1 + 1 = 3 by Jennifer Harvey

‘There’s this thing he does,’ I say.

She doesn’t let me finish.

‘Yeah, you told me already.’

But I ignore her, because in my head, it’s started already. I can see him. Smell him. Taste him.

Early morning, the air hazy with the musky smell of sex and sleep. Me, flopped on the sofa, still woozy with it all. My eyes smudged with yesterday’s mascara, so when I watch him, it’s like peering through a gauze of last night’s sweat and kisses. All I can do is lie there and watch.

He’s in the kitchen fixing coffee, his every move slow and hypnotic. He flicks a switch, and the oily aroma of freshly ground coffee fills the room. I watch him as he gives the coffee a stamp, then eases it into the machine, which sets to dripping and buzzing.

He knows I’m watching him, I’m sure of it. And that’s when he does this thing. A tiny exhalation. And when I hear it, I think of Marilyn Monroe. And it makes me laugh. Sends a little goose-bump of giggles down my spine.

I exhale.

Gina looks at me, and I see it there behind her eyes, the flicker, the tell.

So I breathe out again and let the whisper of his name whistle through my teeth. And the sound of his name there between us makes her jittery.

‘Whatever you’re thinking, I don’t want to know, okay?’ she says.

‘Yeah, I bet you don’t,’ I think.

And I want to tell her about Marilyn and how sexy it is that he can be like that. Feminine. Strong. Sensual.

I want to tell her about the coffee and the smudged mascara. But she’s spoiled the moment, and already the freshly ground smell is vanishing. I swallow to try and catch what’s left of it, but it’s gone. It feels like he’s evaporating right there in my head, and I think, to hell with it.

‘It’s got so I can’t think straight. You ever had that with a guy?’


‘You know, crazy, breathless, …

‘Can’t say I have.’


She looks at me like she’s daring me to say something, so I push it.

‘You know,’ I tell her. ‘What you need is a guy like Aaron.’

‘Listen, quit going on about him, alright?’

‘Geez, what is it with you? It’s getting so I can’t say a damn thing about him.’

And maybe she thinks I’m going to come straight out now and ask her, she can feel I’m on the verge it, so she puts her arm around my shoulder and says, ‘Sorry. I’ve just got stuff on my mind is all.’

‘Yeah,’ I think. ‘I know you have.’

It’s got that I can see it in her eyes every time she thinks of him. Conflict. Complexity. Right there in her pupils. The way they narrow, then widen, at the mention of his name.

But she knows I’m never gonna chase it. Knows I’m never gonna spoil it.

She knows I’ve done the arithmetic. Knows I’m happy with the score.

One plus one. Sometimes it makes three.



Jennifer Harvey is a Scottish writer now living in Amsterdam. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and the UK. She is a Resident Reader for Carve Magazine and can be found online at www.jenharvey.net or at Twitter @JenAnneHarvey

Image: Alex Wong