Short Story 2: The Morning After
(Another one from the writing group but this time not an exercise so doesn’t really have a theme.)
The Morning After
She lay silently on her side of the bed, watching his chest rise and fall as he took long deep breaths in, out, producing a familiar humming sound. He always slept flat on his back even if he started off on his side. At some point in his twenty six years of existence, his body had decided that it gained the most rest if he slept lying upright and as still as a corpse. It freaked most people out but she was used to it by now. In, out, deep breaths, hum.
“I can’t sleep if you’re watching me,” he spoke sharply without opening his eyes. Anyone else would have been startled by the sudden break in the silence but she didn’t seem troubled.
“We need to talk.”
He ignored her and carried on pretending to sleep, it was now obvious that was what he had been doing for a while.
“You have to tell her.”
That did the trick. He opened his eyes and turned to look at her with small piercing eyes still heavy with sleep but trying really hard to intimidate. She stared him down and he turned away.
“If you don’t tell her, I will.”
At this he rose from the bed in one swift movement and went into the connecting bathroom. She waited for the obligatory flush and lay there whilst he brushed his teeth with the spare toothbrush he had kept at her flat for years. She was sick of this. Sick of lying to herself about the situation. Sick of watching him lie to his wife of three years. Claire. Her friend. The mother of his twin sons. How could he live with himself, going home to them with stories spun so well that he probably even believed them a little? She could barely sleep when he spent the night at her tiny one bedroom flat, the guilt tore her apart like nothing else had ever done.
The bathroom door opened and he stepped out, went to the chair where his jacket was draped and pulled out his mobile phone.
“You’re not going to tell her. If you do, she’ll never speak to you again. You’ve known all this while and you’ve never said a word to her.” He was talking as if he was not in the wrong and it was all her fault that any of this had happened. He didn’t even bother looking up from the screen as he spoke.
“Andrew, I’m serious. I don’t care if she never speaks to me again. I don’t care if I never see my godsons again. I don’t care about any of that.” Of course she cared, but she had to make her point. “If you don’t tell her by the end of the week, I’ll do it for you. It’s been too long. Too long. Too many excuses…”
She remembered the first time she had run into him and Melissa at a quiet little bar in Old Street while Claire was at home in Moor Park with the kids. He had said she was a work colleague and she had believed him. And then she had seen them again in another bar in Old Street, this time sitting in a more secluded area and obviously not discussing any structural engineering issues. He had come round to hers later that night, apologetic but not repentant. That was the first time he had spent the night at hers after meeting Melissa. That had been eight months ago. She was disgusted at herself for letting it go on for so long. She was two years older than him and yet he was the one in total control of the situation. He had always managed to find a way to put off the inevitable even when they were children and now he had perfected the act.
He smiled at a text message he had received during the night, probably from Melissa, and snapped the phone shut. Claire had called twice and he hadn’t even bothered returning her calls. She knew where he was. She always knew he would be at Barbara’s when he worked late because she lived in the city.
“I’m off sis. Thanks for sharing your lovely flat again.” A cheeky grin and he was off home to his family.
Barbara sighed deeply as she heard the front door slam. Then she picked up her phone and called his wife.