The number for the bistro is by the phone. We’re not expecting Sebastian to wake, but you just never know with babies. If you hear whimpering down the monitor, tiptoe into Sebastian’s room, carefully fish around for his dummy and gently pop it back in his mouth. Whatever you do, don’t turn on the light. Last time a babysitter did that Sebastian was up all night. We didn’t get a wink of sleep, did we? Absolute disaster. By the way, Fiona-from-over-the-road might pop across to return our grill tongs.
The babysitter maintains eye contact, nodding her reassurance, disguising her irritation at the threat of the sleuthing neighbour, which she suspects is an empty one. She extends a perfunctory ‘Bon appetit!’as they leave. The door thumps in its frame and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss rattles against the wall.
The babysitter lets out a sigh that fills the house with all the meanings of all the sighs there ever were. She has so much revision to do – but first she needs to decompress.
The babysitter watches an old episode of Cheers, but Sam and Diane’s will-they-won’t-they soon wears thin on the massive screen. Basic Instinct isn’t on till ten. The babysitter should be testing herself on key concepts in modern sociology.
The babysitter doesn’t know why she goes upstairs. Certainly not to check on the baby, though she pauses on the landing until she hears the tiny sound of whispery breathing. She finds herself in the bathroom, twisting a stiff gold tap. The old pipes judder into life – a pair of startled horses, galloping in the rain. The babysitter undresses, dismissing the tiny flickers of unease as her garments form a messy heap on the floorboards. They didn’t say don’t have a bath.
The babysitter swirls luxury pine-scented bath oil into the steaming water. She lowers herself in.
The babysitter has never had an orgasm. If she leaves it up to her boyfriend, perhaps she never will. It’s a point of frustration and embarrassment on both sides. She closes her eyes and inhales the pines: a meandering walk through a dappled French forest to a beautiful white sand beach.
What if Diane said to Sam: ‘I can’t damn well take it any more. I have to have you – now!’? What if Sam went down on Diane right there on the sticky, beer-ringed bar? The babysitter’s boyfriend says he is building up to cunnilingus. He’s been saying this for weeks. He makes it sound like a half marathon and she wonders what, exactly, he is doing to prepare.
The babysitter closes her eyes, dismissing the image of the hefty textbook with its massive chapter headings. As if in an act of protest, she discovers a more delicate, leisurely way to touch herself. The babysitter’s sense of time and place evaporates with the pine-scented steam.
And then it happens – finally.
Afterwards, the babysitter is all stupefied triumph; a useless, pink, panting jelly. There’s a whole herd of wild horses galloping in her ears.
Lazily, she tunes back into her pine-infused surroundings and listens out –
a wailing baby
a ringing telephone
frantic banging on the front door
Biography: Lucy Goldring is a Northerner hiding in Bristol, UK. Lucy has a story in Best Microfiction 2022 and appears in Dr Tania Hershman’s charity anthology of winning flash, ‘Fuel’. She’s been shortlisted by the National Flash Fiction Day three times and twice selected for their anthology. Twitter: @livingallover Website: livingallover.com