I managed to stir myself for this week’s Mid-Week Blues Buster, hosted by Jeff Tsuruoka.
The inspiration song for this week is Amy Winehouse, “You Know I’m No Good”. Why not play it while you read?
Between the Cheats
Home again. After missing the hat peg twice, he tossed it on the Formica counter. Shouldering the curtain divider aside, he shuffled into the living room, almost tripping over his wife. “Hell!”
Laura perched on the couch in an immaculate white sheath dress, navy dotted swiss overlay. She always dressed innocent when she was up to no good.
She’d been to the salon. He smelled the whiff of bleach, the sweetish conditioner massaged in to cover the sharp chemicals. Her nails were always painted “Passion Pink”, the lightest whitest pink they had. In her hands, she held a hand-written page filled with closely scribbled lines.
All the curtains were wide open and the early morning light limned her hair with a bright halo. He was hardly able to look at her. “What are you doing up so early?”
When he dropped his coat on the chair, she looked up from her letter with calm expectation. “Go ahead and fix your drink. I know you want it.”
He grimaced, wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. It came away tasting of too many cigarettes and the quick swig of Listerine to mask the telltale vapors of yesterday’s “business lunch” and after-dinner drinks. He noticed his lipstick-collared dress shirt was draped atop the overflowing laundry basket.
“How’s Gladys?” she asked idly, flipping the paper over to read the back.
He paused in pouring his drink, the slick cubes slipping to kiss the golden whisky. “I told you, I went over to John’s office. We were up half the night working on the Masterson account.”
After adding the smallest tap of soda water, he swirled it together, trying to read her unfurrowed brow. “What’s that?” he asked her, running a hand through his hair. It needed to be cut. He’d told her he had it cut last week and met up with Gladys instead.
“It’s a love letter.”
He froze, straining to remember if Gladys had written down any of that blathering nonsense. He lit a cigarette to cover his confusion.
Laura reread one particular line, her lips moving. Her cheeks were flushed, the color too high on her cheekbones to be rouge. “I didn’t say it was for you.” She recrossed her legs, the pointed toe of her pump bopping gently with the radio, a bluesy thread faint in the background.
His laughter was a surprised bark, careening off the wall to bounce back at him.
The placid pale blue of her eyes studied his rumpled trousers, “You might want to get those cleaned.”
He noticed the iron wasn’t even plugged in. There was a sudden bitter taste at the back of his throat. He stubbed the cigarette out in the bubbled glass ashtray with impatient precision.
She was dressed to go out, even with her handbag waiting on the prickly wool of the couch. He had promised her to get that couch reupholstered in leather, he remembered with a start.
He picked his way to the tweed recliner. Penny’s toys were scattered everywhere. He stepped on her Francie doll and swore, kicking it away.
Laura opened her bag and dropped the letter in. Coolly, she drew out a cigarette and lit it, snapping the clasp shut with a decided click.
The palms of his hands burst into sweat. “Since when do you smoke?”
“Since when do I do anything I prefer?”
The sun bounced off the pitiless diamond on her finger, momentarily dazzling him. Standing, she drew on her gloves.
“Where are you going?” he croaked.
Kindly, absently, she patted his shoulder, “You should tell Gladys that a beehive really isn’t flattering for her face shape.”
Her heels clicked on the way out, a staccato record of his life walking out the door.