Flowers

I bought her a beautiful bouquet of flowers. She was in the kitchen making my dinner when I came in quietly behind her and wrapped my arms about her waist. She jumped.

“Did I frighten you?” I said, playfully.

“Oh no, you just startled me.” She turned and saw the bouquet. “Those are beautiful, are they for me?” she asked, timidly.

“Yes, beautiful flowers for my beautiful wife.” I handed her the flowers.

A single tear dropped from her eye as she blinked.

“Hey, it’s ok,” I said, and planted a soft kiss on the yellowing bruise on her cheek. Tears welled in my eyes too, and I turned her head to look at me. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” she said, and I held her tightly.

***

We are a tangle of limbs and flesh. Heat radiates from her body, slick with sweat. Gasps and heavy breaths. Her black hair smells of smoke. There is an urgency about it all, a wild desperation. And then oblivion.

Afterwards we lay there in the ruddy light of her bedside lamp, her wearing nothing but my shirt. She takes two cigarettes out her pack and lights them both, handing me one. We smoke in silence.

***

After dinner we made love, gently, of course. Her yellow hair smelled fresh and clean and dull. We fell asleep and she forgot to put the flowers in water. I was a little annoyed at her neglect – the flowers weren’t cheap – but I tried to let it go, because I know it can be hard for her too sometimes.

***

A cheeseboard and a bottle of fine red wine were waiting for me when I arrived home.

“You’re so sweet,” I said, stroking the hair from her face and kissing her on the forehead. I opened the wine and began to pour.

She grabbed the bottle from me. “Sit down and relax!”

It was a wonderful night, we talked for hours, just like we used to. Eventually I dozed off, and dreamt vague dreams of smoke and fire. When I awoke she was stood in the doorway, eyes red and puffy like she’d been crying.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, still groggy from sleep and wine. Then I saw she was holding my shirt. Suddenly I was alert and standing. “Did you go through my bags?”

“I was going to wash your clothes for you…” her voice was timid. “And then I thought I could smell smoke so I took out each of the shirts…”

I stepped closer. “Alison, listen –”

“And it’s not just smoke. I can smell her, Daniel, smoke and perfume and sex! You’re still seeing her aren’t you?”

“No, Alison!”

“Liar!” She threw the shirt in my face.

***

When I was eight or nine, there was a little girl who used to play with her dolls out on the street. She was very pretty, with long, dark hair. One day I built up enough courage to ask if I could join in her game. She said no. She wouldn’t let me touch her dolls; she said she was scared that I might break them. I was so upset, I think I even cried.

The next day I took a pair of scissors and cut the heads off her dolls in front of her eyes.

***

I come home, drunk. The house is silent as I stumble up the stairs. I feel heavy. She couldn’t see me tonight, so Alison will have to do.

My wife lays in bed, her yellow hair spilled across her face. I know she’s only pretending to be asleep. I go to her, push her hair from her face and kiss her.

She tries to roll away and murmurs, “Honey, let me sleep.” But I don’t stop.

***

“Liar!” She threw the shirt in my face.

I grabbed her arms and tried to hold them by her side, but she was flailing, hysterical. “Alison, calm down!”

“You liar! You said it was over!” She was screaming now, bawling like a child. “You promised me, you bloody bastard!”

I held her still. “Alison, look at me.”

She spat full in my face.

I grabbed a handful of her yellow hair and swung the back of my hand round to crack her hard on the cheek. She crumpled to the floor, staring up at me, dumb with shock, silent. Sometimes she needs reminding who the man of the house is.

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