Blesok no. 51, November-December, 2006

from the novel “Bitter Honey”

Andrej E. Skubic

    I met Jason for the first time in almost seven years. We were students together; and though we never belonged to the same crowd, you could say we had a kind of weird relationship. Not only did he not belong to my crowd, he didn’t belong to any crowd. No one really liked him and I never quite knew why. Gill once even said she thought he was smarmy; I never saw him like that. To me he looked somehow … funny. He was a good student who never lowered himself to any unbecoming carry-ons at Union bashes; on the contrary, he looked strangely shy, reserved, and sometimes – when things turned a bit rowdy – ill at ease and downright embarrassed. Veronica summed him up as an undershagged middle class jessie, but I thought she was being a bit over the top there, all in all. There was something else about him, something I couldn’t quite nail down.
    At uni, Jason was going out with a lassie called Helen, a student of Italian, a short, plump, couthy lassie who always looked cheerful and seemed to be somewhat motherly. They always seemed to be such a good couple; with his shyness, Jason looked a little lost, and Helen was perfect for him, a mum who’d protect him from this bugger of a world. But still, I always felt he was – unbelievable as this may sound – interested in me in some way. I couldn’t quite describe how.
    For one thing, whenever we met he would invite me for coffee with an unusual, quiet kind of enthusiasm. His invitations weren’t casual, over-the-shoulder like those of other students, yours included. Behind them you could feel a genuine desire; they were serious, determined, almost anxious. He actually cared whether I’d go or not. I have no idea what gave me this impression, perhaps something in his body language, in his looks. I wondered if he was inviting other people for coffee like that – did he make this impression on everybody? There was no way of knowing, since I never knew anyone else who was invited for coffee. His eagerness wasn’t conspicuous enough to be presumptuous or even pushy; not at all, I actually liked going. He turned out to be – once he opened up – quite intelligent, a bit of a laugh, funny; he didn’t look bad either. In his own very discreet way he was obliging, which seems to be a fairly rare quality in men these days. And there was something else about him that seemed nice, something I couldn’t really put my finger on. Maybe it was his hands – I always found them so unusually well-shaped. I think Jason had the most exquisite hands of any man I've ever seen. Maybe because of that I just made up everything else. Maybe I only wanted him to be interested in me. But I didn’t know how to make sense of this interest; it bothered me. I wanted to savvy it. But to be fair, I never gave him much chance to come clean, really. By then I had you, and I never really had any genuine intentions with him. Our worlds were so different. Still, in a way, I thought it was too bad we’d never met again after uni – I hadn't even heard from him and nor had anyone else.
    We met by accident when I was coming home from work, in Buchanan Street, right in front of the Mackintosh café. He was wearing an ancient-looking beige Crombie, and looked exactly the same as he had at university – somehow mousy. I almost expected him to get a beamer at the sight of me. He immediately invited me for coffee, again in his typically anxious way. I couldn’t help feeling exactly the way I had back then, me confused and uncertain as well. What’s wrong with this bloke? Or with me? He told me he worked for the NHS (salary not too bad, thank God, could be better though), and lived downtown now, in the Merchant City, actually. He and Helen had been married for years. A daughter, three and a half years old. Unruly as hell. As he pattered on, I just kept looking at him and couldn’t understand how quickly the time had passed. Look at the guy – back at university he looked like a laddie embarrassed to hear the word ‘shag’ and now he's married, raising the fruit of a shag, works for the NHS and pays off a mortgage for a pad in the Merchant City. And me still in the place in Argyle Street I had inherited back in my halcyon student days, with a man who wanders the earth in search of his real self, and at this age I have no idea what to do with my life. The time must have passed so quickly it escaped my notice pretty bloody successfully. What, was I still living through my student days?
    After some hesitation, Jason asked me if I’d like to go with him to a gig in an Ashton Lane pub the next night. I'd never heard of the band. Helen was busy, he said, studying for her Mlitt. He said this in a way that made it clear he wasn’t too happy about it (no, not particularly, thank you), so it would really mean a lot to him if I could help him out one way or another. I thought it over. Could there be anything wrong with going? What? Two old pals from college going out for a drink in a pub? It came to my mind that, in the old days, he would never have asked me to something like that: it was hard to imagine him going deliberately to a rock gig, though Ashton Lane kind of seemed the right place for him. He seemed to have changed a bit in other areas too, not only in the professional department. For the better, that was for sure. It was quite amusing, the way he looked at me. Good old Jason. Yes, that was one thing he hadn’t changed. Thankfully.
    We went to that pub the next night. It was OK. Jason was fun, he didn’t consume ten pints of lager and then stagger around the bus stop like most men I knew. We had a great time, really. When I was going home he asked me where I usually had lunch. It turned out he knew a good café with North African food just a hundred yards from Sauciehall Street, not far from where I worked. He mentioned he often went there around one.
    After that we met there for lunch quite often, say once or twice a week. The café was OK. Jason was a vegetarian and he adored North African and Middle Eastern food. We blethered about loads of things. Gradually I began to uncover a new picture of Jason and Helen. They were not OK, he told me. Hadn’t been for a long time. Actually, he was beginning to think they never had been. Helen’s sonsy appearance and mumsy attitude were apparently hiding – what a cliché – an unconscious, overpowering desire to keep a tight rein on things. At first this may only have showed in her attitude towards him – about which he had no complaints then – but it later turned out that her ambitions were greater. Helen wanted to keep her motherly reins not only on her husband but on other people around her as well: she wanted to have life completely, unconditionally under her control. After the wean arrived, her interest in Jason thinned. At first he saw her sudden coldness as a sign that she had simply redirected her emotions to the daughter for a while, which was only normal; but after a few months of maternity leave, it was becoming obvious that something else was bothering her. Helen was clearly beginning to panic. Yes, she saw things outby going their own way; and she felt her control was slipping and that she might never get it back. She decided something had to be done. If she wanted to stay on top of things, she had to be better than everybody else. She decided to go back to university.

Apparently, the more Helen felt things were slipping, the stronger her will to prove herself grew. Slowly but surely Jason began to disappear from her picture of the world. They began to drift apart. Their sex life started to die away like an organ with the blood supply cut off – first with occasional prickling and smarting, and later with numbness and surreptitious coldness. It threatened to turn into gangrenous tissue that would ultimately poison their relationship. Jason said that, in her eyes, sex had apparently turned into a threat that might give birth to new problems: another wean, and then another and another, wean after wean, frustrating her over and over again and moving her goals even further away. Still, she couldn’t let their relationship fall apart; that again would ruin everything. Her plans didn’t include a broken marriage; this would complicate everything so much. At least what has already been taken care of must work on: starting from scratch would take too much of her precious energy. So Helen made an effort to keep the gangrene at bay, or rather, she put their sex on ice. She was available whenever he wanted; just that sex with her became like fishing in a sludgy puddle in which all the fish have gone belly up. Helen did her best to make it all look perfect. And it did. It was just that Jason was less and less enthusiastic about it.
    But he was just as funny and affable as he could be in the old days. His wide, glowing smile made up for his slightly dull appearance, and his hands were just as beautiful as they always had been. While he was eating, his movements were different, something special: for example, he held his fork like a pen. Lunches with him were fun. He even seemed to be warming to me, which I quite liked. I had a feeling that maybe now I’d get to the bottom of the old mystery I’d somehow suppressed but never solved. I had the time now; I could play differently. Also, his interest suited me. It suited me that I, still just a lassie, was interesting to somebody real, to a man with a wean, with his own flat, with a job – someone who, after all, was not a common horny bastard but a nice bloke with the most beautiful hands in Glasgow. In a way it was making me part of this real world, this other time that seemed to have overtaken me, escaped me while I wasn’t watching.
    So I wasn’t really surprised when, one late summer weekend, he invited me for a trip to the Trossachs, to Loch Katrine. I must admit I thought the idea slightly weird; even after everything he had told me about his relationship with Helen, it was still a little wild. He assured me Helen didn’t mind a bit but he’d tell her (just in case) that he was going with a friend and his wife. I didn’t really think twice. It wasn’t because it was him who invited me: I was just very tired at the time. Work at the bank was becoming hell just then and I needed a break; I hadn’t been out of Glasgow for months and, as you know, I really love the Trossachs. And if I could use the trip to make some progress in my attempts to solve his mystery, so much the better. Jason offered to book two single rooms in a nice B&B. So that Saturday we left in his car.
    There isn’t really much to tell about the trip itself. It was nice and, anyway, you know what the Trossachs are like in late summer when the heather is blooming and the weather is fine. We walked a lot and were pretty knackered by the evening. We had dinner in a local pub, followed by two pints of heavy each. I don’t know why, probably because I was so tired, but the pints seemed to have made me kind of dizzy. I wasn’t drunk at all. You know very well I’m not drunk after two pints. But I felt kind of funny, cheerful. When we stepped out of the pub and went home, it was still daylight, and we walked down a gravel footpath not far from the road. The footpath wound through a thin ancient forest, accompanied by a burn trickling deep in a peaty gully. We talked about books. From his chipper talk you could see that – never mind his enthusiasm about his work – he was actually sorry he hadn’t stuck to his old love, literature, taking a proper and well-paid job instead. Well, at least as far as that was concerned, I could empathise. We talked about the books both of us hadread recently. I remember he said he’d read Foreign Parts by Janice Galloway and I thought it was funny he liked such a, well, feminine book. But I liked that. We arrived at a wee bridge across the burn, not far from our B&B. The gully widened here and made a gap in the forest so that you could see the Highlands to the north. It was about ten and the sun was setting. We stopped on the bridge and leaned against the railing. The distant hills were slowly turning ashy green, becoming dull and lifeless.
    I swear I’ve no idea how it happened. All of a sudden he had his arm across my shoulders and his face was touching mine. I didn’t even know what was going on but his tongue was in my mouth and I felt the taste of his saliva and his soft, slightly beery tongue. I never intended anything like that. It wasn’t part of my plan. I expected he might try something of the kind – I was prepared for it. I even hoped he’d try to come out this way, and I’d of course respond with one of my many prepared one-liners – all different, all essentially friendly but definitive rejections. But when the moment finally came, I just couldn’t resist. There was no time for it. I didn’t remember. I only felt that it was quite nice, kissing him on that bridge. It was becoming cold, and the occasional pricks on our arms and necks implied the interest of the first evening swarms of midges. It was time to go back to our B&B.
    Of course he expected we’d end up in the same room – that is, in the same bed. I said no. Enough was enough. It was a trip. I came here for a little break from Glasgow, not for suspicious adventures of a sexual nature. I was still slightly dizzy from what’d just happened, but I was soon in control again. More than that, I felt I could now lead him round by the nose. It was perfectly clear that he thought he’d won, got his foot in the door; if nothing else, the first step was successful, and everything else would come naturally. I, on the other hand, couldn’t quite come to terms with my own feelings, I was still so surprised at my reaction. Anyway, I knew I was the one holding all the cards. I could turn him this way and that at will. I had what he wanted, and if he by any chance thought he had successfully used me, so much the better. If anybody used anybody here, I’d make use of him. In my own time.
    After we returned from Loch Katrine I didn’t see him for a while. He could have been making some plans in the meantime, but I didn’t care. I felt light as never before. I wrote you a long e-mail, full of loving words. I really loved you. I had so much to tell you. Not everything yet though. But I knew there’d be a time for that, too. First I had to give you so many other things I had discovered in me. The whole affair with Jason was completely irrelevant. I kept it in a kind of parallel universe and it had nothing to do with you; perhaps only as much as it made me feel more alive, and this made both of us more alive.

When we again met for lunch after a few days, he didn’t even mention our little dirty weekend. He was courteous and funny, but without any liberties you might expect from a passionate kisser from a romantic trip a few days earlier. I liked that. He must’ve taken note of my reservation that night; and he behaved as you would expect from a guy like him. With understanding. He was the epitome of tact. By the way he also mentioned that he had a new book of short stories by Janice Galloway that had just come out. I asked him about it. He said it was good, and when I didn’t stop he promised he’d bring it with him when we next met. We went on for some time, talking about the night before at The Tap (I had gone there for a drink with Catriona and Veronica), and he laughed at my description of Veronica’s argument with a woman who didn’t approve of Veronica putting on All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow four times in one hour. Finally he mentioned he had a CD of hers at home. I confessed I had very few CDs at home, (they're expensive, for fuck's sake, who has that kind of money, only Scottish health officers, and so on). Could he tape it for me? Of course he could. Jason modestly mentioned his own CD collection was fairly large. He was quiet for some time, then suddenly said: I finish at five. Would you like to come over to my place for coffee? You could pick some more music for taping.
    I probably gave him a funny look because he immediately added: Helen’s away, she’s away to Edinburgh for two days. She has some business at Napier and wants to catch up with some friends. It’s just a coffee, if you’ve nothing better to do.
    Why the hell shouldn’t I come over for coffee? I knew him well enough to know that there was no danger of violent harassment from his side; we were friends, after all. I knew he wouldn’t do anything I wouldn’t want him to. And besides, I was the one holding the cards, wasn’t I? He’d shown his hand, I hadn’t mine. So: a coffee and some music. Then I could also borrow some music. Even you couldn’t say there was anything wrong with that.
    Back at work I was wondering if I should buy a little something for his daughter. He’d probably pick her up from nursery school after work, and a little gift would be a proper start to a new friendship. I was wondering what she was like: was she more like the plump, dark Helen or more like Jason with his sleek fair hair and round coupon? But I had no time for shopping and, as it turned out, it was for the better. We didn’t stop at the nursery; little Mairi was at her Granny’s, with Helen’s mother in Ayr, said Jason. OK then. When we came to his place and I looked around, I realised – with a speck of completely unnecessary surprise – that a flat in Merchant City doesn’t necessarily entail luxury. It was small and murky but very neat, and the furniture was slightly ostentatious. You could recognise Helen’s hand in it. Jason showed me an almost full CD rack which must’ve had room for at least a hundred discs. Then he went to the kitchen to make the coffee. I stood by the rack and browsed through the titles. After a while I decided I’d make my picks later; my head was still bursting from work that afternoon. A crazy time at the bank, these audits.
    I put on a Laura Nyro record and stared out the window. It was raining outby. The rain was gushing from the dark grey skies, washing the gloomy façades of the tall, rotting buildings across the street. I thought how you must be having an altogether different time now, down there in the south; the temperature probably never falls below thirty degrees there at this time of year. You complained about the terrible heat in your recent e-mails.
    When Jason returned, he placed the tray with two mugs and a plate of biscuits on the table. There was also a mug of milk and a sugar bowl. I turned towards him, then walked to the table and sat down. Laura Nyro was singing about a bloke who doesn’t like her when she cries. Jason sat next to me and smiled.
    What happened next? I don’t know, truly. I know we talked about something but I’ve no idea what. It’s so long ago. I don’t even know if I remembered the next day. Probably not.
    Anyway, we talked for some time. We also drank some coffee. Finally, Jason put his mug on the table and, when he turned to me, I suddenly realized I had his tongue in my mouth again. I was sure it was him who made the first step; he must’ve leaned towards me and kissed me. But, weird, I don’t even really remember his tongue in my mouth, just mine in his. It tasted of coffee and also of something else, whisky perhaps. Maybe he’d had a dram back in the kitchen. For courage. Too bad he hadn’t offered me one. I could’ve used it.
    After a while I slipped away and said I had to go to the toilet. Jason looked somewhat confused, as if he didn’t quite know what came next – was I going to flee out the door or what? When I stepped into the corridor he was still looking at me. Then – I could see through the open living room door when I entered the bathroom – he reached for his coffee and stared ahead.
    In the bathroom I stared at the mirror. What the hell do you think you’re doing? I asked. What do you think you’re doing? You’re kissing a married man in his home. A man who’s quite nice and understanding but who you’re definitely not in love with. I hadn’t thought for a moment I was in love with him. He just wasn’t my type. Did I think of you then? No. You just weren’t there at the time. I sat on the bowl and took a pee. I took a tissue – they had loud yellow toilet paper, who’d have thought – and wiped myself. Then I stared at the pale green bidet next to the toilet bowl.
    Blank-headed I sat on the bidet and washed myself. I thought of nothing. I used the towel hanging nearby. It was probably Helen’s. It was pink and very soft. I pulled up my panties and black tights, then flushed the toilet. I looked at myself in the mirror once more. I looked just like I did on any other day.
    When I stepped out of the bathroom, Jason was in the corridor. He looked nervous; he stood there like he didn’t quite know what he was doing, guarding the bathroom or something. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. He put his hand on the back of my head and kissed me. I didn’t draw back. I kissed him back. He placed his hand on my breasts.
    The next thing I remember was the couch in the living room. I was sitting on his lap and he was pulling my shirt off, at the same time trying to reach under my skirt. He didn’t quite know how to handle the tights. I felt a weird excitement raging in me such as I hadn’t felt in a while. I was touching him too, touching him all over. Well, did I think of anything then? Yes, I thought this was impossible, this would lead nowhere. I just wasn’t capable of sleeping with somebody like that, with a married man – that’s something forbidden, something people disapprove of, something my parents would disapprove of, my friends, even you. I knew this couldn’t go on; something just had to get in the way and stop us. I’m not someone who does things like that. I thought about what was going to get in the way and when. I was thinking about that even as I was naked and he was desperately struggling to get his trousers off. I was watching him undress, his slightly plump white body and his neat blond hair. He tried to mount me right there on the couch. It didn’t work, it was too narrow and awkward. We kissed and stroked each other, my heart pumping. It was impossible. Impossible.

I felt like I was observing from the outside how we slid to the floor and landed on the carpet between the table and the telly. I simply watched this woman, Claire, lying on her back and slowly spreading her legs under his hot but gentle body, and now, for the first time, allowed for the possibility that maybe nothing would get in the way, that it could just really happen. I wanted it to happen. It had to happen. If it didn’t have to, something would surely get in the way. But nothing did.
    As Jason entered that woman on the floor, she moaned and closed her eyes. Then she slowly began to emit from deep inside her tiny, quiet sounds, like whining.
    For some time we plied each other in silence, interrupted only by the quiet moans coming from both of us. It was beautiful. I knew now that sex with Jason was fabulous, fabulous and gentle, though he looked like he was about to explode with excitement any minute. After a while, when I felt he was almost coming, and also felt the hard floor rub against the small of my back, I gently pushed him to change position. He understood immediately. He withdrew from me and sat down.
    Have you got a condom, I said. This was weird. When I heard my voice I realised it really was me. The wise, careful Claire. Of course, Jason had the condoms ready in a second. They must’ve been prepared somewhere, waiting in a drawer next to the telly. He surely didn’t keep them there for Helen. I somehow couldn’t quite imagine them shagging in the living room while little Mairi was … where? At nursery school with her picture books? When he put the condom on I gently pushed him back and he lay flat on the floor; then I mounted him. I sat on him of my own free will, I sucked him in. Voluntarily.
    We started moving again. I rubbed against him with all my weight, with him grabbing my hips and my tits. I pressed hard, feeling the tip of his pelvis in my crotch and, for a while, thought how I was probably chafing the small of his back against the rough carpet. But I didn’t care. He’d let me know if he minded. I was rubbing against his pounding pelvis, feeling his smooth belly without a single hair on it. My hand circled his trunk, pressing against it, feeling him, deeper; I wanted to really feel what I was doing. Till he suddenly groaned. Oh, no, don’t say it. Yes. Well, Jason, for God’s sake.
    I rolled off him and lay on the carpet. Jason was breathing heavily, his face was flushed and his eyes were wet. He was just lying flat on his back, staring up. I looked at him for a while. What a face. I couldn’t help thinking of my science teacher back at high school who always managed to screw up his chemical experiments one way or another. When occasionally a demonstration was successful, he went into a state of incredulous shock. Jason looked just like that. Couldn’t believe what had happened. Then I rolled to one side, looking away. For some reason it was difficult to look at him this way. I just lay there, listening to the rain outside. It was one of those rains that look determined to last forever.
    God, that was fantastic, said Jason. Better than I dared hope it would be. I said nothing. I heard some kind of movement behind my back. Something was going on, a squelching sound, as if he was taking off the condom and doing something with it, packing it up, saving it. Some more time passed during which I felt nothing, then he suddenly lay down next to me and put an arm around me. That was nice of him. He was warm and I’d been beginning to feel cold, lying naked on the carpet. Though I was still tense, I felt very comfortable.
    I’ve no idea how long we were lying there. I was almost dozing off but the floor was too hard, and anyway I was becoming aware of the dirt, the dust against my skin. I was lying naked on the carpet, for God’s sake. I wanted to get up, to lean on my elbow, perhaps to say something, when I felt it was starting again. It was just in the air.
    Jason was suddenly caressing me again. It was a nice feeling. He was warm, soft, he was heating me up from behind like some kind of big, friendly creature that would protect me from anything bad that might happen. For a while I kept thinking about the dust and the tiny specks of dirt I felt on my skin under me, even about how it might be better to go to the bedroom, but I banished the thought immediately. Helen’s and his bed – this would be a bit too much after all. Anyway, I felt that the presence of this chummy, loving creature could really protect me from everything, including the dirt if necessary. He reached for my tits and squeezed the nipples gently with his fingers. It was slightly painful, but not too much, not unpleasant. He surely knew I liked that; he did it to make me feel good. I felt movement at my butt, where his hot, wet prick was pressed. He moved a little so that I felt a cold wetness at the spot where his soft, warm skin had been. I felt he was becoming hard again. Under his tender, curious fingers I was waking up too.
    Finally, as I began to feel I was going to explode, to simply pump up under his fingers like some frog trying to outscream the night, the stars, the whole lot, as I was about to be sucked into a glorious spasm that would tear me away from him and make me implode, he rolled me on to my stomach with a gentle gesture and slipped on top of me. I raised my butt to make it easier for him; there wasn’t a moment to lose, as they say. He entered me and I almost screamed.
    I don’t know how long it went on. My legs were spread and I was holding my butt up to feel precisely the movement of his body, his balls on my wetness. I had a feeling that the whole room, no, the whole world, including you, (but no, not you, you weren’t even in the picture), was condensed in this pounding, into this feeling of something alive inside me, something wild, twisting and twitching. Then again, suddenly, without a hint of warning, completely inappropriately and way too bloody early, he moaned and sighed, like he suddenly remembered something horribly sad, something so moving that he just couldn’t go on. He collapsed on me and pressed himself against my back.
    I began to feel slightly silly.
    That was out of this world, he said after a while in a slightly husky voice as he rolled off me and lay again on the carpet, still breathing heavily and blushing once again. He lay with his eyes closed for some time while I, slowly, carefully, turned on my back. My knees were red and sore. My elbows likewise. Combat wounds. Smashing. And what did I have to show for it? My head was blank. After a while Jason opened his eyes and peeped over at me. His look was amorous. How was it for you? he inquired.
    I shrugged. How do you reply to such a question?
    Good, I said. It really wasn’t that bad, after all. He was good. Very gentle but with a speck of authority that made you feel you were in competent hands; this was actually a turn-on. All the time he was creating the impression that he cared about my feelings. He tried to make it good for me too. But what’s the use when he's so short-winded? Just a little short, I added.
    You haven’t come? he gawked. I shrugged again. He was suddenly on his side, turned towards me. I turned my head and looked him in the eye. I felt his hand reach across my belly to my crotch. I wanted to move, to protest, to say he didn’t need to, but something stopped me. I felt a little daft but I was grateful. I went along with the movement of his fingers. I was completely relaxed. It went on for a few minutes, during which time I mainly had my eyes closed and absorbed the electric impulses coming from my crotch somewhere deep in my belly. I felt safe. Nothing could go wrong. I didn’t have to say anything when I came, as he was looking at my face all the time and, at the moment I tightened up and opened my mouth to let out a scarcely audible sound, perhaps some kind of undeveloped and inarticulate rudiment of the word “thanks”, his fingers stopped and stayed relaxed between my thighs like a warm, safe shell, soft and endless.

I stood at the bus stop half an hour later and stared at the black tips of my boots washed by the rain, I felt a little weird. There were quite a few people at the bus stop and I was wondering if they could see that I’d just, after the first sociable orgasm in half a year, solved the mystery of the impulses coming from my university acquaintance. At least we'd got to the bottom of one thing, even if we’d opened up so many new problems with it. One of them I couldn’t get out of my mind: the light bulb had gone out in my kitchen, and because of the whole carry-on I'd forgotten to buy a new one. Bloody shite, the kitchen will be dark all night.
    What now? I was standing at the Queen Street bus stop. In our city. But if I pictured your face, I simply couldn’t explain to myself I’d just cheated on you. I hadn’t. That’s just …
    You had nothing at all to do with it. You’re my man and I love you. But this was something I had to do, I had to explore. It was my little project. Maybe it got a bit out of hand on occasions but I brought it to a successful conclusion. Everything was clear now: I knew I’d never do anything like that with Jason again. I simply didn’t need to. It wouldn’t make any sense. I don’t need a married lover with a baby, do I? If he still hopes for something like that, well, so much the worse for him. I’m yours. Our relationship will never be like Jason and Helen’s. There’s no doubt that that’s what I want, not him.
    It was bucketing down. The sky was grey and, in the falling darkness, acquiring a heavy, almost nightmarish appearance. My body didn’t quite respond to external stimuli, to the cold wind predicting autumn, to the tiny droplets on my hair and face. My body was still somehow floating, like it still couldn’t believe what unexpected fun I’d organized for it. At what Claire was capable of. I was happy I was capable of it. Everything was fine, it was all over. Done. But could I just forget about it now?
    It was so daft. Why would I force myself to tell you about it? Out of sincerity for sincerity’s sake, for some kind of purity in our relationship? Why should I tell you something that would surely hurt you? And why should I hurt you with something that had nothing to do with you? I shivered at the very thought of how you’d react. But still …
    There’s apparently at least one decision left to keep me busy for the next few months.
    The bus splashed me with water. My black tights were soaked, a chilly damp feeling against my skin. So what? I had other things to consider. Top of the list was – what a nuisance – having to spend the night with a dark kitchen. I got on the bus.

Translated by the Author

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