What struck her was the sunlight. She’d never noticed it that way before. Dappling, copper coloured. She’d wanted to sink into the pool of light – spilt on the kitchen table – and never return. But a police siren caught her attention in the outside street, and the moment for eternity slipped. Instead, she was back staring at the glass rim of her Cola, the bubbles now flat.
They sat across from her.
His hand was within his, and their knees touched lightly below the table. He wore a mustard yellow jumper, and he wore a blue button down shirt. There was something about them that coordinated, an aesthetic sensibility. She could see it, and it made her uncomfortable in a space as yet unknown to her.
The siren came back round. Their silence ticked over. The heat of the afternoon cracked at the windows and her potted plants gasped.
He took a sip of Cola, placed the bottle back on the coaster, they all watched it.
Her name sounded to her like a sound out of tune.
‘Clarissa?’ It was her husband who spoke to her. He was being patient, as he always was. ‘You understand how it can’t be helped, don’t you darling?’
She did not understand, she did not understand anything at all.
‘Ben and I… we wouldn’t have come to you if it wasn’t… I can’t breathe. And you can’t live with a man who can’t breathe.’
‘No, I suppose I can’t.’ She was unaware which part of her spoke.
‘I’ve tried so hard to resist it. I care for you so very much darling. I still love you.’
‘No. You do not. Because I am not a man. That is right isn’t it?’
Both men shifted, and their knees touched firmer.
‘It just means I do not love you in the same way I love Ben.’
She felt as though her fingernails would bleed, or bones would break. Something would give and be lost. Tears came, she hiccuped, brought her head to the table.
Her husband was beside her, his large palm on her spine. The weight of it, the warmth of it.
Charging from her chair she told them to leave. She told them they disgusted her. She told him she couldn’t believe she had let him touch her. She threw Jesus at them and the sacrilege of marriage. She cried harder and shouted louder. Nothing in his efforts could calm her, and the men left with pieces of broken bottle about their feet.