branches of an old gnarled jarrah tree, she slowly extended her long muscled limbs, one at a time, using the wall of the building to brace herself. She smiled and reflected on her run as the street-lights dimmed and the sky lightened to pale pink. The sweet song of the birds above filled the morning. Now nothing stands in our way she thought as she untied the shoe-laces and took off her wet runners. Soggy shoes in hand, Margaret took the steps two at a time, up to the entrance. She could almost smell the aroma of coffee and freedom as the sky turned a deep shade of crimson.

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ALL REVIEW:
Sashi G
Wonderful descriptions, I could picture every scene. Great short story.
Karen Asprey
I want to read more....need to find out what happens next! Exciting and intriguing. Loved this story.
Terry Dunphy
Certainly short and sweet for Ruby-- I anticipated the outcome, but thought Ruby would be the "pusher" not the "pushee".