August 20, 2011
Affair, Remembered

It comes to her at random times: unbidden, unwanted, without cue. While searching for her keys. Brushing her teeth. Folding the laundry. Showering — there he is. There they are. The worst thing she ever did, maybe. She thinks that’s an exaggeration. but people react strongly to these things. Some do, at least.

They say their good-byes, everyone half-drunk, sweating, celebratory. They go to one another last, after making the rounds. She doesn’t know how it will go — she’s always followed his lead — but whatever she thought, it wasn’t this: he reaches in, lifts her face to his with a curled knuckle, and their lips meet, like that, in front of friends, for a beat too long.

His living room, the floor, one a.m. All lights off. He had laid a blanket down — the kind of worn-thin comforter families everywhere own, a staple strewn across countless couches — and she’d thought the touch was nice, almost. A brief glimpse of some lost boyishness. But they’re quick — he’s quick — like always, and it barely warrants the extra care. She stays half-dressed.

Someone watches them from inside. This is what he sees: their faces close, his half-smiling. The girl is not. She talks animatedly, even as they try to keep their conversation theirs only. Her hands flutter, her fingertips at times almost brushing his cheek in their fury. The man gently takes one of her wrists and stills it at her side. The girl takes a half-step away. She props the other hand on her hip. The man leans forward. He has that look of humoring apology. Watching through the window, the onlooker thinks this scene is familiar, somehow. It’s been done before.

She wakes up early to run, as always. Stretching on the pavement, she feels a stiffness in her back. She runs thin fingers along protruding vertebrae; the points are tender. Later, she finds a mirror and counts the bruises, small, yellowed at the edges, dotting her lower back. It takes her a moment — but then, she realizes: the hardwood floors, him on top. She bites her lip against a smile, not exactly ashamed.

This girl has a tendency to shake. They sit outside, alone, close but not touching. There is champagne, because she asked for it, and the too-bright glow of his burning cigarette. It’s a summer night, and the stars coat the black backdrop of the too-clear sky in a dusty film. And the girl is shaking. Shivering. Cold is not the reason, but that’s what they both assume. He moves closer to her, and from behind places a hand on each shoulder — her smallness is amplified in his grip. He circles his thumbs into the softness between her shoulders and her neck. His fingertips slide forward, across her clavicle, inching down her chest, following the deep v of her dress. He feels her shaking cease; she inhales, rising and falling beneath his waiting palms.

He pulls the car over, on a street that’s not quite busy and not well-lit, after a night that hasn’t gone exactly how he wanted. He leans over, on top of her, almost before she has time to react. She pushes away, says she can’t. They tug-of-war like this: pushing away, leaning in; the whole thing feels longer than it really is, to both of them. She pulls away, averts her eyes, and he feels her hand on his, her small fingers brushing across the hard metal wrapped around the second finger on his left hand, pressing lightly.

  1. onepagefiction posted this
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