(published April 2017)
It was the smirk that did it, with the tone of voice; even before he had turned to leave, I knew the night was set. I wonder if he knows how cruel he can be, or if he would care if he did.
I gave fair warning; she thinks she knows the deal. She watches me with eyes that fail to mask her concern. She knows something is wrong. Usually I am not demanding. Usually I ask nothing of her, nothing outside of what is expected in our mutual agreement. Tonight is different. Tonight will be the last night we will spend like this. This much she doesn’t know yet. In time, she will.
Tonight, I hate the way she speaks my name. Hers is not the voice I want to hear it in. It’s not her fault, I know.
Perhaps the warning was not a fair one after all. I told her I was in a mood and little more. It is the same warning I always give, when it happens. It’s happened before. For her, it starts with a fake smile and lipstick. She’s supposed to put it on, the tube held between slender fingers. She raises it to her lips, I watch.
She is not the same ‘she’ as before, the last whom I had wear it. The last ‘she’ had a name I have already forgotten. It’s bad, I know, when it didn’t happen all that long ago.
I watch in silence as she paints them with colour, his colour. He likes to wear red lipstick. I’ve never seen him without it. Against his pale skin and dark hair, the effect is striking. On her, the effect is not the same, not merely due to the lack of a lip piercing. I wish it were so simple and offer her a smile.
“Perfect,” I lie, cupping her chin gently. “It’s my favourite colour. It really suits you.”
She smiles nervously, unconvinced, almost as though she knows. Sometimes I wonder if he does, too. It would explain the tone, the smirk, the summons when he knows where I am, what I’m doing, or what I’m supposed to be doing. His timing is uncanny.
When he calls, I always go to him. I wish he would call me now.
“I thought your favourite colour was blue.”
It is. How observant of her. Red is his favourite colour, not mine. Tonight, I want her lips red, his red, so I can ruin them, where I cannot his.
“Not when it comes to lipstick, yeah?”
This is the most honest answer she will get tonight. Seeing my point, she smiles, though the doubt still burns in her eyes. I pretend as though I haven’t seen it and raise her lips to meet mine, lingering for a moment before breaking the kiss with a sigh.
It’s not as satisfying as I wish it was, as I always wish for it to be. If it was, I think, I can get over it. I’m not even sure what it is. As I move to take her lower lip between my teeth, the thought of someone else destroying his perfectly painted colour makes me burn. As I weave a hand into her hair, I decide that it, too, isn’t good enough.
It’s not her fault, I know. Nothing compares to him and I don’t understand why. I want to wipe the smirk off his face and ruin his perfect, red lips. I worry that I want more than this, that I might want him, wholly.
Tonight, it is simple. Tonight she is nothing but a poor substitute for the him that I cannot have. It’s sick. I know it is. My only act of kindness is not letting her know.
When the night is through, I’ll leave her sore and bruised and before she has the chance to ask me to stay for the night, I’ll be gone. I’ll never see her again, even when he next puts me in this mood. The ‘she’ next time will not be the ‘she’ of today. ‘She’ might not even be a ‘she’ at all.
‘She’ will not be him and ‘she’ will never be good enough. It’s simple, and it’s not. I wish it were.
K.R. Tester is a short, Irish ball of frustration, living in the South East, eternally wondering how one does ‘stand there like a lemon’. Lemons do not stand. She feels lied to.