When I’m with my boyfriend, who is also her husband, he serves me spaghetti in their pond green bowls. I lick them clean, imagining her tongue. My boyfriend laughs and wipes the red stains from my chin.
My boyfriend’s wife is away a lot. She is a paediatrician, working shifts or headlining conferences, teaching the world how to save babies. When she is away I fill the gaps she leaves, but there are always spaces where her absence presses in on me. I stare at her photo on the dresser, the way her eyes crinkle like dinner mints. Her chin rests in the cup of her hand as her fingers graze her ear lobe. I study this pose and practise in the mirror until I get it right. Later, I notice one of her front teeth is chipped and my tongue explores my own symmetry with envy.
I go barefoot in their house, feeling for the ghosts of her soles on the worn floorboards. In her room, I steal small trinkets, daring her to notice: a barrel-shaped silver stud missing its twin, a pair of lime green trainer socks with a hole in the heel. On the bus home, I squirm my toes, their nails emblazoned with her coral nail polish, and think of her feet. When I have sex with my boyfriend on their Laura Ashley bed throw her husband nuzzles that silken spot below my ear, groaning that he is turned on by my scent. I don’t tell him that I’m wearing her perfume.
I also leave things behind. Little messages so she will know I was there. I use her towel and leave it damp on the rail. I watch my cast off hair gather in the plughole, my dark locks entwined with her blonde. I drop an open pack of fruit pastilles into her jacket pocket and my lipstick-stained tissues down the side of her sofa. In the fridge, I find her green smoothie and gulp down a mouthful of the healthy sludge, vitamins coursing down my throat. I put it back where I found it, and imagine her lips on the rim, where mine have been. I wonder if she has a boyfriend, who is also a husband. Or even a girlfriend, who may or may not also be a wife. Or perhaps she just is.
When she is gone, my boyfriend, who is also her husband, lies with me in their bed. He rests his hand on my breast, holding in my heart that he thinks will break when he tells me that he will never leave her. I hide my smile in her pillowcase. I don’t tell him that I would never want him to. That this has never been about him.
Iona Rule lives in the Scottish highlands and considers it a good day if she finds a pack of sweets in her jacket pocket. She has been shortlisted by Fractured Lit, TSS Publishing and Retreat West, as well as having works published in Perhappened and Ellipses among others.