My mind returned to Martin and me, the night before, lying next to each other, his bedsheets a tangled, sweaty mess. I’d shut my eyes, nestled into him, on my side with my arm bent to hold up my head. My hair fell to his face. I felt his breath as he blew it away. I opened my eyes, gazed down at him.
‘What do you think is going to happen after commissioning?’ I had asked tentatively. I was always been so careful, never rocking the boat, never giving him an opportunity to end us.
‘With us, I mean,’ I added quickly, before he could respond with an arsehole comment.
‘Ah, well, Michelle,’ his voice light and teasing. Too late, here it comes. ‘I’ve got to say, I’ve always seen a future for you and Sticks.’ Sticks was the nickname for Gavin Stickson, a single man in my session. He was socially awkward, overweight, with a face that had a permanent red tinge to his cheeks and forehead. His hair seemed to always stick up in a way that looked like feathers on a bird. I never knew if the nickname was derived from his surname, his hair, or both.
‘Oh, that old chestnut,’ I tossed back, with a touch of bitterness in my tone.
He sniggered, before responding, ‘I don’t know what you want me to say. Seriously,’ he went on. ‘I don’t know where you’ll end up.’
‘I don’t want us to end,’ I mumbled, feebly.
‘We can’t go on like this forever,’ he’d replied impassively. ‘We’ll either get caught, or we’ll fizzle out. Or you’ll find someone and gain 15 kilos. And then, of course, I won’t be interested in you anymore.’
A pain, stabbing, in my belly. How can you be so good in bed yet such an arsehole? Shock deadened my tongue; it felt thick in my mouth, taking up all the space. I laid next to him for a few minutes, hoping he’d apologise. Anything.
‘Well,’ I’d said, getting out of his bed and fishing around in the dark for my clothes. ‘I’d better get some sleep. It’s a big day for me tomorrow.’
‘Yeah, it is. Enjoy it. See you later.’ He was on his back, with his hands behind his neck. Eyes shut. I’d already been discharged. I cowered back to my room, treading my now frequent walk of shame that was always tinged with an opposing mix of delight. Tiny shockwaves went off each time at my contrasting emotions.
This is an excerpt from my unpublished manuscript, Blood and Fire.