And you know, the weird thing is, he does get in touch eventually. Ages after she’d stopped thinking he might, of course. She knows immediately that she’ll go. Tells herself it’s more about satisfying a kind of journalistic curiosity, rather than any real longing. Isn’t necessarily lying either. Makes plans for Friday. Considers the implications of no work and nowhere to be the next morning. Considers cancelling. Doesn’t.
Tries on three different dresses before leaving the house. Decides against her favourite, the red one, because she remembers him saying he always liked her in red. Doubts he remembers saying that, but decides it’s a bit obvious anyway. Wears a not at all unsexy navy wrap instead. Feels it says, I’m really well actually. Says, since you last saw me I have had all sorts of exciting sex. Whispers, but not in a slutty way. Pairs it with snakeskin heels. Feels dangerous. Decides against lipstick after putting it on carefully, wipes it away in the back of the cab. Too messy. Shows incredible restraint in not Googling him beforehand. Not even a quick peak at his Facebook. Wants to be surprised. Or not.
Arrives. Enters. Heads to the bar, smiles warmly at the barman. He smiles back magnificently. (Definitely chose the right dress). Words, money, drinks are exchanged. Sits and waits. Drinks.
He arrives late, mewling apologies. She is genuinely not annoyed. Has never had much capacity for getting angry about these things. Remembers he would always ask her not to be angry. Thinks, was I ever? Says, hello. I was starting to think you’d stood me up.
He laughs. Looks smaller than she remembers. Orders. Is misheard by the bartender once, twice. The third time he just points at the beer round, wordlessly. Something about the gesture, head down, pointing quickly, reminds her of a little boy. Embarrassed, evasive, caught doing something wrong.
So, he says, how are you? She starts talking too quickly. She’s well. Writing. Had a little play on not far from here actually. Senses he knows this already, but continues. Slows down. Starts to enjoy herself. Drinks. That did quite well, so they’ve asked if I would be interested in a more regular slot. Which is good. Pays the rent. Well, almost. Drinks.
Notices; longer hair, less beard. Notices; hands, the same, obviously. Clothes a little smarter, surprisingly. Drinks. Thinks of them in bed together. Drinks. He always smelled delicious. Doesn’t wear anything, just skin. Leans in, still good. He’s talking, work and something else. Has his own place now, couple stops away from the old flat, the one he only had her over to once. She was supposed to go another time but he cancelled right at the last second. Some problem with his flatmate or a friend of his flatmate. Was that the last time they saw each other? Wine hazy, she can’t remember exactly. Does remember he left hers early the next morning. Before eight definitely. Does remember she lay in bed for hours afterwards, stinking, feeling worse and worse.
Eyes him from behind her glass; allows herself a moment of satisfaction. Looks at his hair, so grey now, and remembers when she felt she would never want anyone so badly again. Drinks. He talks and talks. Lots of eye contact. Laughs, leans in. Drinks. Says, you smell good. What is that? Always gave compliments like this, as if the good thing had taken him by surprise. Did it the first time they slept together, looked down at her and said, you actually have really nice eyes. You’re so sexy. You really do taste so good.
Asks after her friends, who he met maybe twice. She realises he is running out of things to say, searching for reminders of the things they talked about then – her job, his job, did he ever go on that holiday, does she see her family more often now, was it weird turning thirty, how is her mum doing, her sister, his friend, how was the wedding, do you know I saw you once, from across the street, do you know I unfollowed you on Instagram, do you know I fell really in love for a little while, oh I didn’t. Do you think about me much?
Excuses herself. Goes to the toilet. Looks in the mirror. Nearly time now, isn’t it? She’s giddy. Drunk. Starving.
Comes outside and sees he’s on his phone. Asks who you texting? Rolls her eyes when he pulls a face and drops the phone into his chest pocket. Feels how she is slightly unsteady on her feet. Regrets not wearing flats. Changes her mind when he stands up and they both pretend not to register how much taller than him she looks now.
They walk together along the Southbank. Stop off at one of the little burger bars. Buy horribly overpriced beer. Sit by the river. Drink. Everything moving fast now. Drink. Talk. Drink. Kiss. Oops. He laughs, shrugs, and leans back in. She has her hand on his chest. Feels it throb. He softens. Pulls her in. She reasons she is allowed one small moment of weakness. One relenting. Tastes like; beer plus something sweet. Sweet and kind of tangy. Metallic.
Pulls away and surveys the damage. Feels a little grossed out. Feels bad about the mess.
Feels nothing really.
Wipes her mouth. Untangles herself and gets up. Walks away. Looks back. He could be sleeping like that, head resting on a folded arm. Thinks she sees him twitch. Still breathing then. Wonders if anyone will find him in time. Half worries about CCTV. Walks to the station. Takes the train. Crawls home. Removes clothes and outer layer of skin. Scrubs newly raw flesh in the shower. Slips into bed. Rests easy. Sleeps. Dreams.
Rosie Parry is a writer living in London. You can chat to her here: twitter.com/
Image via unsplash.