She bites down on the soft fondant of your breast and the pain is a high-wire whine like she bit your heart, the screech of wet finger circling the rim of a glass. I could be here every night, she told you, as easy as coming home, and yet every night when she was not here you learned the gaping ecstasy of the word yearn and your wisdom made you hopeful and sad.
You hear that sound again, years later, when your ex, as he then is, your friend again, just, asks, bravely: do you ever see what’s-her-name? Maybe every coupling is no more than a white breast and some teeth and we’re all of us breaster, breastee.
His hand on your arm. You feel next to nothing, it’s a couple of drinks for old time’s sake. He went and asked and now you can’t help it, you don’t care if he notices the instant colour in your face, you close your eyes, it’s little more than a blink and there she is, naked or not naked. Naked. Her skin up-lit by the orange-pink glow from the lamp on the one nightstand you saved from the fire. Her absence back then was potent as fuck, giving you when she wasn’t there what he tried to when he was, and her presence now, sudden and dazzling, is a gift after all the gloom.
You think about her hands, waiting for you, and what they could do. How one of them waved you off , all butter wouldn’t melt, the other lightly gripping the scrambled message of her hair. How she warned you and you wouldn’t listen (you listened) and she left you like she said she would, how, despite that, she’s never left you; how desolation smells exactly like pepperoni pizza and you never really thought about your skin until she made you feel yours was something.
Not any more, you say. You did see her once, on Cover Down High Street near the building society and you’re sure she saw you. She looked assured, academic, pointing skywards with her free hand: a bird? A plane? No oil painting, the girlfriend. His nod is complicated. It makes you long for home. He looks buoyed, among other things, as though he’s taken your answer to mean what it doesn’t mean.
Kate Smith is an ex lawyer, now a writer of fiction and comedy. Her first novel, The Negligents, (Valley Press 2018) was written after an MA in Creative Writing from MMU. She’s currently working on her second along with some radio comedy. Kate has been shortlisted for the BBC’s New Voices for Radio competition and BBC Radio 5’s Rachael Bland Podcast award, and her first sitcom Pick Me (written with Rachel Genn) was runner up in the Funny Women Awards.
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