This short story follows on from The Truth of the Evening. Click here to read it.
After Hannah’s death, I locked myself away, hidden in my bedroom. Under the covers, hair askew, sleep boogers encrusted in the corners of my eyes. Feral dog’s breath and furry teeth. What did I have to look forward to now?
Can I be candid? You won’t mind?
Thoughts of her occupied my mind. And it stabbed raggedly at my heart that I no longer occupied hers. I remembered the way we kissed, her touch, being coked to the eyeballs and up for anything.
‘Just you and me, Tul. We’ll run off,’ she’d breathed in my ear, that night in the bathroom. Her fingers were inside me. She looked into my eyes. ‘Let’s do it. We can go anywhere.’ She watched me as I clung to her shoulders, my hips rocked in perfect rhythm with her.
A moan was my only response as my body had trembled. She’d brought her lips to mine but kept her hand between my legs. My dress was crumpled to my waist. The door had opened, and our secret discovered. You know the rest.
My memory of the night was interrupted by Barry rapping on our bedroom door, like a police officer. ‘Tully,’ he asked. ‘You gotta get up hon. The kids need you. I need you.’
I could hear him breathing. I lay flat on my back in our bed. I wasn’t sure I knew how to function anymore without Hannah. Hannah.
He walked in. ‘I know she was your best friend, Tul, but come on…you’ve got to keep living. She’d want that.’
She was more than my friend. And I liked to think she’d be alright with me moping over her death, the abrupt ending of our secret.
Barry was still clueless about me and Hannah. That woman who discovered us, post-orgasm in the bathroom, clearly told George, but to everyone else, she remained tight-lipped, possibly so her own affair with George would too stay undiscovered. And George himself never offered an explanation, but enough evidence and witness statements collected by forensics and police work enabled his arrest. He was in remand, and due to appear in court in four months.
Barry sat on the edge of our bed. ‘Have a shower, Tul. You’ll feel better.’ He moved to my dresser, pulled out my favourite trackies and hoodie and tossed them onto the bed. ‘Put these on. Come downstairs, Lara’s made pancakes for you.’
To Barry, then, I was a distraught friend. And he couldn’t understand why I pull myself together. For him. For Lara and Tom. I didn’t know how much longer I had to mope until his patience ran out.
He was pulling my arm. ‘Don’t, Barry,’ I warned.
‘Tully, come on. It’s been three weeks since Hannah died and you’ve been here most of that time. Be brave.’ He managed to drag me into a sitting position, the covers nestled around my waist. ‘Jesus, Tul, you stink. At least have a shower. Change the sheets.’
I slapped his face. Taken by surprise, his head snapped to the right from its force.
‘Why don’t you change the sheets if they bother you so much? I’m not your fucken maid.’
Barry raised his hand to his cheek, already red and blotchy from where I struck him. ‘I’m going to let that pass because you’re sad. But don’t ever hit me again. I don’t deserve that.’
I sensed trouble brewing within him. His eyes flashed.
‘I’ve been patient. Understanding. I know you think you’ve got a dirty little secret, but you don’t,’ Barry said, his voice a low growl.
I flinched. My eyes widened.
‘That’s right. I know all about you and Hannah. Your coke habits. Your afternoons before school pick-up. Your disgusting scene in the bathroom.’ He drew breath, long and slow, before continuing. ‘Now, put her behind you. Get the fuck out of this bed and start being a mother.’
He pulled the covers from around my waist. Nudged my legs to the edge of the bed. My feet rubbed against the plushness of the floor rug. I looked down at my toenails, chipped polish and jagged nails. I nodded. Stood and walked towards our en suite, where I peeled off my pyjamas and let the steaming water pelt into my skin. I washed my hair, shaved my legs and armpits.
When I walked naked back into the bedroom, Barry had stripped the bed sheets and was re-making it with fresh linen. The doona cover too. He’d opened the french doors to our balcony and the curtains were billowing from a light breeze. He’d lit my favourite candle, honeysuckle and musk—a gift from Hannah. He stopped what he was doing, smiled at me and handed me the clothes he’d got out for me.
‘That’s better, Tully. Come back to us, babe.’
And that’s what I pretended to do.