‘Well, we find ourselves here again.’
Brett was lying on his back, the bed sheets twisted around his legs and Cathy resting in the nook of his shoulder. He reached for his pack of cigarettes and lit one. He offered it to Cathy who shook her head.
‘Gave up five years ago,’ she said, by way of explanation.
‘Really?’ He took a drag, blew the residual smoke out to form rings, and wondered what else he’d missed in the time since they last met. ‘Why?’
‘Well, they’re bad for you. For a start.’ Cathy scoffed and snuggled deeper into his arms.
‘What else has changed for you since we last did this?’
‘Got divorced. Kids have moved out of home. Won the lottery.’
‘Wait! What?’ He choked while inhaling.
‘Won seven mill about three years ago.’ She wriggled around to face him. Her chin rested on his chest; she loved to see the reaction on people’s faces as this bit of news registered.
‘You’re joking.’ Eyes wide. Brows high on his forehead. His hairline—what was left of it—even shifted upwards.
‘Nope, not joking. It was a $30 million prize pool, and I was one of six winners, I think. Was a bitch to have to share it, but hey. I’m still pretty happy.’
‘What’d you do with the winnings?’
‘Bought a new house. Put some away for the kids. Went on a holiday with Jim. That was when I discovered he’d been cheating on me. So as soon as we came home, we separated. Amicably. Divorce was finalised last June.’
‘Felt like a hypocrite, given our history.’ Cathy said. ‘But, I did tell him about our interludes. He even agreed it was different. His affair was ongoing, long-term, whereas we only hook up every now and then.’
Brett sighed. ‘About that,’ he said. He shifted in the bed so Cathy had to move off his chest. He leaned on his elbow, took the last drag of his cigarette and stubbed it in the ashtray. ‘I’ve been wondering if you wanna make a go of it.’
‘What?’ Cathy frowned.
‘We’ve been doing this since our late 20s. We’re good together. What’s the point of this arrangement now neither of us are with someone else?’
‘I enjoy my space. I love being alone. How’s that sound?’
Brett’s face fell. He wanted her full-time. Always had. But there was something icy within her that he’d never been able to split through. He suspected Jim hadn’t either, which goes a way to explain his affair, now that he thought about it. She’d made up the Rules of Interludes—her term for their arrangement—twenty years ago when her first child was under one; he figured the rules had something to do with the new baby. But they’d never changed, she’d never relaxed them. He stared at her; he knew every inch of that face. The freckles over her nose, the scar on her jaw from the cancerous mole removed when she was 35, and the way her chin gave way to her neck. He traced it with his finger now, continuing down to her breasts.
‘Come on Cath. No excuse now. I know you love me. We have something here. Let’s not waste it by just meeting in hotels every few years.’
‘That’s what keeps it good, Brett.’ Honestly, you give a man a bit of nooky and he turns stupid. She leapt from the bed and began to dress, her fingers flying over clasps and buttons.
‘What are…where are you going?’ Brett didn’t imagine, in the times he’d rehearsed this, that she’d respond like this. Miffed. Outraged even. He was speechless as he watched her fling on her clothes.
As she wriggled into her jacket, Cathy said, ‘I’m out. Sorry. You can call me in five years. Or not. Your choice.’
Picking up her handbag, Cathy left the stately hotel room with Brett still in the bed, his mouth gaping open in confusion.