“For Them” by Paul Attmere

Since our son was born, you always pull out and cum on your side. I roll onto your side of the bed, still warm and a little damp from last night. The smell of semen and sweat lingers between the sheets. Another child at the moment would be foolish. Cruel.

Running water from our en-suite bathroom. You’re back from your morning jog around the park. I slip on the silk robe you bought for my 35th birthday, close my eyes against the bright morning sun—already too hot through the French doors—and go downstairs to prepare your granola and soya yoghurt.

You wash down two slices of my sourdough with two mugs of black coffee. Today’s a big day. Before you leave the house, I wipe a crumb lodged in the corner of your mouth and pull the knot on your tie just below that mole under your chin. It’s your cue to utter two words whispered every morning before we part, “For them”.

Your resolve needs tempering, so I don’t repeat as usual. I look into your green eyes, and settle my gaze on your lips, more brown than red, like a wound in an apple where enzymes are reacting in a chemical process with oxygen—nature taking its remorseless course. “We must resist Johnny,” I say. “You are on your own today, but I’m right behind you.”

You press your lips to mine. The organic, fair-trade coffee blend is nutty on your breath. “Later,” I say. When you lurch towards me again, I push you against the wall. “After, you can do anything you want with me, Johnny.”

Like a sword from a sheath, you slip a long, black umbrella from the coat stand. The promise of sexual favours later has greased your usual clumsy actions. You pause at the door. “We’re okay?” you say.

It’s been a long, hot summer with little talk of rain. The fields surrounding our house are burned biscuit brown, so everything is definitely not okay. “Everything’s fine, darling.” 

You march down the street, putting the parasol up against the heat as you pass our neighbour, Terry White, admiring his lawn sprinkler and the three buffed-up cars he keeps in his driveway. Today, chin high and bag swinging from your shoulder, you look like the type that’s happy with the order of things, who wouldn’t wish to rock the sinking ship.

You round the bend towards the train station with a confident swing in your hips. “You can do this, Johnny,” I whisper.

Our children are up. Giles padding across the bare floorboards to the toilet and Charlotte calling for a morning hug.

When you return on the last train from London, it’s dark. No sign of the weatherman’s promised thundery showers. You splay blood-stained hands on the stainless steel kitchen surface, where you like to dice our Sunday lunch vegetables.

“You didn’t wash your hands after?” I say.

“I found gloves in the office.”

“You put on gloves after?”

“I panicked.”

“In this heat, wearing gloves, you’ll have turned heads on the train.”

Your red hands look like an artist’s who has abandoned brushes in favour of a more visceral experience. I think of Pollock, how his paintings were a mess up close, but step back and there’s an order to that chaos. I remind you of the bigger picture: “This is for whom?

“Them,” you say.

The air is sweet and warm from almond biscuits baking in the oven. I guide you into the little toilet under the stairs. “Quick, before the kids—”

Giles and Charlotte are at the top of the stairs, their little faces pressed against the balusters. Giles clutches the threadbare monkey you passed on to him when he was three, and Charlotte’s with the blanket she won’t let go of.

You run your hands under the tap and then I clean blood from under your manicured nails—cotton wool on the sharp end of a needle. Why won’t you stop whining about whether we’ve done the right thing? Your business partner had what was coming to her, for flouting regulations on the disposal of plastics and driving an old diesel car when she could easily afford electric. When we’ve given up a car and travel everywhere on public transport, her attitude stinks. And we’ve talked at length about what needs to be done with those who just don’t give a damn, a last resort to move this sick world forward.

The planet is better off without the likes of her,” I say. “We’ve done right.”

You look up and appear to follow a crack in the ceiling to where it disappears under a plaster rose.

“Terry White’s next,” I say.

“What about Kylie at 54?” 

Last month Kylie flew to Venice for lunch and was back home in time to read her children bed-time stories. Her carbon foorprint’s off the scale, but she has joined my vegan kid’s group on Facebook. “We’ll hold back, for now.”

Your voice wobbles. “I need to fill that crack.”

“Keep quiet for the kids,” I whisper and push the needle deep under the nail until your eyes bulge.  That’s why I love you, Johnny Price. You are stellar. I press my other hand—still almond sweet from rolling biscuit dough—over your mouth to muffle your yelps.

Paul Attmere is an actor and writer. Originally from the UK he now lives with his family in Krakes, a small town in Lithuania. He’s been published in Spread the Word – Flight Journal, Running Wild Press Short Story Anthology, The Disappointed Housewife, Sixfold Anthology, and Litro Magazine.

Photo by USGS on Unsplash

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