Jen dressed carefully. She wanted to look good, but not overdone. Three shirts, two dresses and five pants already littered the floor at her feet.
With a huff, she chose her black skinny jeans, rolled up the cuffs, donned her espadrille wedges and threw on a white shirt. She stared critically at the mirror.
‘It’ll have to do, Jen,’ she said to herself, checking her watch.
In the bathroom she fixed her hair and applied her make-up. Subtle, but enough to give her a glow, a pinkish hue. A slick of lippie and she was done.
Jen snatched her car keys from the hall table and checked her purse for cash—she always paid her half. She grabbed her handbag and leather jacket from the coat rack in the hallway, and slammed the front door behind her.
In the car, she slowed her breathing. She’d not had the chance to think inside the house.
‘What are you doing?’ she whispered, resting her forehead on the steering wheel. Her heart was pressing against her ribs. Her fingers were tingly. The inner voice was shouting at her: go back inside! Don’t do this!
But the magnetic force pulled. It overrode all sense and reason. It always did.
‘Fuck it.’ She turned the key in the ignition and drove off.
Twenty minutes later, she parked the car. Stepped out and walked fifty metres to the building. Her phone buzzed. She pulled it out of her handbag. A text, one number.
She nervously walked into the foyer, deliberating over whether to go straight to the lift, or head to the front desk. She chose the former and hoped that she wouldn’t be stopped on the way. Jen pressed the lift button, and waited as inconspicuously as she could. The lift doors opened. Empty. Mirrors surrounded her on all three walls. She avoided making eye contact with herself, but her likeness rebuked her, tormented her. How long does it take to ride twelve floors? Jen raised her glance and looked directly into her own eyes.
‘Shut up!’ Her face pressed against the glass; steam rose from her breath distorting her view.
With a jerk, the lift stopped. The doors opened. On the walls were directions to rooms: 1201-25 to the left; 1226-38 to the right. She didn’t need to look. Jen knew the way.
The door to room 1236 was held ajar, with his shoe, like he always did. She pushed it open, and kicked his shoe out of the way. The door shut with a gentle click and she crept forward, into the vastness of the room.
A king-size bed took up the centre of the room; he was already in it. His suit, shirt and tie neatly folded on the suitcase ledge; a watch and wedding ring lay on the bench, next to the TV.
‘Hey,’ he said quietly. His hands were behind his head, propped up on the pillow.
‘Hey you,’ Jen replied as she undressed, placing her own wedding and engagement rings next to her handbag. She slid in next to him, the coolness of the sheets a balm to her white-hot, searing guilt. ‘We really need to stop doing this.’
He sniggered as he leaned in to kiss her. ‘Say it like you mean it, Jen.’
She opened her mouth to protest. It was no use. He was her disease.